Overtime pay for migrant workers concerns local farmers

Local News

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) It’s now up to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that was passed by the NY State Senate and Assembly this week.

Three weeks ago, News 4 featured Amos Zittel & Sons Farm in Eden which employs nearly 90 migrant workers each summer. The business was concerned that the State was about to require farms like it to grant overtime to migrant workers for the first time. The Farm Laborers law (see details here) which was passed this week was adjusted since then to only require farms to pay time and a half if a farm hand works more than 60 hours a week.

“I would say there was some damage control done. It’s still not easy to work with,” said farmer Dave Zittel. “I guess our biggest fear,  is 60 hours gonna be enough because they can go to any neighboring state and work seventy, eighty, ninety hours.” 

That’s exactly what migrant worker Israel Benitez is considering, after spending the last eleven summers working in Eden. “It’s only 60 hours and we’d try to find another place if that happens.”

Up at Becker Farms in Gasport, owner Oscar Vizcarra is also concerned. “My hope is that Governor Cuomo will veto this bill because really, at the end of the day, it’s not helping the farmers.”

The new rules take effect January 1, 2020. Farmers tells News 4 they do expect to stay in business, ill survive, it’s just another hit to their business. “It’s a significant hit in a business that’s already struggling,” said Dennis Brawdy, of D&J Brawdy Farms in Eden. “People need to remember, our workers are paid well above the minimum wage at $13.25. They receive free housing, free utilities, free transportation to and from Mexico, and their wages are guaranteed 75% for the term of their contract.”

“We are not a factory,” said Vizcarra, of Becker Farms. “We don’t work nine to five. We work every time Mother Nature gives us the opportunity to do so.”

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