Will Agribusiness Interests Buy Some Votes by Monday?
By Doug Porter
The disappointment at the California Capitol building was palpable as the legislature adjourned on Thursday without voting on a bill granting farm workers overtime pay after eight hours or more than 60 hours in a week.
The vote was postponed to Monday in the face of uncertainty about the support of business-friendly Democrats facing political pressure from agribusiness interests. When leaders realized they might be short of the 41 votes they needed, they pulled the bill from the Assembly floor.
Hundreds of farm workers came on buses from around the state came to Sacramento to rally in support of Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. A similar proposal died in June four votes short of the majority it needed to pass and supporters were there to witness what many assumed would be a turnaround.
— Shepard Fairey (@OBEYGIANT) August 22, 2016
The legislation was sponsored by the United Farm Workers association and has drawn wide and diverse support, including a nod from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a disgrace here, in the state of California,” United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said. “Still after 78 years, farm workers can’t get the same rights as any other worker in the state and get overtime pay after eight hours.”
Farm workers came by the hundreds in buses from across California to rally Thursday at the Capitol. They shouted, “Si se puede” — Yes we can — in support of a bill that would have granted them overtime for working more than eight hours a day in the fields.
The California Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of agricultural producers gone all-out against AB 1066, saying the legislation saddles farmers and growers with higher costs.
What It Is
Here are the details on AB 1066, excerpted from a Gonzalez media advisory:
Beginning in 2019, Assembly Bill 1066 would gradually phase in standards for farmworker overtime lowering the current 10-hour day level to the standard 8-hour day, and establishing for the first time a 40-hour standard workweek, over a four-year period. Beginning in 2019, the phase-in would be by annual half-hour-per-day increments until reaching eight hours, and annual five-hour-per-week increments until reaching 40 hours. Both final standards would be achieved in 2022. AB 1066 additionally authorizes the Governor to temporarily suspend a scheduled phase-in of overtime at any time until full implementation of phase-in overtime requirements or January 1, 2022, whichever comes first, if the Governor suspends minimum wage increases based on economic conditions.
In 2014, California’s farms and ranches brought in $54 billion in revenue. More than 90 percent of California farm workers are Latino and more than 80 percent are immigrants. Recent data also found the median personal income of California farmworkers to be just $14,000.
A Passionate Debate
Earlier in the week the State Senate passed the bill 21-14, following what the Los Angeles Times called a “passionate debate,” led by Senate leader Kevin de León:
De León framed the issue as a matter of equity, saying it was naked racism that excluded agricultural workers from equal standards decades ago. He urged his colleagues to make right by the men and women who toil under the relentless sun to bring produce to stores and tables across California.
“Their calloused hands feed this nation,” he said. “Their strength, their sweat and their determination for a better life have driven our state’s $54-billion annual agricultural economy.”
Lawmakers in agreement pointed to reports that show most farmworkers are not paid minimum wage, endure abysmal work conditions and have limited healthcare and housing options.
Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said it took legislative action to protect farmworkers in the fields, such as ensuring they had rest breaks and access to potable water.
“Every one of those reforms, that my colleagues point to with pride, they were opposed” by agricultural leaders, Monning said.
— Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaAD80) August 25, 2016
Supporters of the legislation have mounted an intensive campaign in recent weeks to make sure there was no repeat of the shortfall in support evidenced in June.
From Capital & Main:
On Tuesday, activists and workers mounted human billboards around the offices of two Assemblymembers — Tom Daly in Anaheim and Evan Low in Cupertino. On Wednesday the billboarders’ target was Adrin Nazarian in Van Nuys. In the June vote Low voted no, while Daly and Nazarian were no-shows.
AB 1066 phases in overtime pay, so that farm workers will receive time-and-a-half after 9.5 hours in a day in 2019, nine hours in 2020, 8.5 hours in 2021, and eight hours in 2022 (when they will also receive double time after 12 hours).
Pressure began to mount last week, when legislators, faith leaders and workers participated in a 24-hour fast to call attention to the overtime issue. Commitments to fast came from 11 Assemblymembers, including Lorena Gonzalez (who introduced the bill), Rob Bonta, Joaquin Arambula, Nora Campos, David Chiu, Kansen Chu, Cristina Garcia, Kevin McCarty, Jose Medina, Miguel Santiago and Tony Thurmond.
A Progressive Test
On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee published an op-ed by Marcos Breton, suggesting that AB 1066 was a true test of just how progressive California is:
Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which established wage protections across the nation. Farmworkers were exempted from some of those basic rights as a nod to legislators from the Jim Crow South who balked at raising the living standards of a then-largely African American farm labor workforce.
Forty years ago, California mandated that farm laborers receive overtime pay if they work more than 10 hours in a day or more than 60 hours in a week. But all these years later, a farmworker population that has been largely of Mexican origin for generations is still exempted from getting overtime pay after an eight-hour workday.
