The Wage Board kept us all hanging until the very last afternoon of the year. After several open comments from the public, they voted. Before voting the three-member Board held several discussions. These discussions were open to the public. Only the Board was able to discuss the subject.
On the final hour, a vote was taken. In essence, the verdict was that we needed at least one more year before we could feel confident on any lowering of the overtime threshold. Dennis Hughes, representing the AFL-CIO made a motion to submit new language. He wanted to lower the overtime by 2.5 hours each year for 8 years. This would move the overtime from a 60-hour level to 40 in 8 years. He felt that the farm workers have already been denied the 40-hour protection now for 80 years. He was terribly upset at the decision to wait one more year. He felt it was an unnecessary delay. His amendment was not accepted. This report will now be sent to the governor for his review.
In my opinion, we dodged a bullet here for one year. While I see it as a victory for agriculture, I feel the war is not over. In fact, this decision may actually spark new opposition from the non-agriculture population.
The Chair felt that the past year had placed unusual harm on all small business due to Covid-19. I really do not know if she would have supported the same verdict under a normal year.
David Fischer represented agriculture on our collective behalf. He is the President of New York State Farm Bureau. I do not want to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I think there are a few points left out.
The four main points I would hope we would build upon before next year are the following:
- I do not think there was enough discussion as to what the farm workers wanted. How any change would impact their quality of life?
- What would be the impact on future farmers? Would they feel confident or concerned about farming here in New York?
- The negative impact it would have on farmland value and farm net worth.
- The loss for non-farm workers who are dependent on farm products that create the need for their jobs.
For the next season we can operate as we did in 2020. I think we need to continue to weigh in on the impact any changes will have on the entire New York economy. As I said, yes, we won this battle, but the war is far from over.