In Short

Proposal to pay farmworkers overtime goes to joint bipartisan committee to resolve

By: - February 22, 2022 5:46 pm

The Republicans appear to be unanimously against a proposal that would give farmworkers overtime after a 40-hour week. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

A divisive proposal in the Oregon Legislature that would require employers to pay farmworkers overtime was shuttled on Tuesday to a joint bipartisan committee to work out a solution. 

House Bill 4002 would require that an estimated 86,000 farmworkers in Oregon are paid time and a half after a 40-hour workweek. That requirement would be phased in over five years, with employers provided tax credits over six years to cushion the extra business cost.

The proposal has strong Democratic support but Republicans appear to be unanimous in their opposition, something they made clear again on Tuesday when the House Revenue Committee voted to move the bill to the newly-formed bipartisan Joint Committee on Farmworker Overtime.

Rep. Bobby Levy, R-Echo, a farmer, said the tax credits won’t do farmers any good if they don’t make much money.

Joint Committee on Farmworker Overtime

Co-Chair: Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene

Co-Chair: Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland

Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles

Rep. Shelly Boshard Davis, R-Albany

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend

Sen. Kayse Jama, R-Portland

Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena

Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton

Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene

Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland

House Revenue Committee

Chair: Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene

Vice Chair: Rep. Khanh Pham, D-Portland

Vice Chair: Rep. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls

Rep. Bobby Levy, R-Echo

Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland

Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner

Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland

“If you have no money coming in at the end of the year, there is no way the tax credit will do any good,” said Levy, a member of the House Revenue Committee. She joined two other Republicans and the four Democrats on the committee to move the bill without a recommendation to the newly formed joint committee.

Committee Vice Chair Rep. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, also spoke before the vote against the proposal, calling it a “Trojan cow.”

“It’s promising one thing, but I think it’s going to do something else,” Reschke said. 

Republicans and farmers have said that the proposal would lead to farmworkers earning less pay because employers would cut their hours. Seven other states have approved some form of overtime pay for farmworkers, including Washington and California. Overtime pay went into effect this year in California, and Washington will require overtime pay in 2024.

Reschke also said he opposed the tax credits, which he said typically are used to encourage behavior, like buying an electric car.

“It shouldn’t be used to offset a cost that’s artificially placed on producers,” Reschke said.

Democrats are keen to pass the proposal this year after a similar plan died last session. They say it’s a matter of equity. Farmworkers have been excluded from overtime pay since the passage of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that mandated overtime for most workers. 

Working out a political deal is now up to the 10-member committee, which was formed this week, with Republican leaders appointing four members and Democratic leaders choosing six members. The committee has an equal number of senators and representatives.

Rep. Paul Holvey, D- Eugene, and Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, will co-chair the joint committee. Holvey chairs the House Business and Labor Committee which passed the proposal last Monday on a party line vote, with seven Democrats in favor and four Republicans against. It moved to the House Revenue Committee, chaired by Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, who is on the farmworker committee.

Democrats want to pass the bill in this session, which ends March 7. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Sen. Kathleen Taylor’s district. She represents Portland. Also, Kate Lieber is a Democrat.

 

 

 

 

 

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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. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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