In support of Farm Workers

August 31, 2016
By Kristen Johnson

California has the opportunity to do the right thing for laborers. Assembly Bill 1066 has now been sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s office and he has the opportunity to sign it into law.

Currently, farm workers in California are given overtime only when they work more than 10 hours in a day, or 60 hours in a week. (The norm in California for other jobs is 8 hours in a day, or 40 hours in a week.) Opponents of Assembly Bill 1066 say that farm work is “different” than other types of work because it is seasonal and dependent on water and other resources. The rest of us see through that pack of lies and see nothing but greed and discrimination.

As usual, big business is against protecting workers – instead, they declare that they will cut hours over all rather than pay the overtime. The Sacramento Bee has a quote from said business leaders:

“We are deeply concerned with the passage of AB 1066 today and the devastating impacts this bill will have on our small, independent farmers and the workers they employ,” said Tom Scott, state executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “This mandate does not consider the thousands of agricultural workers who will lose their jobs and the billions of dollars in lost crop production resulting from these new overtime regulations.”

Another quote from CBS News: Farmers vehemently oppose it, and third-generation almond and olive farmer Pat Ricchiuti said approval by Brown could prompt him to cut his workers’ take-home pay by as much as 33 percent. The Fresno Country farmer says he and others he knows would respond by limiting crews to eight hours by finding other workers and increasing their use of farm machinery.

In the event you live in California, any emails and phone calls in support of this bill to Governor Brown’s office would be helpful. If you do not live in California, with any luck the bill will pass and similar bills will be found in your states. Unfortunately, the farm system in this country is rife with labor abuses and poverty. Paying a little bit more for produce so that workers can feed their families is a small price to pay to avoid exploiting people.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about protecting disadvantaged groups, the poor, and workers in general.

2 Timothy 2:6 (NRSV): 6 It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops.

Deuteronomy 24: 14-15 (NRSV): 14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. 15 You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.

Isaiah 1:17 (NRSV):   learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

And, most importantly:

Mark 12:31 (NRSV): 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The laborers can hope that society (and Governor Brown) will choose to love their neighbors and pass this bill, as opposed to continuing to oppress their neighbors through what is basically slave labor.

Serve all with love.


Here is how California’s Assembly voted on this bill on Monday:

Ayes: Alejo, Arambula, Atkins, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brown, Burke, Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Dababneh, Daly, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson, Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Linder, Lopez, Low, McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Nazarian, O’Donnell, Quirk, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Santiago, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Weber, Williams, Rendon

Noes: Achadjian, Travis Allen, Baker, Bigelow, Brough, Chang, Chávez, Cooley, Cooper, Dahle, Dodd, Frazier, Beth Gaines, Gallagher, Gray, Grove, Hadley, Harper, Jones, Kim, Lackey, Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes, Melendez, Obernolte, Olsen, Patterson, Steinorth, Wagner, Waldron, Wilk

No Votes Recorded: Eggman, Irwin, Levine, Wood

Photo courtesy of


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