Reprinted from Reader Supported News
There was jubilation in farmworker country on Monday, as California governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1066, ending the 78 years of exclusion from overtime for farmworkers. United Farm Workers president Arturo S. Rodriguez was celebrating the victory with farmworkers from one end of the state to the other.
"For 78 years, a Jim Crow-era law discriminated against farmworkers by denying us the same overtime rights that other workers benefit from," Rodriguez stated, directly following the signing. "Here in the U.S. today, Governor Brown corrected a historic wrong and set an example for other states to follow."
I spoke with President Rodriguez directly following the passage of the landmark legislation. We spoke about the significance of the legislation, as well as the nuts and bolts of its implementation.
Dennis Bernstein: Welcome, President Rodriguez. It is very good to speak with you again. The governor of California finally signed the bill for extended overtime. Can you believe it? Farm workers finally getting extended overtime.
Arturo Rodriguez: Well, thank you very much for having us here today. We're very appreciative.
DB: It's good to have you with us. Tell us about the good news. It's few and far between days that we get to celebrate.
Rodriguez: You know what, this is an exciting day for farmworkers. It's historic. For the first time in the history of the United States, farmworkers are going to be treated just like any other worker, having the right to be paid overtime after eight hours of work. We're so thankful to the legislators, especially our author, Lorena Gonzalez, and all those other legislators who stood up to be counted in support of doing the right thing for farmworkers, and of course to Governor Jerry Brown, for his actions. And to both leaders of the House and the Senate: President Kevin de Leon, Senate president, and the Assembly speaker, Anthony Rendon. They worked hard to make this come about, and we're thankful to all of them.
DB: All right, explain the details. We know that this is implemented over over a four-year period. Explain what is new and why it's significant, in specific terms.
Rodriguez: Well, farmworkers, first of all, have always been excluded from overtime pay. The only state where we had some provision for overtime pay was here in California. But they had to work 10 hours a day, and a 60-hour week, before they could achieve any overtime pay. Now it will be implemented, begin to be implemented, in 2019. There will be a phase-in period for the next four years. Eventually, after eight hours they will get access to overtime pay for their work.
And for smaller employers, 25 and under, they'll have an additional three years to determine how they can implement this effectively within their particular companies and operations. We tried to take into account what we heard as the needs of the employers. We heard from many legislators that this was important to them, so this legislation would not become an economic burden to employers. Phased in, in a way that they can actually deal with the issue and prepare for it. And ensure that they made whatever necessary adjustments were needed, to be able to accommodate this legislation.
DB: But Arturo, we have to make sure ... it's important not only to pass such legislation, but how will it be enforced? What are the structures that have been built into the law so that this really happens?
Rodriguez: I don't know all the details of the law in terms of the enforcement mechanisms, but we always know, and we've learned throughout our history, that we have to be vigilant. We have to go straight to the workers, and we have to ask them, to make sure that they are the ones that are ... enforcing whatever laws take place, whether it's a law around heat, whether it's a law governing how much water they get, or other types of protections like bathrooms in the fields, and drinking water and things of that nature.
We're also prepared to do the same thing here, and once the law goes actually into effect we'll be going out there and visiting all the farms throughout the state, and advising workers of changes that are relevant. We'll utilize the appropriate medias as well, to make sure that people understand what their rights are. In the event that the employer is violating their rights, [we'll let them know] how to get in contact with us so that we can make sure that proper action is taken with that particular company, to ensure the workers get the overtime pay they are entitled to.
DB: Do you think this will have reverberations across the country? Will other farmworkers, other workers across the country be ... Will this be an important precedent?