Time to speak up

Moser’s Mapleridge Farm is in Copenhagen, Lewis County. Watertown Daily Times

State authorities have scheduled several additional hearings to solicit input on the prospect of lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 to 40 hours.

The Farm Workers Wage Board, overseen by the state Department of Labor, initially anticipated announcing a decision on whether to reduce the number of hours for farm workers to receive overtime pay. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which took effect in 2020, set the threshold at 60 hours. The law also established the Wage Board to assess if this arrangement was succeeding or if it needed to be adjusted.

However, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said on Dec. 14 that the board will hold three more hearings. They are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 4; 5 p.m. Jan. 18; and 5 p.m. Jan. 20.

“The department did not publicize the postponement, which came as a surprise to farmers, activists and lawmakers both in favor of and against lowering the threshold. Many said they did not know why the decision was delayed after months of waiting for the Wage Board to reconvene,” according to a story published Wednesday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The Wage Board did not publicly meet or discuss the additional hearings or delay. Labor Department officials continue to negotiate the issue behind closed doors. Department officials would not respond to questions Wednesday about why the vote was postponed or the date the board must make a decision in 2022.”

Lowering the threshold to 40 hours would devastate many farms. State officials must listen to those who own and operate farms and take their concerns seriously.

The additional hearings are an opportunity for local farmers and those in the agricultural industry to make their voices heard on the problems this would cause. Visit http://wdt.me/n3wxZQ for more information about the virtual hearings or to register to testify.

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(1) comment


Good information. So the Wage Board is purely advisory and any real action will have to be made by the legislature?

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