ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Republican lawmakers and farm workers continue to ask the Governor to not move forward with changing the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours. They say this will be too costly for farmers and many workers will seek employment in states without these regulations.
“During the pandemic, many people learned a great deal about where their food comes from. People want fresh, quality, locally produced food. That’s what they get from our New York farms. But if this overtime threshold is lowered and more farms go out of business we will lose that,” said Republican Senator, Peter Oberacker.
Back in January, New York’s Farm Laborer’s Wage Board determined that the overtime threshold for farm workers should be lowered. But those in the farming industry say farm work is not your typical nine to five job.
Kelly Stanton-ellis is the retail & social media marketer for Stanton’s Feura Farm. She says her family’s farm has had the same five workers for the past seven to eight years and two workers for ten plus years, “They come back every year, they work the six months about April through October and they work so that they can send the money home to their families. They’re here to just make the money. They never complain, they’re happy to be here, they hug us when they leave and they’re like ‘we hope to see you next year,'” she said.
Stanton-ellis says if the overtime threshold were to change, labor costs will go through the roof. Prices at retail stores will increase and they won’t be able to compete with states that don’t have the same regulations which would cause New York farms to downsize or move out of state, “This is our livelihood that they’re going after. You know farmers, there’s very few of us out there. There’s 1.5% of the population that feeds our whole country,” said Stanton-ellis.
I did reach out to Democratic lawmakers on the Agriculture committee but was unable to reach them for comment. The board is set to reconvene Sept. 6 to make a final vote on the matter.