In Short

Overtime pay for Oregon’s farmworkers will start phasing in next year

By: - April 18, 2022 4:48 pm

Oregon is known for its specialty crops. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Farmworkers in Oregon will get overtime pay next year with the adoption of the contentious farmworker bill.

Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 4002 without any fanfare on Friday. Instead of holding a media event, as she has with other high-profile bills, she notified legislative leaders that she was signing it and called on them to track the bill’s impact and make adjustments as needed.

“It is incumbent upon the stakeholders and policymakers alike to closely monitor the impacts of this legislation, and remain open to making adjustments based on the data and information we collect through the implementation process,” Brown wrote on Friday to Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis. “As these factors shift over time, it is important for our approach to follow suit.”

Read the bill:

House Bill 4002

The bill phases in overtime pay for more than 40 hours a week of work over five years, starting in 2025. It gives employers tax credits to cushion the extra cost, phasing them out over six years. The Oregon Farm Bureau and many farm owners predicted the proposal would have a disastrous effect on farm finances and would force some of the state’s 37,000 farms to close or sell to larger operations.

Brown called the tax credits “vital” and commended lawmakers for their work on the issue, the most contentious of the February session. 

“I view this bill as an important step in the right direction, to correct a historic wrong,” Brown said in her letter. “It has the potential to improve health, safety and overall the quality of life for these workers.”

The Farm Bureau, which opposed the legislation, asked Brown to veto the bill. Her spokeswoman, Liz Merah, said Brown discussed the bill with Farm Bureau officials last month.

On Monday, Mary Ann Cooper, the Farm Bureau’s vice president of government affairs, said Brown’s decision to sign the bill would change Oregon’s agriculture landscape. 

“We remain committed to finding a workable legislative solution, and we hope future legislatures will work with all parties to find a workable compromise,” Cooper said in an email. 

Reyna Lopez, executive director of the farmworkers union, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste or PCUN, welcomed Brown’s signature.

“We’re grateful the governor has moved forward with ratifying the hard work of the Oregon Legislature,” Lopez said in a text message. “Leading up to it taking effect, PCUN will be working on educating farm laborers about the phased implementation.”

Oregon employs about 87,000 farmworkers, more than most other states, experts say. Only seven states require overtime pay for farmworkers. California started paying farmworkers overtime pay this year and Washington is phasing in that requirement, which takes full effect in 2024.


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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.