Local farms granted more time to implement some new labor laws

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EDEN, NY (WIVB) Federal Judge Lawrence Villardo, on Tuesday, granted a temporary restraining order delaying the implementation of certain parts of the new Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act which took effect January 1 in New York State.

The new rules are being challenged by the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, which represents farms like Amos Zittel & Sons in Eden, NY.

The lawsuit was very limited in scope, and the delay pertains to new rules for all farm workers, including fifth generation farmers and owners like David Zittel. “That would include being part of the union, offer ourselves overtime. I don’t think there’s a single business that you can think of that has those things put into play when you’re an owner or a supervisor.”

The New York State Labor Department released the following statement about the restraining order:

The order does not prohibit any of the worker protections or employer responsibilities that the legislation was clearly intended to provide. Farm workers will still have new rights and employers will still have new responsibilities on January 1, 2020. Instead, the order temporarily limits enforcement of three provisions of the law, pending a hearing on January 24, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. The provisions in question could have been read to extend worker protections to certain family members and supervisors.

Starting this week, migrant farm workers are entitled to a $14.29 minimum wage, and provided travel and living expenses. If they work more than 60 hours they will get overtime and at least one day of rest is now required. Those changes alone are expected to cost a farm like Amos Zittel and Sons up to a quarter million dollars this growing season.

“We are working in a very challenging environment with tremendous regulations, tremendous amounts or rules with respect to how do you do things, how we grow things, how we handle our labor, and it’s getting to the point that, you know, we can’t take much more,” said Dennis Brawdy, Amos Zittel & Sons, D&J Brawdy Farms.

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