ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Just days after the The Farm Laborers Wage Board decided to change the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 to 40 hours, lawmakers and stakeholders are asking the Governor to suspend this order.
The decision came two years after the Board held hearings and gathered testimonies from those in the farming industry. Department of Labor Commissioner, Rebecca Rearden signed off on the order. The threshold will change over the course of 10 years, with 60 hours still being the norm until Jan of 2024, 52 hours for January of 2026 and finally shifting to 40 hours by January of 2032.
Lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, as well as farmers have consistently said this will hurt the farming industry and drive employees to work in states where the overtime threshold is higher. Echoing this same sentiment is Assembly member Billy Jones, “We have put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage. Now we have to compete for pricing, we have to compete for workers now and I’ve talked to many workers. Farmers are going to be forced to lower the hours … those workers come over here to work. They are going to go to other states.”
However, at a press event last week Governor Hochul said the opposite, “If someone is now going to be paid for their overtime hours, they’ll still get the overtime hours. Why would they not wanna come to New York state to work and receive much higher compensation than they would in these other states?”
In response to this Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner said, “To those people who are working on farms, they will take over a ten-year period; a 30 percent pay cut.”
Governor Hochul also said as a way to help offset the financial impact this will cause, the state will be offering a tax credit for farm businesses, what was once 4% will now be 20%. Steve Ammerman, Director of Communications for NYS Farm Bureau says, the tax credit is appreciated, but won’t come until months after payroll is due, “A lot of farms work on very thin profit margins at best and will have to front those costs so what farmers have been telling us is that their first step will be to limit hours and not rely on a tax credit.”
Ammerman says the Farm Bureau encourages that this order be put on pause, but if that’s not the case they could be looking for a legislative fix during the 2023 session.