Otsego County farmers and their representatives wait anxiously as New York’s Department of Labor inches toward establishing its overtime work threshold for farm workers across the state — a decision that could come soon.
Assemblyman Chris Tague (R), whose district includes a broad swath of the county and a former dairy farmer himself, isn’t optimistic about the outcome.
“I was disappointed when I listened to Governor Hochul’s State of the State message last week,” he said. “When she started talking about increasing tax credits for farmers to offset operating costs, to me, that was a private message that the Wage Board will drop the overtime threshold.”
The New York State Department of Labor announced that a virtual hearing to discuss the overtime threshold for farm workers will take place on Tuesday, January 4, at 3:30 p.m.
The main topic of discussion will be whether the required hours of overtime for farm workers should be lowered from 60 to 40.
Members of the Farm Laborers Wage Board which include New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, and former president of the New York State AFL-CIO Denis Hughes, will be present at the meeting.
Farmers across New York State, including Otsego County, are speaking out in opposition as a New York State Department of Labor Farm Laborers’ Wage Board considers lowering the threshold at which farm workers earn overtime pay from 60 hours per week to 40, a move farmers say will devastate their businesses.
Farmers went to Albany Wednesday, December 1, to deliver letters to Governor Kathy Hochul opposing the move and urging the Wage Board to keep the 60-hour overtime week.
The Farm Laborers Fair Practice Act, signed into law by former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, statutorily reduced the weekly overtime threshold from 80 hours to 60 beginning January 1, 2020. The law also included workers’ compensation, one day of rest during the calendar week, unemployment insurance, disability, and the right to organize.