Press Release: Fair Pay for Farm Workers is Affordable

For immediate release: Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Contact: Fern Whyland, whyland@fiscalpolicy.org, 315-436-0558

The new report: “Farm Workers’ Overtime Pay is Affordable and Long Overdue”

New Report Shows that Fair Pay for Farm Workers is Affordable

Our state can end the archaic exclusion of job protections for farm workers

(Albany, NY) Today the Fiscal Policy Institute released a new report “Farm Workers’ Overtime Pay is Affordable and Long Overdue” which looks at how giving farm workers the same rights and protection as other workers, including overtime pay for long hours, would affect farms, farm workers, their local communities and the state. With the end of 2019 legislative session rapidly approaching, the Senate has conducted hearings on The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act and attention is now shifting to the Assembly.

Statement from David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute:

“New York has a proud tradition and a great future in agriculture, but it has to be one that includes fair treatment of farm workers. Overtime pay is standard in factories, stores, and offices around the state. It’s long past time for it to become the norm on our farms as well.”

California, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Maryland already include overtime pay for farm workers and ten other states allow collective bargaining. Research shows benefits for workers, manageable costs for farm owners, and positive ripple effects in local communities across the state.

Overtime pay would increase the average pay of farm workers by $34 to $95 a week, the study found. If all of the costs of that wage increase were passed along to farm owners, it would represent nine percent of net farm income, an amount the report says is manageable. Some have wondered whether instead the cost might be passed along to consumers. That is a misplaced concern: farmers don’t always control the prices they can charge, but even if all of the cost went to price increases it would raise the price by just two percent.

The report also stresses that there is not a dollar-for-dollar cost to farm owners since higher wages also make it easier to attract and retain workers. That lowers turnover, decreases training cost, and increases productivity.

When farm workers earn more, that is better for local communities in numerous ways, not least they can spend more money in local stores, which boosts local businesses and increases local and state sales tax revenues.

To learn more, please read FPI’s report.

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The Fiscal Policy institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all.

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