Amendments and Process Updates
Update: HB 4002 has passed out of the Joint Committee on Farmworker Overtime, a special committee today and is now headed to the house floor for approval!
Farmworker Overtime has been scheduled for a special Joint Committee Hearing on February 24th at 1:30pm. We need your help! You can submit written testimony by February 25th at 1:30pm. For instructions and a template CLICK HERE!
On February 8th, the House Business & Labor Committee accepted virtual testimony from Oregonians interested in this legislation. Hundreds of people have submitted testimony on this bill, and over one hundred people signed up to testify on the bill, but the committee (during a late night 3.5 hour hearing) was only able to hear testimony from forty of those individuals–including several FoFF members! If you would like watch a recording of the full hearing – CLICK HERE.
The bill is scheduled for a vote in committee on February 14th, which is the last day for bills to receive a vote in a legislative policy committee. FoFF will continue tracking this effort and lending our support to ensure that voices of FoFF members are heard on this important piece of legislation.
Here is updated information with amendments included – CLICK HERE
FoFF is in Favor of Farmworker Overtime
Friends of Family Farmers is in favor of the farmworker overtime proposal put forward by Representatives Salinas and Holvey and backed by PCUN: HB 4002. Agriculture remains one of the only industries that does not require overtime be paid after 40 hours of work per week. Although this has long been attributed to the seasonal intensity of agriculture, it is impossible to look at this devoid of the fact that the agricultural system and attitude of this country was built on large amounts of forced labor. The farmers of today do not bear responsibility for the wrongs of the past, but it is our duty to move our sector toward more equitable labor practices. This is a disruption of business as usual, but the industrial agriculture system has benefitted from not paying their full costs for too long. We know that many small farms will also be impacted by this legislation, which is why we want to represent you, our community, in the process to ease the transition and make this journey possible for all farmers in Oregon.
The Details of the PCUN Proposal
There are a couple proposals on the table right now. We support HB 4002 because it is the only proposal brought forward that truly brings parity between other sectors and agricultural workers. Other proposals being considered are not substantial changes and leave workers out of the discussion. Passing any current proposal apart from HB 4002 would be a solution in name only and harm the farmworkers whose hard work benefits everyone.
Here is what is included in HB 4002:
- 5 year transitional period to get to the 40 hour threshold
- In 2023 and 2024, overtime would kick in at 55 hours
- In 2025 and 2026 it would kick in after 48 hours
- By the end of 2027, it would kick in at 40 hours
- Tax credit for farmers paying overtime wages
- During the transition period there would be a refundable tax credit to reimburse farmers for 75%-15% of the cost of overtime wages through their payroll tax filings.
- The rate of reimbursement would be dependent on crew size and would phase down throughout the transition period, with higher rates of reimbursement for farms with less than 25 FTE.
Here is the latest info we have on the proposed support to farmers through the transition period:
*the tax credit will be eligible for renewal or changes in 2029 which is why it is listed as N/A on this chart*
Why FoFF Supports Farmworker Overtime
Farmworker Overtime is coming regardless – Farmers should be part of the solution
Oregon is not alone in putting new agriculture overtime laws on the books. California and Washington have already made a 40 hour overtime mandate law. These two states are still currently in their transition phase, but with the two states that border us on the West Coast implementing these policies, Oregon will face even greater worker shortages in the coming years if we do not keep up. Although many farmworkers don’t have the resources to pick up and move (in no small part due to the economic hardship brought on by the lack of overtime pay), those that do will have to make a choice to do what’s right for them and their families, which will probably mean moving to an adjacent state with better policies.
The Mano a Mano Lawsuit has initiated a rulemaking process within the Bureau of Labor and Industry to bring a 40 hour workweek regardless of legislation. This means that BOLI has determined that they legally have the power to change the overtime law through a rulemaking process in the agency rather than through the legislature. They have the power to convene a rulemaking committee of stakeholders and proceed without having to put it to a vote. There is a general understanding that if the Legislature were to pass a bill like HB 4002, it would supersede this process. But it reinforces that overtime in some form is coming to the agriculture sector. Farmers should join in the process and make their voices heard so the solution works for them. If you don’t come to the table, you don’t get to eat the meal. Also, we should get behind a proposal like HB 4002 because there are no guarantees of the same transition period or incentives for farmers in a rulemaking process.
This moves Oregon Agriculture forward
Agricultural labor is skilled labor. Every farmer in our network knows the skill and knowledge that goes into growing good food and bringing it to market. This is something that is often overlooked by people who don’t understand the day to day workings of a farm. Training new employees takes time and slows down production. Better pay and working conditions lead to better employee retention and will help farms keep their skilled labor force here in Oregon. There is a need to value the employees who will train the more short term folks and lead the crews that will help put food on the tables of Oregon. Although many farms in our network already pay above the industry average and pay close attention to the working environment of their crews, this change will help farms retain their skilled workforce for the betterment of the future of Oregon agriculture.
In additions to helping farms, this will put more money into rural economies across the state. This will have ripple effects to help jumpstart economic development in communities that need it. Farmworkers often live in housing at the farms or in rural communities. They will spend more money at local businesses, be able to pay their rent more easily and put more money into rural Oregon economies. This all contributes to the tax base of these communities which can help fund things like better schools, healthcare infrastructure, community open spaces, and maintenance. When rural communities have more money flowing through them, we all win.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing
The comparatively low cost of labor in agriculture has subsidized industrial agriculture for decades. The farms that we represent at FoFF have been working to help their communities understand the true cost of food for years. We know that food produced in a way that reflects values of good land stewardship and fair labor practices costs more. The groundwork we have laid, along with the incredibly successful activism around nutrition incentive programs for local food (Farm Direct Nutrition Program, Double Up Food Bucks, food bank buying programs, etc.) have helped provide resources to make local food accessible. The reason that industrial agribusiness has such a strong hold on the food system is because they have taken advantage of exceptions and loopholes like this policy. These exceptions allow industrial factory farms to take advantage of vulnerable workers and it’s the reason that we all have to stand up now to bring parity to the labor force in agriculture. Farmworkers are not any less valuable than any other worker in any other industry and they deserve to be valued.
Farmworker overtime was excluded from labor standards in the beginning of the twentieth century because of the legacy of slavery in this country, and has been perpetuated based on stereotypes about who a farmworker is and what their work is worth in public discourse. It is not up for debate that race was a factor in the history of the policy. If we are serious about undoing the wrongs of the past, although no farmer today is responsible for that past, we have to be willing to stand up against the policies that benefit some while keeping the workforce who feeds our state (and the country) down. According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, the average annual salary of an individual farmworker is $15,000 to $17,499. That is not a livable wage and we as a community of farmers have an obligation to come together to right this wrong and stand with our farmworkers.
We have the chance to be part of building a better policy that treats all parties more fairly while easing the transition for farmers. Join us in building a more equitable food system by joining the coalition for farmworker overtime.