Governor Inslee signed a bill that provides protection for farmers and farmworkers against three years retroactive pay and the class action lawsuits that were making these unfair demands. The nearly 40 lawsuits against farmers stemmed from a Supreme Court decision that said dairy farmworkers need to be paid overtime. When Senator King proposed Senate Bill 5172 it was to protect farmers against these lawsuits and their demands. Hundreds of farmworkers spoke up explaining how these demands would destroy their jobs. Labor activists fought against this and through their mouthpiece, Senator Saldana, they amended the bill to demand three years back pay for overtime for all farmworkers, plus 12% interest. If that had passed it would have destroyed most farms in the state and with that most of the 100,000 plus farmworker jobs.
Farmworkers and farmers spoke out against it, and the Senate and then House overwhelmingly rejected the effort by labor leaders to destroy farms and jobs.
How do they call this a success? Because the bill included the provision to require overtime for all farmworkers phased in over several years. In the fight to force farmers to pay backpay for overtime, the labor activists and their legislative allies demonstrated they have no interest in what farmworkers want or what is in their best interests. If you care, watch the videos and see them speak for themselves.
Now, the question will be whether our lawmakers will listen to labor leaders who show no regard for the best interests of workers, or the workers themselves. Workers have repeatedly explained how requiring overtime will cause them to lose pay, will make their lives more difficult and complicated, and force them to find second jobs. THEY DON'T WANT IT. If you question that, we encourage you to talk to them.
Labor activists are fighting for political agendas harmful to farms and workers. Lawmakers in this bill showed when pressed they will ignore the demands of labor leaders when it harms those they say they are trying to help. We fully expect on the issue of overtime, they will do the same.
On January 28 Senator Karen Keiser, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee held a hearing on SB5172 which would end the lawsuits and protect farmers agains the demands for three years back pay.
Over 550 farmers, farm workers and supporters asked to speak. Their message: without action on this bill, our farms will die and our jobs will be lost.
Union leaders and labor lawyers spoke against protecting farms. Now, they are demanding that farmworkers be paid overtime even during the seasonal harvest time. Farmers can't afford to pay overtime so more workers must go home after 40 hours. It means large pay cuts. Life will get harder, not easier for farmworkers.
The Supreme Court overtime ruling hurts them. "Why not talk to us first?" they ask.
As this video will show, employees the judges thought they were helping, are deeply unhappy with this decision.
One very disturbing result of the state Supreme Court decision is the flood of litigation launched against Washington's family dairy farmers claiming that now these farmers owe three years back pay to their employees.
This, despite the fact that farmers have been following the law on employee pay for years, and that if successful, these actions will mean the end of almost all but the very largest farms in Washington state.
Eager lawyers jumped on the opening left by the Supreme Court decision and have filed suits against over 20 farms. They claim that farmers now owe workers three years back pay. When farmers have been faithfully following a longstanding state law in paying workers, how can it be fair they are now penalized for following the law? If these lawsuits succeed through court action or settlements, we will see a rapid loss of most of our family farms with only the largest, most efficient farms able to survive.
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