Sen. Dean Florez, a Democrat from Shafter and the author of Senate Bill 1121, led the crowd down the steps from his third floor office inside the Capitol.
Florez was also joined by United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez and Monsignor James Murphy from Sacramento's Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The crowd knelt and prayed outside the governor's first-floor office, then delivered the official copy of the bill to Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.
Florez's bill would lift a 1941 exemption in state labor code that excludes farmworkers from getting overtime pay after an eight-hour day or a 40-hour week. The more than a half-million farmworkers in California now get overtime pay only after 10 hours of work in one day or a 60-hour week.
Schwarzenegger has 12 days from today to sign or veto the bill. Agricultural interests are pressuring him to veto it, arguing that employers will cut workers' hours to avoid overtime during long harvest days.
"We're talking about (the governor) taking what might be called a 'profile in courage' choice," Florez said at a news conference in his office before going down the stairs.
His words "profile in courage" echo the title of President John F. Kennedy's book, "Profiles in Courage," as well as an award by the same name that goes to public servants. California first lady Maria Shriver is a niece of both President Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, who supported UFW founder Cesar Chavez.
Florez, who comes from a farmworker family, appealed to Schwarzenegger to consider his own background as an Austrian immigrant as well as the empathy the governor has expressed for the mostly Mexican field laborers. Florez noted that the governor signed a bill regulating pesticide drift in agricultural fields despite intense pressure from the farm industry.
McLear took the bill and told Florez that the governor will consider arguments on both sides. The governor's spokesman added that Schwarzenegger has shown he cares about protecting farmworkers' rights by strongly backing increased regulations to prevent heat stress and other dangers in the fields.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) (center-right, blue tie, holding SB 1121) and farmworker advocate Arturo Rodriguez (center-left, light blue long-sleeved shirt) kneel in prayer before delivering Senate Bill 1121 to Governor Schwarzenegger's office Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at the state Capitol. Reading the prayer is Brother Mark Schroeder. Carl Costas/ Sacramento Bee