UPDATE: 5:12 p.m.: Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying that it would "result in additional burdens on California businesses, increased unemployment, and lower wages." Click here for the veto message.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to veto legislation that would give workers on California farms the same overtime pay standards as most labor forces, the bill's author said today.
Farmworkers in California are currently exempt from a decades-old state labor code requiring overtime after an eight-hour day or a 40-hour work week, instead qualifying for overtime pay after working 10 hours in one day or 60 hours in one week.
Senate Bill 1121, which would create overtime pay equity by lifting that exemption for the state's roughly 400,000 farmworkers, was heralded by farmworkers and immigrant- and workers-rights groups. The bill has faced strong opposition from the agribusiness industry.
Sen. Dean Florez, the bill's author, accused the governor of "(using) his pen in the spirit of the politicians of the segregationist South who pushed to discriminate against the least protected members of our society."
"He had a chance to wipe a 70-year-old shame off the books of California. Instead, he has decided to side with the shameful," Florez said in a statement. He likened the move to Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law, which is set to take effect tomorrow, though a federal judge has blocked some of the law's most controversial provisions.
"(Arizona Gov. Jan) Brewer used her pen to force Arizona local police to make aggressive use of segregationist racial profiling against Latinos. And Governor Schwarzenegger will use his pen to maintain a segregationist disparity in wages paid to Latino farm workers," Florez said.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt Connelly said the governor has not taken a position on the bill, which he must sign or veto before Monday.
But Florez said sources in the governor's office have indicated that Schwarzenegger, who has championed farmworker safety issues in the past, will veto the legislation. Schwarzenegger's office cited several reasons for the veto, arguing that the legislation could hurt agribusiness in a down economy and would not benefit workers, Florez said.
"If you're going to veto it, just veto it," Florez said today in an interview. "We don't want him to hide behind the veil of 'Let's let Arizona pass, and then veto it on a Saturday morning.' "
PHOTO CREDIT: Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) (center-right, blue tie, holding SB 1121) and farmworker advocate Arturo Rodriguez (center-left, light blue long sleve shirt) kneel in prayer before delivering Senate Bill 1121 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office Tuesday, July 20, 2010, at the state Capitol. Carl Costas/ Sacramento Bee