(1:25 PM) Updated Bill Would Allow Farmers To Unionize, Earn Overtime Pay

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An updated Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act has been introduced in the state Legislature — and it has a good chance of passing, according to Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens and sponsor of the bill.

During committee votes on Tuesday, Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voted against the legislation.

The bill is vastly different from the legislation that has been hotly debated in the legislature and by the public over the past several months.

The version of the legislation filed in January started time-and-a-half overtime at 40 hours each week while the June 18 version starts overtime at 60 hours a week.

Farm workers would be allowed to unionize and a card check system implemented that makes it easier for farm workers to unionize. Both strikes by employees and lockouts by farm owners are prohibited.

Farm laborers would also be given the option of taking a day off each week, though they would be allowed to work the whole week if they’re paid time-and-a-half for the seventh day. Paid family leave is also extended to agricultural employees. Farms would no longer have to pay unemployment benefits for workers in the country on guest visas. Farm workers would be eligible for state disability coverage and makes farm workers subject to the state’s minimum wage, including regulations pertaining to waiting time and call-in pay rates.

The legislation also includes the convening of a binding arbitration panel if unionized farm workers and farm owners can’t agree on a contract. The process would work much like the process for municipal employees, with the arbitration panel expected to hold hearings, require evidence both sides’ arguments, and factor in a comparison of wages, hours and working conditions with employees performing similar work. There is language, though it isn’t defined, saying the arbitrator’s decision must be based on both the interests of workers and the farm’s ability to pay the arbitration award. The impact on the food supply and commodity pricing is also to be considered.

See Thursday’s edition of The Post-Journal for more.