Starting January 1st, Californian farm workers are now eligible to receive overtime pay. Many advocacy groups say this is long overdue, but some in the agricultural community caution this could cause a rise in the costs of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
For Santa Maria farm worker Reina Mendoza, her workday often starts before the sun comes up. She works on a Guadalupe farm picking strawberries and other produce six days a week, 10 hours a day or more. Farm workers on farms and ranches with over 26 employees will start receiving overtime pay after 9.5 hours.
By 2022, they’ll start receiving overtime after a regular eight-hour workday, something Mendoza says is long overdue: “I feel that this law should’ve been enforced, implemented years ago because it would’ve helped me with my kids; it would’ve helped me with my family and just having more time for them.”
The Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy -C.A.U.S.E.- argues this bill will help attract more work workers to the fields – something California farmers have been struggling with.
Some in the ag industry see it differently. Dan Sutton, General Manager of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, says the increasing costs of agricultural regulations could cause the price of fruits and vegetables to eventually go up and even lead some farms to switch to automation.
Farms that have 25 or fewer employees get a three-year extension before having to phase in these changes. Farm workers will receive double time after working a seventh consecutive day in a work week.