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New York state Assembly members debate legislation in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Republican members of the state Assembly want their Democratic colleagues to hold hearings on legislation that would grant New York farmworkers overtime pay, a day off of rest and other labor rights. 

In a letter sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the chairs of the agriculture and labor committees, Republicans reminded Democratic leaders that a similar request was made in March. State Sen. Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano co-authored a letter requesting legislative hearings on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. 

The state Senate held three hearings on the bill, including a five-hour forum at SUNY Morrisville in April. During this legislative session, the state Assembly hasn't scheduled hearings to gather feedback on the measure. 

"Legislation of this magnitude, which carries serious potential effects on one of our top industries and our state economy, demands the insights and input from the public in every region of the state," Assembly Republicans wrote. 

The state Assembly has considered the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act in the past. While the chamber approved the bill, it didn't receive a vote in the state Senate. 

The bill would extend certain employment rights to farmworkers, including collective bargaining, unemployment insurance, unionization and workers' compensation. Workers would also receive at least one day off each week and overtime pay if they work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. 

The sponsors of the bill are state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, both of whom are New York City Democrats. 

Supporters say the bill would provide farmworkers with protections available to workers in other industries. But opponents argue that it would devastate New York farms. 

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb highlighted some of the objections to the bill, including the impact of the overtime pay provision. A study released by Farm Credit East found the overtime pay mandate would increase costs for farmers by nearly $300 million and reduce net farm income by 23 percent. 

Kolb, R-Canandaigua, also repeated farmers' concerns about the possibility of a work stoppage if the bill is enacted. 

"The costs to farms brought on by this bill are staggering, and will ultimately be passed down to consumers," he said. "New York's farms have already been suppressed by the weight of one of the most restrictive tax and regulatory burdens in the nation. Passing this bill is akin to breaking the camel's back with an anvil." 

The legislation is awaiting action in the Assembly and Senate. It hasn't been reviewed by committees in either chamber. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.