Bill requiring farmers to pay overtime to workers heads to vote in Oregon legislature

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 10:53 PM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - One of the most controversial bills of the Oregon State Legislative session for 2022 is heading to the House floor for a vote Mar. 1.

The bill, HB 4002B would require that farmers or employers pay farm workers overtime pay after working 40 hours.

“We’re really doing this for the almost 87,000 farm workers that are hand-harvesting our crops right now in the rain, in the snow, through ice storms, wildfires, this year through a global pandemic,” Reyna Lopez, the President of PCUN, Oregon’s Farm Worker Union, said. “We’re just really excited that we get to be part of the change for farm workers and overtime pay.”

Lopez said the way things are now negatively impacts farm workers who have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

“We hope that it actually shines a light on the fact that we don’t have a sustainable work force in Oregon right now to make sure that agriculture is fully staffed, that we have the workers that we need to be able to do this important work that feeds America,” Lopez said.

However, opponents of the bill said it would make things more challenging for both farmers and farm workers.

“Our farmers just do not have the profit margin to be able to pay for overtime and it means they will likely cap worker hours at 40 hours a week under this proposal which will leave them with a lot of work that they are not able to do unless they’re able to find additional crews to hire or mechanize,” Mary Anne Cooper, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau, said.

Cooper said that if this bill becomes law, some local farms may have to sell to larger corporations that can afford to pay the overtime.

“For most farmers it will mean they will cap hours at 40 hours and for more farm workers they won’t see that additional income that they had been receiving working longer hours here in Oregon,” Cooper said.

If HB 4002B passes, as is, farmers would not have to pay overtime wages until 2027. The bill also includes a tax credit that farms with more than 50 full-time employees can claim to help in the transition. Cooper still said this plan will hurt more than it will help.

“4002b is selling farm workers a false promise that they’re going to get more money in their pockets and we have an economic analysis from California that is suggesting that’s just not the case,” Cooper said.

The vote on the bill will likely come down to party lines but Lopez said she is confident in its passage.