GOP, farmers look beyond overtime tax credit

NOVA SCOTIA — Top Republican state and federal officials on Monday pushed back against a substantial subsidy for farm owners meant to cover overtime costs for their workers, saying the answer is instead to avoid lowering the overtime threshold.

“It’s not about changing it at 40 and trying to put band-aids on it,” said U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican and GOP gubernatorial candidate, during a press conference at Stanton’s Feura Farm, a family business. in southern Albany County. “We are here today to stand up to do the right thing, not to partially, temporarily fix the wrong thing if this continues. It is not too late for the state to act to defend its farms.”

The state’s three-person “Farmworkers’ Wages Board” is expected to deliver a report to state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon on September 6, confirming her January recommendation to require that agricultural workers – non-executives – have the right to overtime for work. after 40 hours per week. Reardon would have 45 days to make a decision on the recommendation.

The proposal calls for lowering the current 60-hour threshold, which was passed in 2020. Previously, there was no limit to the hours a farm worker could work without being entitled to overtime. The wages commission has suggested implementing the new standard over a 10-year period, starting in 2024 and arriving at the 40-hour workweek by 2032.

In April, the state legislature passed a budget that included a grant centered around the planned lowering of the overtime threshold to 40 hours. It would pay farm owners, every six months, the difference between the last overtime threshold and the current 60-hour cap.

In other words, if a landlord has a worker work 59 hours a week and the current threshold is 50 hours, the state would cover the difference in normal wages and time and a half for those nine hours. The intention is to reimburse farmers for their overtime costs.

“How much more can we subsidize?” And for how long? said event organizer Assembly Member Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, a ranking member of the Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture.

Farms in New York received $144 million in federal government subsidies in 2019. About 1 in 5 farms in the state receive a subsidy, according to the Environmental Working Group, an organization based in Washington, D.C. which registers agricultural subsidies.

States where farms receive the most government subsidies, in the Midwest and South, receive up to $2 billion a year. The same states are also known to produce the most crops and have particularly low minimum wage rates.

Zeldin, Tague and U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, expressed concern about losing migrant workers to other states where, without an overtime threshold, they could earn more money.

“This is a war on rural America,” Stefanik said, explaining his perspective on the political actions of Democratic leaders.

Stefanik said she was worried about inflation, but opposed plans to raise taxes to pay for government subsidies. His comments came a day after the US Senate passed the Democrat-led Federal Inflation Reduction Act.

In Stefanik’s 21st congressional district, farms received more than $15 million in federal grants in 2019. Only the equally rural Western New York districts of Representatives Tom Reed and Chris Collins accounted for more grants.

The event’s host, Stanton’s Feura Farm, spurned a government grant to help pay for the cost of overtime.

“My philosophy and our farm in general is that we don’t take anything from the government,” owner Tim Stanton told The Times Union. “If that happens, we probably won’t take the tax credit because I don’t think it’s fair for other people to subsidize me.”

The Stanton family farm, in its current iteration, opened in 1986. (The family says they have been farming since 1787.) Stanton, himself, received relatively modest subsidies for basic commodities or retention, totaling approximately $89,000, from the federal government between 1995 and 2009, according to Environmental Working Group Data. Data begins in 1995. It does not appear that the farm is currently receiving any federal government subsidy.

If the overtime threshold is lowered, he said, the farm would likely no longer produce raspberries, blueberries and beans, as these are labor-intensive crops.

Proponents of guaranteeing agricultural workers the right to a 40-hour working week say improving working conditions could make work more attractive. Farms like Stanton’s rely on migrant workers, like those on visas, to do their more labor-intensive work.

“They won’t do the work that these migrant workers do,” Stanton said of the local labor pool. “That’s why migrant workers are here. No one will be picking vegetables all day or fruit all day in this country. It just doesn’t happen.”

Farm owners, the Farm Bureau and Republican officials have long pushed back on regular hours or farmworker work and pay.

In the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was trying to pass his New Deal legislation that provided a minimum wage and 40-hour workweek for all workers, the Farm Bureau opposed it. Farmworkers would eventually be left out of the deal as part of a compromise with Southern Democrats.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been one of the most vocal advocates of lowering the overtime threshold, urges passage of the 40-hour week rule.

“Farmworkers have already waited more than 80 years to end the racist exclusion that has stolen countless overtime hours,” NYCLU attorney Lisa Zucker said in a statement. “The Department of Labor must prevent another generation of workers from suffering by accepting the Wage Council’s recommendation, and with Governor (Kathy) Hochul’s more than dollar-for-dollar refundable tax credit, it won’t There’s no reason the overtime threshold can’t be lowered to 40 hours in 2024, eradicating this racist Jim Crow policy once and for all.

Tague attributed the reluctance of Hochul and Democratic lawmakers to support the farmers’ cause to their fear of coming across organized labor.

“The truth behind it all: the big organized unions are pushing it,” Tague said. “And that means votes.”

Tague and his colleagues also focused on voting on Monday. The event doubled as a campaign rally for Zeldin and other campaign hopefuls were in attendance.

“Our farmers, our farm workers are all getting collectively fucked up right now,” Zeldin said. He predicted that after election day, “there will be people who say, ‘I guess they shouldn’t have fucked the farmers on September 6. “”

About Scott Conley

Check Also

Banks accelerate disbursement of VNĐ40 trillion interest subsidy program

VIETNAM, September 14 – HCM CITY — Thanks to credit formulas with preferential interest rates …