Two years after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have given California farm workers the same overtime benefits most other wage earners receive, the United Farm Workers union is preparing to try again with Schwarzenegger's successor, Gov. Jerry Brown.
"Farm workers and domestic workers are not second-class citizens," Arturo Rodriguez, the union president, told more than 200 supporters in a basement dining room at the Capitol today. "They do not belong to a lower class of workers in California or in the United States. They are men and women who take some of the hardest jobs in America, often for pay and under conditions other American workers would not tolerate."
Assembly Bill 1313, by Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, would remove an exemption for agricultural workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act, requiring overtime be paid after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Farm workers were joined at the Capitol by supporters of a separate bill that would give housekeepers and other domestic workers the right to overtime pay, vacation and other benefits.
Brown signed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and farm worker advocates had high hopes for the Democratic governor when he took office last year.
Their relationship has at times been tense, however: Brown vetoed legislation last year that would have let farm workers unionize more easily, only later reaching a compromise with the union.
Asked if he thought the overtime legislation would get a better reception from Brown than from Schwarzenegger, a Republican, Rodriguez said, "We're always hopeful. We always come here and know we're fighting a battle."
Rodriguez said the Brown administration "hasn't given us any commitment one way or another."
Two years ago, when Schwarzenegger vetoed the overtime bill, the agricultural industry warned approval may have provoked farmers to reduce their workers' hours, resulting in reduced paychecks.
PHOTO CREDIT: Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, speaks on Monday to honor farm workers, from left, Carolina Holguin from McFarland and Josefina Flores from Delano for their 30 years of support and commitment to the UFW. Hector Navejas/Vida en el Valle