WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — On Tuesday, New York’s Farm Laborers Wage Board advanced its report to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers.
The board held a vote on a proposed report that recommended reducing the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours per week, which advanced in a vote of two to one.
Despite the report now heading to New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, North Country lawmakers immediately criticized the vote.
This included Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who previously sent a letter to the Wage Board asking to postpone any consideration of reducing the overtime threshold.
Rep. Stefanik claimed the decision was “reckless” and it jeopardizes the State’s agriculture industry. Her full statement can be read below:
“Kathy Hochul’s Farm Laborers Wage Board failed to support our hardworking farmers. Instead, these Democrats in Albany are doubling down on their reckless overtime decision, jeopardizing New York’s agriculture industry, putting thousands of farm laborers out of work, and making New York less competitive by forcing our workers to seek labor opportunities in neighboring states, all while in the midst of a labor shortage. They are unmistakably out-of-touch with Upstate New York and the North Country. Make no mistake, I will continue to challenge this wrongful decision and stand up for our farms because Upstate New York understands: No farms, no food.”Congresswoman Elise Stefanik
Assemblyman Mark Walczyk also released a statement in opposition to the Board’s decision. Walczyk said the vote was “short-sighted” and “out-of-touch” with the needs of the farming industry. His full statement can also be read below:
“The board’s decision to recommend a 40-hour workweek to the state Department of Labor is another example of how short-sighted and out-of-touch Albany is with the realities of this state, and moreover the working people it claims to be working for. Simply put, this recommendation will put more farms into bankruptcy and foreclosure, and put farm workers out of jobs. If Albany wants to tell the rest of the world that New York is closed for business, they are certainly doing a great job at that — however, with the landscape and security of our food chain at stake, this issue is more than jobs and economics. It’s literally the food we all put on our tables. Albany, it’s time to wake up to the realities here and stop playing politics with people’s food.”Assemblyman Mark Walczyk
However, if the report is approved my Commissione Reardon, the reduction of hours would be phased over a ten-year period, with reductions occurring on a biannual basis.
This is set to begin in January 2024 and would be complete by January 2032.