California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB1066, the bill that will give equal rights to farmworkers in terms of overtime pay. The signing Monday came just a few days after the 51st anniversary of the start of the 1965 Grape Strike (Sept. 9), one of the most significant actions of America’s organized labor.
Also Monday, Brown signed a law making a law granting overtime rights to domestic workers permanent. The bill by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) was originally passed in 2013, but was set to expire next year. Some 300,000 mostly immigrant woman work as housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers in private homes in California
“When AB 241 passed in 2013, my life and the lives of many other workers were transformed,” said Ines Lazarte, caregiver and housecleaner member of La Colectiva in San Francisco. “Our work was recognized with overtime protections that led to more dignified schedules and compensation. It gave clear guidance to employers, fair pay for our work and more time to be with our families and live our lives. Governor Brown’s signature ensuring permanent overtime protection through SB 1015 reinforces that domestic work is legitimate work and that our dignity and the dignity of our families and the people who employ us is not provisional.”
The measure received bi-partisan support and will permanently codify overtime protections into state law and is expected to improve the quality of life for these mostly immigrant workers.
“With these laws, California farmworkers will have the same overtime protections that workers in other industries have enjoyed for decades,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez as he commended Brown’s action.
AB1066, introduced by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, would gradually phase in standards by lowering the current 10-hour day to the standard 8-hour day by annual half-hour increments for four years. The 40-hour workweek would be achieved by lowering the 60-hour week in 5-hour steps. Smaller farms would get two extra years to meet the requirement.
Giev Kashkooli, legislative director for the United Farm Workers, notes that “Democrats from rural areas all voted ‘yes’ this time. All African American Assembly members but one voted yes, and all Asian Pacific Islander members but one voted ‘yes’ too.”
Perhaps the biggest change is that among Democrats, especially rural Democrats, are several legislators who come from families of farmworkers themselves. They include Joaquin Arambula (Fresno), Rudy Salas (Delano), Luis Alejo (Watsonville) and Eduardo Garcia (Coachella/Imperial Valley). AB1066 itself was written by Lorena Gonzalez (San Diego), whose grandfather was a bracero farm worker, and cosponsored by Rob Bonta (Oakland), a Filipino American who grew up at the UFW headquarters in La Paz, where his parents were union staff.
“We have to face the fact that racism was a factor when this different standard was established,” says Bonta. “A status quo inertia based on discrimination and exclusion isn’t an okay reason for carrying it forward today.”
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established minimum wage and overtime standards, but excluded all agricultural workers, the majority of whom at the time were African American.
In California, the Legislature exempted farmworkers from earning overtime pay in 1941. That prohibition remained unchanged until 1976, when the state Industrial Welfare Commission ordered overtime pay for farmworkers after 10 hours on the job on any single day and 60 hours in a week. Hourly workers in other jobs across the state receive overtime after eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.
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