ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Farming is not a nine-to-five job. The debate continues over when overtime for farmworkers should kick in.
On Wednesday, over 160 people attended virtually the second of three public hearings.
The message at the hearing was what point do farm workers get paid overtime.
Right now, it’s after 60 hours, but there’s a push by the Department of Labor to change the overtime threshold to 40 hours.
A decision on farm overtime wages won’t come until after a third and final public hearing.
“I came to New York five years ago from Kentucky. I was working at a job that had the 40-hour over time,” said Kelly Leatherman.
The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act established the 60-hour threshold in 2019.
Leatherman is a dairy worker in western New York. She says she only signed up to work a 60-hour threshold.
“One of my cows had a C-section today. For example, if my 40 hours were up I couldn’t back tomorrow, we don’t have that option.”
Steve Ammerman, is the Director of Communications at the New York Farm Bureau. He believes this change could put a lot of farmers out of business.
“Farms can’t keep absorbing these higher labor costs and stay in business, it’s really important that threshold stays at 60.”
While others believe farmers should not be working these types of hours.
“Working more than 40 hours per week at this kind of labor takes a toll on people’s health, and their bodies. They should have the same overtime rate as other works receive,” said Laurie Konwinski, Coordinator of Justice & Peace Ministry Catholic Charities in Ithaca, NY.
“They do not qualify for overtime pay despite working 6–7-days a week. The current threshold is unreasonably high of 60 hours per week that is unacceptable,” said Yomaira Franqui.
Many are hoping for an outcome sooner than later.
“New York has put millions and millions of dollars into preserving farmland and with one stroke of the pen all that money could be wasted,” said Kevin Bowman, Owner of Bowman Orchards.
The last virtual meeting is 5:00 p.m., Thursday, 1/20/2022.