By passing legislation to protect farms against unfair litigation and demands for retroactive overtime pay, Washington lawmakers have saved our jobs. We are deeply grateful.
This may be the first time that lawmakers have seen that labor leaders are not looking out for the workers they claim to represent. After all, as the video below shows, labor leaders and lawyers combined to try to pass legislation that would have destroyed tens of thousands of our jobs.
Now lawmakers must also hear from farmworkers on issues of overtime pay. The bill, 5172, that protect farms and jobs included a requirement for paying workers overtime. That sounds fair and that's the way labor leaders sold it. But, it hurts us. Hurts us bad. It will reduce our pay or make it much more difficult for us to earn the same amount of pay.
Farmers can't afford overtime Demanding overtime assumes that farmers can just absorb the extra cost or that the work doesn't need to be done. Farmers can't afford it because the cost of farming in Washington is already higher than most other areas largely because of how much farmers pay us workers. We are not complaining about the fact that we get paid more for doing our jobs than workers in any other state. But, we know that farmers can't just raise prices for apples, milk, potatoes or whatever. The prices are set for them by buyers who have many, many choices. Mexican farmers, for example, who pay a minimum wage of 79 cents per hour, are gaining ground rapidly over our farmers. Farm work is not like other work Also, farm work doesn't stop after 40 hours. Fruit can't wait to be picked, hay can't wait to be baled, potatoes can't wait to be harvested. It's just not like other work and labor leaders, who have jobs in offices or at home where they can quit after putting in their time don't seem to understand that. That means if farmers can't pay the time and a half over time, they have to find more workers. Maybe that will be easier in the future, but now we farmworkers are in high demand so that makes it harder for farmers to get the workers they need to harvest crops.
We want to work more hours Farmworkers know that farming is not a 9 to 5 job. Farm work is seasonal and that means we make the money we need for our families in less than a full year. This allows us to take time off in off season. But, if we cannot earn what we earn now by working longer hours, then we will have to find other jobs when farm work is done. That is hard and will change how we live our lives. We ask why? Why disrupt our lives just because labor leaders say it is what we want. They don't know what we want.
To earn the same amount we have to get two jobs With farmers having to pay overtime according to the new law, we will be sent out of the fields after 40 hours. If we want to earn the same pay as we are now, we have to get a second job. Maybe we can go to another farmer who needs to hire more workers because he or she too has to send workers out of the fields. But, that is a nuisance for us, creates a transportation headache, reduces the time we can spend harvesting, and makes much more paperwork for farmers. And why? Just because labor leaders want to get a "win" politically.
Lawmakers showed they will listen to us Labor leaders are showing they either don't understand about farm work or don't care about us farmworkers. That's what lawmakers need to understand. That's what farmworkers are going to be doing now. We know lawmakers will listen. Protecting our jobs is one example. Now, they need to protect our pay.
We are farmworkers. We are over 100,000 strong in Washington.
Farm labor leaders are hurting us. They said we wanted back pay for overtime. Not true. We want our jobs, not back pay. Thanks to our lawmakers for listening to us and not the labor leaders and lawyers.
Now, we need them to listen to us on overtime pay during the harvest season. Labor leaders either don't care about us or don't understand what we want. We want to work the long hours farm works needs. And we want the pay that comes with it.
We don't want to have to find other jobs during the off season, and we don't want to have to find second jobs during the season.
We know that farm labor leaders don't listen to us. But, we now know that lawmakers will. Our voice will be heard!