How is this possible? Aren’t farmworkers among the lowest paid laborers in the state? Aren’t they more susceptible to heat stress and pesticide-related illnesses than other occupational groups? Don’t they struggle to access adequate health care?
Yes, yes and yes, according to studies by the California Endowment and the U.S. Public Health Service.
So why are we still debating this issue? Why is an overtime exemption that was a concession to Jim Crow racism still on the books in California?
The answer to the question, based on the arguments against AB 1066 from agribusiness interests, is that everybody else does it. Really.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has gained a reputation for introducing bills aiming to right the wrongs of the market economy. She’s seen success with efforts to protect immigrants from fraud, provide paid sick leave for private sector workers, and co-authored the nation’s toughest rules to close the gender pay gap, among others.
The revival of this legislation after it was presumed dead and buried for this session shows Gonzalez improving ability at shepherding controversial bills through an assembly susceptible to big money lobbying campaigns.
The Assemblywomen took to Facebook on Thursday to assure supporters the 41 votes required for passage were lined up.
Key votes, according to sources, are those of assemblypersons Evan Low, Tom Daly, and Bill Quirk, who have reportedly committed to support AB 1066. We’ll see if the agribusiness lobby can get to them over the weekend.
Also…Reaction to Hillary Clinton’s Speech by GOP Leaders
Hillary called the GOP nominee for president a racist
A full summary of the reaction from top GOP elected officials pic.twitter.com/sHGDjvtI47
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 25, 2016
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything.
Unfortunately, my subscription to the psychic hotline has lapsed so if you don’t tell me or Facebook, etc., about your event it won’t get listed. See my email address at the end of this column.
Brand New Congress Organizing Kickoff in San Diego
Friday, August 26, 7pm
3130 Moore Street (Old Town)
Info & Updates
Hey everyone! We’re continuing the revolution with a campaign to elect a Brand New Congress! Come meet national and local BNC organizers and supporters and let’s get this thing started in New San Diego! This event is an opportunity to learn more about BNC, join a volunteer team, suggest members of your community who would make great representatives and meet some amazing new people.
The Altruists, Featuring Ashley Mazanec
We are very excited to bring The Altruists to The GO stage to wrap up the summer! They were one of the acts on the Garden of Eating Stage during this year’s EarthFair in Balboa Park (April), and we were knocked out!
“With the Altruists it’s not what you see, particular sounds, or words you know. It’s about how they make you feel: Thrills of joy, pain, wonder, fear and understanding. They play as hard as they can, trying not to scare anyone. Serious fun for all; waves of emotion. Come along – they’ll let you down softly.” -Garth Murphy, Author, Encinitas Surf Junkie
The Altruists are a conscious San Diego-based band promoting environmental and social justice. Their progressive rock roots are clearly infused with influences ranging from classical and jazz to soul.
Summer Vegetarian BBQ at The Ocean Beach Green Center
Saturday, August 27 1-6pm
4843 Voltaire St
Honoring 90’s Activists! Music, Speakers, Refreshments – Come celebrate and hear from local 90’s activists with Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Ocean Beach Greens, Earth First and others. A Great Community Event!
No TPP – Push on Congress Congressional Vigils
This is one of many actions across the nation to galvanize people to pressure our Members of Congress to vote NO on the secret, undemocratic Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, before Congress returns from their August recess after Labor Day. We will stand on the sidewalk in front of the building where Congressman Scott Peters’ District Office is with signs and banners.
Wednesday, August 31st
Congresswoman Susan Davis Office (9-5)
2700 Adams Ave
Info & Updates
This is one of many actions across the nation to galvanize people to pressure our Members of Congress to vote NO on the secret, undemocratic Trans-Pacifuc Partnership Agreement, before Congress returns from their August recess after Labor Day. We will stand on the sidewalk in front of the building where Congresswoman Susan Davis’ District Office is with signs and banners.
Closing Day Protest at Del Mar Race Track
Monday, September 5, 11:30am
Del Mar Race Track
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd
Info & Updates
This is the final day of racing here at Del Mar until opening day for the “special” season of an additional four more weeks of animal abuse November 11. Protest dates for then will be posted as that date gets closer.
Of course we can’t say what the final number of deaths will be this season at this time, just one death or injury of a horse is one too many.
It is time to end this barbaric tradition of killing horses.
On This Day: 1920 – The 19th amendment to the Constitution went into effect. The amendment gave women the right to vote. 1967 – Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” was released as the opening track on the U.S. release of “Are You Experienced.” 1970 – The Women’s Strike for Equality was staged in cities across the U.S., marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, under which women won the right to vote. A key focus of the strike—in fact, more accurately a series of marches and demonstrations—was equality in the workplace. An estimated 20,000 women participated, some carrying signs with the iconic slogan, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.”
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