Capitol Alert

Farmworker overtime bill vote postponed

United Farm Workers protests at Capitol

After the Assembly adjourned without taking up a bill to provide farmworkers with overtime pay after 8 hours, members of the United Farm Workers union protested outside the chamber.
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After the Assembly adjourned without taking up a bill to provide farmworkers with overtime pay after 8 hours, members of the United Farm Workers union protested outside the chamber.

In a dramatic public escalation of the political dispute over a bill to give farmworkers more overtime pay, the leader of the California Assembly vowed to laborers massed outside the legislative chamber Thursday that he would champion the issue after an expected vote failed to materialize.

Angry laborers remained outside the chamber for over an hour, chanting “overtime” and “Si Se Puede!”, after the day’s Assembly session concluded without a planned vote for which many workers had traveled to Sacramento. Eventually Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, emerged and, surrounded by a group of fellow lawmakers and standing next to United Farm Workers union president Arturo Rodriguez, promised a vote on Monday.

“You missed out on a day of pay because you understand how significant this issue is to you, to your families and to all Californians,” Rendon told the silenced crowd as a man translated into Spanish.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure this passes next week,” Rendon continued. “We have waited eight decades for this to happen.”

Farmworkers rallied at the Capitol on Thursday before a crucial Assembly vote on overtime pay. Luis Altamirano, who came from Mexico 22 years ago and works on a mushroom farm in Gilroy, shared why he is advocating for the bill.

Assembly Bill 1066 would expand existing overtime rules to give agricultural employees time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week, and double pay for working more than 12 hours a day.

An earlier version of the bill failed in May when Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, brought it to the Assembly floor. Fourteen Democrats either opposed the measure or abstained, and the bill fell short by three votes.

Amid a concerted lobbying push by the United Farm Workers union and other proponents, Gonzalez’s office had announced a Thursday vote for the revived measure. But that failed to materialize.

Though Rodriguez asserted to reporters that lawmakers could have mustered the 41 votes required to pass the measure, the lack of action on Thursday suggests that supporters might not yet have the votes they need to send the measure to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Members have also been subjected to heavy lobbying by representatives of the agricultural industry, who warn that the measure would lead farms to economic ruin and deprive farm laborers of needed work.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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