November 16, 2021
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) signed on to a November 5 letter written by Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C,I-Schoharie) that requests the state to preserve the current 60-hour overtime threshold for farmworkers. The letter was sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul, the chair of the Farm Labor Wage Board, the NYS commisioner of labor and NYS commissioner of agriculture. Palmesano is joining Tague, who is the Ranking Member of the Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture, and a bipartisan group of his legislative colleagues who argue that a reduction in the overtime threshold will stifle the state’s economic recovery and devastate local family farms. Supporting the agriculture industry is an urgent, ongoing need as the industry supplies New Yorkers with food, drives the economy, provides jobs and protects the state’s rural landscape.
In the letter the lawmakers wrote, “The agricultural industry in New York State is overwhelmingly composed of small, family-owned operations that are lucky to turn a profit. The impacts of fluctuating commodity prices, extreme weather events, and burdensome regulations, mean that our farmers function on slim margins (now and then unable to even take a paycheck for themselves) and do not have the financial resources to pay their employees overtime wages.”
The lawmakers’ letter continued, “Since the implementation of a 60-hour workweek, among other worker protections, many farmers have had no choice but to reduce the number of hours available for their employees. As a result, we have already witnessed seasonal workers leave the industry and migrant workers, who have labored on the same farm for years, seek employment in other states in order to maximize their earning potential.”
“More than 98% of the farms in New York state are family-owned farms. Our farmers are the heart and soul of our state’s economy. Their production throughout the pandemic that was able to feed the struggling was nothing short of heroic. Many of these same family-owned farms are struggling to survive. We should be taking aggressive action to preserve and protect our family farms, not destroy them. That is why I stand fully with small family farmers and my legislative colleagues. We’re asking the Farm Labor Wage Board to keep the current overtime threshold, not reduce it,” said Palmesano.