A second round of testimony on Monday regarding House Bill 2358 continued to be split between agriculture producers and farmworker advocates, who debated requiring farmworkers be paid overtime for work done over 40 hours per week.
Bill sponsor Rep. Andrea Salines, D-Lake Oswego proposed an amendment which phases in the overtime, beginning with anything after 50 hours per week in 2022, followed by 45 hours in 2023, and 40 hours in 2024, and then on.
Spencer Frahm, part of a family farm south of Ontario, said in submitted testimony that proposed starting overtime after 60 hours, “plus opting out six weeks in the spring for planting and six weeks in fall for harvest.”
“The idea of phasing in overtime does not work, because after three years the elephant will appear again. Most farm employees employees are happy and treated well. If overtime is implemented, we will cut benefits we offer now. We now supply vehicles to drive and pay the gas, we provide full employment during the winter, sick pay for all, and they all receive higher than minimum wage,” Frahm said.
That was the consensus among all the farm producers who testified during the first hearing March 8 and on Monday.
“I support HB 2358,” said farmworker Ricardo Silva, in submitted testimony to the committee. “I completely support this bill because it is incredibly important and should not be up for debate whether farmworkers need to be paid overtime. It is a basic necessity and needs to be passed. Millions of farmworkers are exploited by farmers due to laws that make their labor cheaper. We need HB 2358 to be passed immediately.”
Supporters of the bill also said overtime is required in Washington and California, and did not significantly harm farmers in this states.
Neither hearing provided enough time for people to testify.
A work session on the bill scheduled for April 7.
Federal law does not include OT pay for farmworkers
According to Student Actions with Farmworkers, which coordinates National Farmworker Awareness week, under the current federal law overtime unemployment insurance and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed for farmworkers. Additionally, farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s.
Since then, the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers — only on large farms — and it still has not made provisions for overtime.
SAF states that those who harvest our food suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation, and have higher incidences of such health issues as heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections and tuberculosis than any other wage earners.