Yolo County Board Of Supervisors to Consider Task Force on Farm Labor

Farm-Worker-BWBy Sean Raycraft

Tuesday July 26, County Supervisor Don Saylor advanced a motion to support Assembly Bill 1066, (Lorena Gonzalez-D San Diego). The bill would extend overtime protections to farm workers in the state of California, phased in over several years. It will be heard in State Senate Appropriations in the coming weeks. A similar bill, AB 2757, failed 38-35 to advance when several Assembly Democrats sided with Republicans or did not vote on the bill. AB 1066 is a “gut and amend bill,” which will have to pass through the Senate, then return to the Assembly.

Several members of the community spoke in favor of the resolution, including County Superintendent of Schools Jesse Ortiz, community organizer Steven Payan and myself. Mr. Ortiz spoke about the inequalities faced by farm worker families, undocumented students and poverty in Yolo County, and how those inequalities harm educational opportunities.

Payan spoke about his experience working in the fields, the harsh conditions, and how it is often the last option of employment for desperate people, himself included. He spoke at length about the need to reverse the decades of institutional racism faced by farm workers who are 92% Latino. He said, “If 92% of farm workers were white, I don’t think we would be having this conversation.”

For my part, I spoke about the food production chain. Everyone who touches food after that farm worker puts the produce on the truck gets overtime protections. The truckers, warehouse workers, and grocery clerks all get overtime protections, so why shouldn’t the people who actually touch the food first?

“Today it’s going to be 106 degrees and there are going to be farm workers outside working long hours in that heat. It’s time to bring this era of institutional racism to an end.” Jeff Merwin, President of the Yolo County Farm Bureau, spoke against the measure, making the incredulous claim that farm worker overtime would actually harm farm workers, by implying that overtime for farm workers would somehow cause farm workers to work less than a 40-hour work week.

I say this comment is incredulous because everyone who pays attention to the agriculture industry knows there is a huge labor shortage for farmers.

Meanwhile, farmers across California and the country are speaking out about the shortage. A quick google search of “farmer labor shortage” will show inquisitive readers volumes about the issue. Here is a quote from the American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall from June 30, 2016.

“This is a serious issue for farmers across America,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “If you have a crop that’s ready and your harvest window is narrow and your workers show up late – you’re going to lose your crop.”

“We’re going to have to make a choice,” Duvall added. “We either have to import our labor – workers to harvest our crops – or we’ll have to import our food.”

The point is that there simply are not enough skilled workers willing to work those hours, at those low wages, in those terrible working conditions. The farmers cannot simply hire more farm hands to help with the labor shortage, because, if they could, they would be doing so already. What person who is not extremely desperate would accept minimum wage for 60 hours a week, with no overtime, to do back breaking labor, in intense heat, and risk being sprayed by pesticides?

To take this back to the comforts of the air conditioning and the plush seats of the board of supervisors chamber, Don Saylor made some excellent points in his opening remarks. He mentioned the history of his mother, who was a waitress.

He said, “Overtime and minimum wages were concerns for those workers, and now they have those protections.” (We still have restaurants and waitresses). He continued, “The best way to attack poverty is a job that pays you enough money to support yourself and a family.” I tend to agree with that assessment.

There is no reason why the people, who work to make sure the rest of society is well fed, should face tough decisions about decent food for themselves and their families because they are paid so little.

Supervisor Rexroad, for his part, was dismissive of the motion, claiming the issue was “irrelevant to our mission.” Oscar Villegas was skeptical of the motion, and seemed to waffle between citing unintended consequences, irrelevance, and stating that “he had talked to the farmers in his district, and he didn’t seem to think there were any issues.”

But he did ask the board to consider a task force to look into farm worker inequities. He said, “We ought to create a task force that looks into some of the farm worker inequities brought forth by testimony today. If we want to do something real, let’s do that.”

Supervisor Provenza had good things to say: “I don’t think anyone really wants to work 60 hours a week in the hot sun for poverty wages.”

He continued, “These are rights that every single other worker has in the nation and California, except for farm workers, who were left out because they are Latino.” Later in the meeting, a majority of the board agreed to work to build a task force looking into farm worker inequities, which will be formed at a later date.

A video of the segment can be seen here:  http://yolocountyca.swagit.com/play/07262016-708

Unfortunately for us advocates, the motion failed 2-2, with Saylor and Provenza voting yes, while Villegas and Rexroad voted no, with Chamberlain abstaining. In many ways, this may actually be a victory for farm worker advocates.

