Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R,C-Caledonia) joined colleagues from the Assembly Minority Conference this week at a press conference to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to reject the reduced overtime threshold for farm workers that is being recommended by the Farm Laborers Wage Board. Byrnes has been a strong opponent of any further reduction, a proposal that is being driven from downstate special interests and does not align with most in the agricultural community.
During the pandemic, the board lowered the threshold to the current 60-hour workweek. They are now recommending lowering it further to 40 hours per week. This would cause farmers to need to pay an extra wage to any workers who work above 40 hours or to hire more employees—a cost that farmers overwhelmingly have told lawmakers they cannot afford, especially as transportation and energy prices have risen along with inflation.
“Here in the 133rd Assembly District and in rural communities all across our state where farming is a way of life, we know that you can’t put a limit on what needs to be done around the farm. We are talking about the care of living animals and stewardship of a natural landscape which needs tending year round,” said Byrnes. “Farmers and farm laborers are hard-working people who want to do the labor and care about a job well done, but the financial burdens put upon them by the downstate special interests that control our state government are just pushing too many farms to collapse.”
Undoubtedly, any rise in labor prices would need to be passed along to consumers at market as well. Byrnes said this is a concern for her constituents as many families are already struggling with unemployment and the difficulties of inflation.
Byrnes said, “As a fellow Western New Yorker, we hope Gov. Hochul hears this call and has the fortitude to stand up to these out-of-touch special interests in order to protect New York’s family farms and consumers. Without these farms, there is no food.”