Vote on Farmworker Overtime Bill Delayed

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SACRAMENTO -- Hundreds of United Farm Worker members were disappointed after a final vote on a proposal to provide overtime pay for farmworkers was delayed.

"They lost a day's work, a day's pay to be able to come here today, and it's really disrespectful to them," said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, who was among dozens of farmworkers who lined the hallway of the Assembly Chambers.

The proposal was defeated a few weeks ago but found new life in the Senate where it got the bare minimum number of votes for approval.

But heavy lobbying by agri-business groups and farmers apparently gained traction in the Assembly where the bill was not brought up as planned. It was a clear indication that the votes weren't there to pass it.

Several members are farmers themselves, like Republican Assembly Member Brian Dahle, who is a grower in the Redding area.

"We are competing against other countries and other states, and they aren't playing by the same rules we have," said Dahle.

He and other growers say agriculture is a unique business dictated by time and weather conditions that are not predictable. He says his workers are not on board with the UFW efforts because they will lose hours if overtime becomes too expensive.

"They will lose hours, and they know it because they understand what we do, and we have to be competitive," said Dahle.

The proposal would phase in overtime pay over a four-year period.

Proponents say they will continue their own lobbying efforts. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told the gathering of farmworkers that he would bring the bill up for a vote on Monday.