Recently I toured several migrant farm worker labor camps, and I can honestly say the issues faced by farm workers will not be solved by one simple bill.

I will be writing about this issue all summer long, as it is far too much to tackle in one sitting. Needless to say, I will be watching the efforts of the Supervisors to solve some of the issues facing farm workers in Yolo County.

Sean Raycraft is a lifelong Davis resident, and a proud Shop Steward with UFCW 8

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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54 thoughts on “Yolo County Board Of Supervisors to Consider Task Force on Farm Labor”

  1. quielo

    “These are rights that every single other worker has in the nation and California, except for farm workers, who were left out because they are Latino.” 

     

    I work here in CA and I don’t get overtime so this statement is factually false.

    1. quielo

      Well I don’t get overtime and have a hard time thinking of people who I know who do. I engage lots of people for particular projects and they work for a day or three days and maybe next year I have a couple more days work, somewhat like farm workers, but maybe less regular. No one has ever asked me for overtime. I really don’t see how you manage overtime in terms of jobs that last for days.

  2. hpierce

    ‘Salaried’ folk generally don’t get “overtime”… many professionals get the same salary if they can get their assignments done in 32 hours, or if it takes 48 hours.  They are hired to complete tasks, projects, assignments, etc.  If they can accomplish their work fully and effectively in less time, they are, in effect, rewarded.

    Do Kaiser physicians get overtime?

    1. South of Davis

      hpierce wrote:

      > many professionals get the same salary if they can get

      > their assignments done in 32 hours

      The majority of salaried professionals work way over 40 hours a week, while there are “some” salaried professionals who can say “I got my assignments done so I’m taking Friday off” this number is real small (way smaller than “many”) and probably less than 1% of private sector professionals.

      P.S. When I say “work” more than 40 hours I mean “be at work” for for more than 40 hours.  If you back out time for Facebook, blogging, on line shopping, catching up on the news or reading books on the Kindle app I agree that “many” salaried professionals work closer to 32 hours…

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2014/09/02/the-average-work-week-is-now-47-hours/

    2. Tia Will

      Kaiser physicians receive a base salary for a fixed schedule. If we work additional hours we get paid basically hour for hour based on what our hourly wage would be based on our base salary. There is an allowance given to ensure a minimum compensation if, for example, we are called in from home but our services are needed for less than a given amount of time ( 2 hours in our department for example).

    1. Barack Palin

      so oscar has now opposed early childhood education

      Or one could look at it that Oscar opposed a County sales tax for a program that wouldn’t have done all that much for the cost.  It’s all in how one sees it.

      1. wdf1

        BP:  Or one could look at it that Oscar opposed a County sales tax for a program that wouldn’t have done all that much for the cost.  It’s all in how one sees it.

        What do you think would be an appropriate level of cost to fund effective early childhood education?

      2. Tia Will

        BP

        for a program that wouldn’t have done all that much for the cost.  It’s all in how one sees it.”

        I agree. And I would also bet that if you are a parent whose child might benefit from such a program, or looking retrospectively, a child who is behind in school and on into adulthood whose odds might have been improved by this program, you would certainly see it as beneficial and worth the cost.

        1. Barack Palin

          For the cost it was only going to partially help a few hundred kids in Davis.  I wouldn’t expect everyone else to pay a sales tax so my kid could get a partial preschool stipend.

  3. South of Davis

    Sean wrote:

    > The bill would extend overtime protections to farm workers

    > in the state of California 

    I’m not an expert on this but I believe that farm workers in California get overtime after 10 hours on the job vs. 8 hours like most people.

    I’m in support of paying overtime after 8 hours unless the workers make a different deal (my friend who is a SF cop is OK that he does not get overtime until he has been on the job for 10 hours).

    > He spoke at length about the need to reverse the

    > decades of institutional racism

    We know that there is institutional racism out there and I’m in agreement that “institutional racism” is the reason that we have so few latino produce company execs.  Since Wal-Mart is based in Arkansas and run by mostly white people and has stores in Arkansas that have 100% white employees who get paid LESS than farm workers in CA I’m pretty sure that the low pay and less overtime has more to do with “corporate greed” than “institutional racism”…

     

      1. South of Davis

        Sean wrote:

        > Corporate Greed and institutional racism are not mutually exclusive

        I’m sure there are some greedy rich & racist CEOs out of the 1,000+ guys in Sonoma County this week at the Bohemian Grove, but I’m pretty sure that the majority of the CEOs are just greedy.

