Farmers across New York weigh in on Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act

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KENDALL, NY (WROC-TV) — The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act grants collective bargaining rights to laborers, provides a 60-hour work week, a day of rest, overtime pay, and allows for disability and paid family leave pay. Governor Andrew Cuomo says this will give, “100,000 farmers and their families better lives and protections.” 

“Well…it’s a sticky subject,” says Matt Kludt of Kludt Brothers Farm in Kendall.

For farmers in the region, especially seasonal farmers like Matt Kludt, they say the new act will likely deliver a blow. Particularly when mother nature unleashes the unexpected.

“We plant according to a schedule of when we can harvest,” says Kludt. “The weather is 90% of our income or loss.”

Their main crop of broccoli came along sooner than expected this month, and the guys are putting in tons of overtime. With the new labor laws, that will soon mean limited hours for those workers. 

“If we don’t have that ability….then it can all just perish,” adds Kludt.

Most of the farm’s workers make the federal minimum wage, and along with that comes housing and transportation. Add to that now time and a half pay for overtime. 

Kludt says, “It’s just going to cost us too much money.”

“Labor is one of our biggest expenses and it’s only going to get worse,” adds Andrew Kludt.

The family farm says they’ll have to hire more help because paying time and half will be too much of a hit. “In the end, it’s just going to cause food prices to go up, or go right to our bottom line,” says Andrew Kludt.

Some supporters of the act say the overtime payment and other factors would not be that damaging to farms in the region, even those that are seasonal. State lawmakers are saying this bill will give a stronger and fairer agricultural workforce, and it’s long overdue.

But politics aside, the Kludts say both sides can agree on one thing, “Thank your farmers…we work hard!” Andrew Kludt says with a smile.

The act takes effect on January 1, 2020.

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