Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently testified in a virtual Zoom New York State Department of Labor public hearing regarding an upcoming decision on resetting the overtime threshold for farm laborers.
Concerned with the rashness of the actions attempted to be taken on this issue, during a pandemic, Hawley suggested that a delay in the decision-making would be most advantageous for farmers and their farms, and that the state should be doing as little as possible to interfere with their already modest margins.
“As someone with farming experience myself, I can tell you that however well-intentioned the lowering of the overtime threshold is for the farm workers, the actual farm employers themselves won’t be able to sustain these changes; certainly not in the economic world we’re living in right now,” Hawley said. “The last thing New York needs to be looking to do is strangle our farms and our farmers into submission.”
Hawley said during his testimony on Monday, “Why would we want to increase costs for our agricultural producers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic economic calamity? Workers are considered family; average wages are $13 an hour. In many cases, housing and food are provided.
"Even during good economic times, implementing mandatory increased labor costs for agriculture is a bad idea. Farmers have little to no control over prices they receive for their product, and with variations in factors like weather, long hours are necessary.”
In a closing note, Hawley said, “We need to protect New York state’s number one industry: Agriculture. [We should] delay the implementation of lowering the overtime threshold.”