Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in Sacramento on Monday that proponents say will improve farmer working conditions. Brown's support for Assembly Bill 1066, which outlines rules for overtime work compensation, has been contested for over a year by some agricultural lobbies and farm owners.
Before AB 1066, farm workers were excluded from the current laws that outline wages, working hours and meal breaks.
Now, farmers are required by law to be included "as a class of employees protected by criminal penalties under existing law." In other words, farms that do not compensate employees properly or that withhold rights like meal breaks are subject to criminal punishment.
The Vice President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), Laura Barajas, said they believe that the bill is a victory for the state because it represents equality and a better quality of life.
"We don't believe in second-class workers," Barajas said. "We believe that farm workers deserve the same rights as the rest of the workers in the United States and California."
In addition, Barajas believes AB 1066 is economically beneficial. "[Workers] will have some dollars more to spend," Barajas said. "If we have more money in our pocket, we spend more."
The original bill, proposed in June, was rejected, but Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego recently revised and proposed it again, leading to Brown's decision.
But not everyone agrees that the bill is the best course of action, including the California Farm Bureau, who opposes the legislation.
The Bureau's president, Paul Wenger, argues specifically against overtime pay in an industry where overtime is a necessity. The work week may be limited by weather, he says, and "if you're limited to an 8-hour work day, then you haven't really been able to take advantage of the days you couldn't go out."
Wenger also says that California cannot afford to further disadvantage itself in an already competitive field.
"You have to remember that workers in Mexico are paid somewhere between 7 to 15 dollars a day," says Wenger. "They get no overtime. They have no worker protections like heat illness or pesticide protections like we have in California."
The bill will take effect in 2019.
Staff Reporter Maddie Ottilie also contributed to this story.