Isonomy–The principle of equality before the law of all the subjects or citizens of the state.
Joe Mahoney, CNHI State Reporter, writes that the state Farm Labor Wage Board voted 2-1 to recommend that New York reduce the overtime threshold for farm workers in New York from 60 hours per week to 40 hours. Under the plan, the overtime threshold would drop to 52 hours per week at the beginning of 2026, and then go down to 40 hours starting Jan. 1, 2032. Commissioners Hughes and McDuffle voted in favor, Commissioner Fisher voted against it.
Commissioner McDuffle stated:
The board has a “duty to protect tens of thousands of farm workers and align their rights with those in other industries. We believe this decision protects the rights of farm laborers while taking into account the needs of farmers.
Commissioner Hughes isn’t quoted in Joe Mahoney’s article.
Commissioner Fisher complained:
The report accepted by Hughes and McDuffie failed to mention that an analysis of the impact of reducing the overtime threshold would prompt employers to reduce hours for workers, which in turn would spur most migrants to spurn jobs in New York and go to other states where they could work more hours.
Agriculture was exempted from federal labor standards adopted in 1938. The Depression-era law, adopted before widespread mechanized farming, exempted farms from the overtime rules, with advocates then citing the seasonal nature of agriculture.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which has pushed for a 40-hour overtime threshold, argued the standard should be implemented immediately by Hochul and her labor commissioner, Roberta Reardon, saying to do so would be “eradicating this racist Jim Crow policy once and for all.”
The Northeast Dairy Producers Association urged that the recommendation be rejected, arguing consumers, schools, food pantries and farm workers themselves will be negatively impacted if they are implemented. The association said 70% of the farm workers who participated in a series of hearings held by the wage board had urged that the threshold remain at 60 hours.
Reportedly, the AFL-CIO supports the recommendation, noting that farm owners will benefit from improved tax credits enacted in the NYS budget including an increased non-refundable credit and a new refundable credit.
Many NYS Republican office-holders, including Reps. Stefanik, Tenney, and Zeldin oppose the recommendation.
I understand that farm workers may fear they will never see the mandated overtime and thus prefer the status-quo. However, I believe that fairer labor standards will benefit all, that the ten-year phase-in will give the market plenty of time to adjust, and that strident alarms from farm interests and politicians are overblown.