Thanks to the efforts of PCUN (Pineros, Campesineros Unidos Del Noroeste) and other labor-focused organizations agricultural workers are now included in the list of workers that must be paid overtime wages.
Historically, farmworkers have been excluded from overtime pay, with only a few states affirming this right. The exclusion of farm workers comes from a legacy of racism toward black people in the United States. As a second attempt to win overtime pay, House Bill 4002 was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on April 15, 2022. This law requires employers to pay overtime in accordance with the implementation plan over 5 years.
Farmworkers in Oregon earn an estimated average of $20,000 per year, but overtime pay is not just an economic issue. Consistently working more than 40 hours per week has been associated with a variety of negative physical and mental health effects. These effects include workplace injuries, cardiovascular and immune problems, negative lifestyles such as poor sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise, all of which can further increase the risk of disease.
The overtime pay win is just one step in trying to correct the racist and discriminatory legacy that marks the farmworker experience in the Northwest. This would not have been possible without the help of community members, the workers who testified in front of the state government and alliances with coalitions across Oregon.
The Benefits of Overtime Pay for Farmworkers
The humanization of farmworkers has been an important aspect of the overtime pay campaign. That is, although this issue includes economic aspects, farmworkers are human before they are workers. The legacy of racism has created a culture of poverty and dangerous working conditions that affect the health of farmworkers.
Farmworkers work overtime because more hours mean more money. With the rising cost of housing and basic necessities, farmworker wages have not adjusted to cover the increases. Seasonal harvesting also affects the amount of hours they can work, especially for those who work in Oregon year-round.
Consistently working overtime can cause fatigue and job stress that affects their ability to maintain a household and support their children’s education. Working overtime takes time away from farmworkers that could be spent with their families or resting. Farm work is one of the most physically demanding jobs that can result in injury or death. In 2017, a total of 416 farmers and farmworkers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 20.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
The truth is that farmworkers deserve time away from work that allows them to rest or use their time in any way they want. When those in the agricultural sector are expected to live to work, it robs the humanity that sees farm workers as family members and community members.
New Law Begins Jan. 1 2023
To pass the bill, lawmakers chose to roll out the overtime law over the next 4 years. The break down is below:
2023 and 2024 – Employers are required to pay time and a half after 55 hours in a work week
2025 and 2026 – Employers ae required to pay time and a half after 48 hours in a work week.
2027 and onward– Employers are required to pay time and a half after 40 hours in a work week.
Exempts Oregon’s smallest farms
- Small farms with less than 7 TOTAL workers who do hand harvest or pruning and are paid piece-rate.
- This exemption captures the small family farms that just need to hire a few extra hands to help pick the fruit every year.
Exempts many local workers who do a season of work
- Workers who worked less than 13 weeks in agriculture the prior year, do hand harvest or pruning on a piece-rate basis and who commute from a permanent residence to the farm are exempted
- This includes many first-time workers, or people who enjoy working on their local farms to earn a little extra money during the summer or one harvest season, but not as a full-time job.
Exempts employer family members and kids to allow flexibility for family farms
- Any member of the employer’s immediate family, including a parent, spouse or child. This ensures that a farmer’s son or daughter who helps on the farm when they are home on summer break are exempt from overtime pay.
- A worker who is 16 years old or younger.
Exempts salaried workers
- A salaried livestock worker who is principally engaged in the range production of livestock.
- This exempts salaried workers whose primary duties are to produce cattle, sheep, horses, goats, and other domestic animals ordinarily raised or used on the farm.
- An agricultural worker who qualifies as a salaried employee. To qualify as a salary worker their principal duties must be administrative, executive or professional work and paid a minimum of $35,568
What If I Don’t Get Paid Overtime?
This is called wage theft and legal action can be taken. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we can connect you with a BOLI representative to begin taking action.