        The top 1% (of all races and political parties) has been on a 40 year run of making more and more every year and paying the workers less and less (adjusted for inflation) every year.

        The top 1% knows that if we all work together we can change things but if they can keep latinos focused on racist farmers, blacks focused on racist cops and whites focused on transgender bathrooms they will keep getting richer.

        1. tribeUSA

          SOD–yes, and there’s no need to inv0ke any kind of long-drawn conspiracy of ‘divide and conquer’; division happens spontaneously with the resurrection of identity politics; and those who manage corporations and financial institutions naturally take advantage of the distractions to amp up their lobbying and other influence-peddling activities. The rate at which more and more of the nations wealth has been accruing into the hands of fewer and fewer people has been about the same for the last 7.5 years with Obama as it was with the 8 years of Georgy Bush (i.e. Obama is an0ther Wall Street front-man, as was Bush). Obama has supported more and more immigration and trade deals like the TPP; both of which inevitably lead to lower wages for middle class, lower-middle class, and poor workers of all races; while helping to stoke racial tensions to distract from the mainline program of keeping on with the transfer of more of the nations wealth to the rich. Hillary is a ruthless mercenary for these same interests; who has a psychotically intense lust for wealth and power; if elected (or installed) she will complete the sell-out of the USA to the globalists she works for; and will be handsomely rewarded.

  4. Sam

    “What person who is not extremely desperate would accept minimum wage for 60 hours a week,”

    “There is no reason why the people who work to make sure the rest of society is well fed, should face tough decisions about decent food for themselves and their families because they are paid so little.”

    So you are saying that a single person making $31,200 per year can’t afford decent food but if they are paid overtime and make $36,400 per year they will be able to afford decent food. What about the poor people barley making ends meet right now that will have to pay more for fresh fruits and vegetables?  Do you really think that it is a good idea to continue to manipulate the economics of the largest agricultural producer in the country while phasing in a 50% increase in the cost of labor?

     

    1. Tia Will

      Sam

      Do you really think that it is a good idea to continue to manipulate the economics of the largest agricultural producer in the country while phasing in a 50% increase in the cost of labor?”

      What I really think would be a good idea would be a universal base income. Then we could do away with all of the pitting of one group near the bottom against another group near the bottom all for the benefit of those at the top.

    2. Justice4All

      Firstly, extending overtime protections to farm workers will not increase labor costs by 50%. Its mathematically impossible. As to the merits of manipulating the economics of the largest agricultural producer in the country, Ill just say that this particular manipulation is long past due. I simply have different priorities than you do. I am more concerned about equality of opportunity, inclusion, fairness and racial justice than the balance sheet of giant corporate farmers. I am more sympathetic to family farmers, and I think this particular bill has provisions for them.

      As I write this comment on July 31, three farm workers died yesterday due to over work in the extreme heat. Those deaths are totally preventable. The issues surrounding farm labor are so much more significant than simple issues about pay and overtime. Its constant exposure to pesticides, the laborious nature of the work, access to health care in rural areas, decent, affordable housing, and ironically access to healthy food. Im going to be writing a lot about these issues in the coming weeks and months.

  5. Eric Gelber

    Supervisor Rexroad, for his part, was dismissive of the motion, claiming the issue was “irrelevant to our mission.”

    According to the website, Yolocounty.org, the County’s mission is: “Making a difference by enhancing the quality of life in our community.” Seems to me ensuring fair wages for agricultural workers in a largely agricultural county is directly relevant to the County’s mission.

    Oscar Villegas was skeptical of the motion, and seemed to waffle between citing unintended consequences, irrelevance, and stating that “he had talked to the farmers in his district, and he didn’t seem to think there were any issues.”

    Perhaps Mr. Villegas should also have talked to farmworkers in his district before concluding that there aren’t any issues.

    1. South of Davis

      Eric wrote:

      > Perhaps Mr. Villegas should also have talked to farmworkers

      > in his district before concluding that there aren’t any issues.

      When your name is “Oscar Villegas” you will tend to get most of the farm “worker” votes based on your name so it makes sense that he will try and get cash from the farm “owners” by voting to help them (just like almost every other politician of both major parties).

