By COLIN STAUB
Oregon agricultural workers could join the rest of the workforce in receiving overtime pay under a proposal in the legislature.
House Bill 4002 phases in overtime for farmworkers, requiring employers to pay time-and-a-half after 55 hours per week in 2023, 48 hours in 2025 and 40 hours from 2027 on.
Numerous labor organizations testified in support of the bill during a Feb. 8 hearing before the House Committee on Business and Labor. Supporters framed the bill as a fix to long-standing inequities between agricultural work and every other segment of the economy.
“Farmworkers have gone too long being overlooked and denied rights that other workers across the state have been afforded,” testified Jasia Mosley, political organizer for Oregon AFSCME. “It is crucial that we protect farmworkers the same way we protect all workers, including minimum wage protections, child labor laws and overtime pay.”
Many agricultural workers also voiced support for the bill.
“During the harvest season, there are days where I work between 16 to 18 hours minimum in a single day,” said one farmworker from Boardman, in testimony submitted for the hearing. “During this season, there are no days off.”
Opponents, including some farmworkers, said the bill would lead farmers to cap hours rather than pay the higher overtime wage. Two amendments have been proposed, one that creates a tax credit program for employers to soften the economic impact, and one that stops the phase-in at 50 hours instead of going all the way to 40.
On Feb. 14, the committee voted to recommend passage of the bill, with the amendment establishing a tax credit program. The vote was along party lines, with all seven Democrats in favor and all four Republicans opposed. The amendment increasing the hours threshold for overtime pay was not adopted.
The bill next goes before the House Revenue Committee.