By John Whittaker
POSTED: June, 3 2009
ALBANY - What has already been a bad year for farmers could get worse if a bill requiring mandatory overtime for farmworkers is approved by the state Legislature.
On Tuesday, the state Senate's Labor Committee voted in favor of a bill that would require mandatory payment of overtime to farmworkers, require farm employers to allow at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, provide for an eight-hour work day for farm laborers, makes unemployment insurance and workers compensation laws apply to farm workers, and requires farm worker injuries to be reported.
The bill has moved through committee in the Assembly, where a vote could be held this week. California is the only other state with such comprehensive labor rules for farms, according to the New York State Farm Bureau. Farmers say crops can only be picked during a short period of time, and having to pay overtime for the hours required during the harvest could make harvesting crops too expensive.
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean and ranking member of the state Senate Agriculture Committee, on Tuesday blasted the Senate committee's vote, saying in a news release that the proposed changes will drive labor costs high enough to force farms out of business.
''The impact will be devastating,'' Sen. Young said. ''Thousands of farms statewide will go under, and countless jobs at farms, processing plants and farm-supply businesses will be lost."
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