On the heels of a law passed last year granting greater labor rights to farm employees in New York and requiring that overtime be paid after 60 hours of work, a deadline is fast approaching on another aspect of farm wages, and we agree with those who believe it should be delayed.
The Farm Laborers Wage Board has until the end of the year to issue a report and recommendations to the governor and state Legislature whether the overtime pay threshold should be lowered, but some lawmakers want the report and recommendations put off until 2024 and have the board consider farm wages and overtime rates in other states as well as the impact of COVID-19 on farms.
The move to slow the process down has the support of state Sens. Pam Helming and Jim Seward, both of whom represent districts that include parts of Cayuga County, and we are likewise concerned for the long-term viability of the agricultural industry here.
Farms have struggled right along with rest of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, and not only have they been forced to absorb increased costs, in many cases they've been getting lower prices for their products because demand has gone down with the economic crash. So they will be in a terrible position to be able to absorb increased labor costs anytime soon.
The new wage mandates have already caused a burden on farmers, and the possibility of having overtime pay kick in even sooner in the workweek is too much to ask with the economy on such shaky ground. Setting the overtime threshold below 60 hours might one day make sense, but farmers deserve to be given some time to emerge from the effects of the pandemic first.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.
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