        1. Justice4All

          I imagine he does. There are many farm worker labor camps in the West Sac area. Moreover, he assuredly has constituents who have relatives who are farm workers.

    2. quielo

      Eric,

      How else does Yolo County get involved in setting wages for people in the county?

      “Making a difference by enhancing the quality of life in our community.”  could also mean keeping farmers solvent by not proposing expensive and difficult to administer mandates. 

       

        1. quielo

          I agree that if the county does not generally involve itself in wage issues, instead deferring to the state and feds, that it is out of scope for them to take this on. Also it’s possible they would like uniformity and not put Yolo at a possible disadvantage. If they implement a OT provision after 8 hours in Yolo and not Solano then workers will prefer to go to Yolo if growers actually pay the OT. If Yolo growers do not pay the overtime and instead cut off work after eight hours then workers are likely to avoid working there and instead work in Solano where they can make more per day. IMO a county would be way stupid to take this up.

        2. Eric Gelber

          quielo –

          “How else does Yolo County get involved in setting wages for people in the county?” For starters, they set the wages for all County workers. Other counties have established local minimum wages, for example.

          The fact that this is a matter for the state or federal government to regulate doesn’t mean that the County shouldn’t weigh in. Counties express their positions on all sorts of issues before the state Legislature–individually and through their state lobbying association. Regardless of the position it takes, it’s certainly not inappropriate for the County to weigh in on an issue of significant import to the local workforce and economy.

  6. Barack Palin

    Farms and workers are already seeing the effects of increased labor costs in California.

    Roy attributes much of California’s declining agricultural state to increases in agricultural imports from overseas, Obamacare, the new $15 minimum wage and the prolonged drought.

    “All in all, it’s making California farmers and farmers in this particular county very uncompetitive,” Roy said.

    http://abc7.com/business/hundreds-of-strawberry-farmers-to-lose-jobs-in-oxnard/1388828/

  7. Adam Smith

    I know several large farmers in the area, and none of them have a policy  requiring farm workers to work more than 8 hrs per day or 40 hours per week.  The workers do this because they are interested in making more money.     This allows them to make enough money during the “season: If this overtime bill is passed, the farmers will simply automate more and hire more workers instead of allowing their existing workers to work overtime.    Mr. Raycraft, the BOS and others should carefully consider the secondary and tertiary impacts of their well-intentioned thoughts.     It is likely that their efforts will actually lower incomes  for  the group they intend to help.

    1. Justice4All

      Automation isnt the devil its made out to be. The president of the YFB said himself that “The work has to get done”, and hes right. Farm worker issues go well beyond simple overtime and wage issues. Let me ask everyone this simple question. Why should farm workers not get the same overtime protections as every other low wage worker?

  8. Frankly

    There is a ruling class in California that seems to lack the gray matter for understanding economic consequences.

    But I like this idea of forcing farmers to pay farm workers overtime.  And also forcing the increase in overall wages through hefty minimum wage hikes, sick leave and healthcare mandates.

    I like it because it will serve to reduce low-skilled, uneducated illegal immigration.   And more companies, including farmers, will automate… thus creating more business and employment opportunities in farming automation technology.  More small farmers will go out of business and more farmland will by taken up by the larger corporate farms.  More farmland will lay fallow due to the lack of economics for farming it.  Thus the land will be developed for more alternative commercial use… thus creating more economic growth and high-skilled job opportunities.

    Lastly, with the increase pay and benefits and, for those fewer low-skill jobs that will exist, it is more likely that actual citizens will take them.  Maybe we will see some young people working on farms like I did.  That way we seem more learning about the value of hard work instead of developing an entitlement mentality.

  9. Eric Gelber

    It’s interesting how the right focuses solely on “economic consequences” to the exclusion of factors such as what’s fair, just, and equitable. You may recall that we fought a war a while back because of the economic consequences of abolishing slavery.  Sometimes, there are other factors that must also be taken into consideration.

    1. Sam

      Yes, I do think that you should look at the “economic consequences” when trying to legislate economic changes. The reason for this is that if you go to far those decisions can cause great economic pain. As an example look at Venezuela, Greece, Stockton, Detroit, Chicago……..

      I do understand that there are other factors to consider. For example, I understand that working single parents are unable to support three kids living in Davis on a minimum wage job. I am against raising the minimum wage because I do not believe that it will not make Davis more affordable for the working single parent. I believe that raising the California earned income credit is a better solution.

