By Ed Diokno
Eight hours a day is a typical workday for most of us. Forty hours a week is the standard for most workweeks. Anything more than that constitutes overtime with pay commensurate with the extra work.
But … not for farmworkers!
Amazing, right? It’s 2016!
Harvesting your produce, picking your artichokes, tomatoes, fruit, lettuce is hard, backbreaking work. Yet working in the field in California is the only job where overtime is defined as 10 hours a day.
State Assemblyman Rob Bonta joined others in a fasting for farm workers movement — calling for the passage of AB1066, a bill that would expand overtime benefits for farm workers. The proposed legislation would bring farmworkers in line with other workers. It would define overtime for farmworkers as anything over eight hours a day or more than a 40 hour week.
“It’s a long struggle,” he told a reporter. Mexican and Filipino farmworkers have worked for justice for all workers he pointed out. “It’s going to be a close vote.”
If passed, AB 1066 would gradually phase in new standards for farm workers, to lower the current 10-hour work day to eight, and ensure overtime pay when those hours are exceeded. The goal is to put workers in this industry in line with every other hourly job in the state.
An earlier version of the bill failed on the Assembly floor. For smaller family run farms, the new pay structure would be phased in over several years. That was added to 1066 to make it more palatable to lawmakers from rural districts.
As legislation seeking fair pay and conditions for farm workers awaits approval on the senate floor, lawmakers across the state took part in a 24-hour fast to rally in support of AB 1066.
Bonta’s parents were union organizers for farmworkers. He was successful in passing legislation in 2014 to include the crucial role played by Filipino farmworkers in the farmworker strikes of the 1960s in the California school curriculum. The Filipinos merged with Mexican farmworkers to fight for better working conditions and create the United Farm Workers union. Last year, he passed a bill for a Larry Itliong Day to honor the Filipino American union activist.
“It’s a way to really bring attention to the fact of, and to the plight of the farm workers, not just on this overtime issue, but obviously on the conditions they are working under and to bring about this need for equality,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, one of the bill’s key authors.
The fast harkens back to the fast by Cesar Chavez which successfully brought attention to the working conditions of the Mexican and Filipino farmworkers.