      Really? Equating thinking about the economic consequences to slavery?

      1. Eric Gelber

        No, Sam and BP. I did not equate thinking about economic interests to slavery. The point is that economic consequences cannot always be the only factor considered. There are also issues involving fairness and justice. The South took up arms against the U.S. government because they considered only the economic consequences of emancipation, not the human rights implications of slavery.

        1. Sam

          Hugo Chavez, Rahm Emanuel and Richard Daley made decisions ignoring the economic impact focusing only on what was fair, just and equitable.

          Why does the left never consider the economic impact of their decisions?

          Why when the possible economic impacts are pointed out the are simply ignored?

          How many economies have to suffer before the left will consider the impact of trying to manipulate the economy through legislation?

          I have never said that it should be the only factor considered, I would just like it to be considered.

        2. Justice4All

          Hugo Chavez, Rahm Emanuel and Richard Daley made decisions ignoring the economic impact focusing only on what was fair, just and equitable.
          Why does the left never consider the economic impact of their decisions?
          Why when the possible economic impacts are pointed out the are simply ignored?
          How many economies have to suffer before the left will consider the impact of trying to manipulate the economy through legislation?
          I have never said that it should be the only factor considered, I would just like it to be considered.

          I find it interesting that you are grouping Rahm Emanuel and Hugo Chavez together in the same group. One was an unabashed socialist. The other is a 1% serving Wall Street Clintonite Neo-Liberal. They are nothing alike. Rahm Emanuel tried to quash the reports of police brutality and murder of LacQuan McDonald.

    2. Frankly

      It’s interesting how the right focuses solely on “economic consequences” to the exclusion of factors such as what’s fair, just, and equitable.

      What makes you think that?  It isn’t true.  Those on the right also care about fairness, justice and what is equitable.

      Why is it that those on the left can accept academic earned reward and not economic earned reward?

      So it is fine for some students to achieve those greater SAT points that are rewarded with more prestigious college choices that others, but then after graduating it is NOT okay that they are rewarded with more dollars in pay than others lacking their education?

      What about those kids from broken homes with uneducated parents… they cannot seem to pass their classes, or else their GPA is so low they will never get into a good college.  Should we implement a “minimum GPA” to make sure things are just, fair and equitable?

      Actually what about the kids from the well-off families of college educated parents… what if they too cannot get better than a C average… we should boost them too, right?

      How is it fair, just and equitable for the government to make rules that prevent farm workers that want to and need to from cramming long days in while the work is available to earn more money to carry them through the months where there is little or no work?

      How is it fair, just and equitable to the farmer that just was just given the equivalent of a tax increase per unit of labor?

      How is it fair, just and equitable that with the increase labor costs replaces farm workers with new equipment because the government has made the labor more expensive than the equipment as an alternative?

      A bleeding heart unleashed to implement economic policy is the most unfair, unjust and inequitable machine on the planet.  It seeks to feel better at the expense of much human pain and suffering.

      1. South of Davis

        Frankly wrote:

        > Why is it that those on the left can accept academic earned

        > reward and not economic earned reward?

        Most (but not all) on the left support “affirmative action”  (since it is not “fair” if only the kids that work hard and get good grades get in to top schools) ant want to close the “achievement” gap just as much as they want to close the “income” gap.

        The progressive left are just as sad when the student who works hard gets an A when others who did’t work hard get a D as they are when the guy who works 80 hours a week makes more than the people sitting at home watching daytime TV.

        http://neatoday.org/2015/08/19/are-letter-grades-failing-our-students/

        1. Frankly

          The progressive left are just as sad when the student who works hard gets an A when others who did’t work hard get a D as they are when the guy who works 80 hours a week makes more than the people sitting at home watching daytime TV.

          Except when that student that gets the A or the guy that works that in a government job with a millionaire pension is themselves.

  10. Tia Will

    Eric

    It seems to me that we also fought a war which was ostensibly partially economic, but was also ostensibly about “softer values”, you know, like “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….” My goodness !  Whoever wrote that “squishy” bit of values that are clearly not quantifiable or more importantly incapable of being sold in a “free market” ?!!!

    1. quielo

      Tia,

       

      I find this somewhat ambiguous. Does government micromanagement lead to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….” or is it the converse?

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