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Celebrating AB1066 – ‘It’s About Time’ Farmworkers Get Overtime Pay

Farm in Coachella Valley near Mecca
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Coachella Unincorporated Logo

In partnership with Coachella UnincorporatedCoachella Unincorporated is a youth media training program based in the eastern Coachella Valley. Young people, ages 15-24, who join Coachella Unincorporated strengthen their storytelling and leadership skills and work to amplify voices from the eastern Coachella Valley. The youth media program is operated by New America Media and funded by The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative.

Children of farmworkers grow up seeing their parents wake up before sunrise, just early enough to make lunch, pack it and drive as far as it takes to get to work. They arrive back home at night, tired and dirty from a day’s work, and barely have enough time to rest until the next morning arrives.

Small children have a difficult time understanding why their parents can never make it to their school meetings, soccer games and even school graduations. Older kids may not question their parents’ absence because they have probably had to work in the fields themselves.

Many teenagers in the Eastern Coachella Valley, in fact, spend their summer vacation working in the fields trying to make a few dollars. For the past four summers, I’ve worked under the hot sun harvesting grapes and peppers. Often times I would work up to 11 hours a day, without receiving any overtime pay.

I remember asking my supervisor last year why it was that I wasn’t receiving overtime pay. He said that it was because overtime pay in California was different for farmworkers.

It didn’t make sense. At any other job, employees are compensated with higher pay after eight hours, so why not me if my job requires more physical strength?

It took decades, but now California farmworkers will get the pay they deserve. The California Senate passed AB 1066 earlier this month, a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) that would create new rules for overtime pay for farmworkers.

A year ago, I couldn’t do anything to fix the injustice. Now, thanks to many supporters of AB 1066, the bill has been signed by the governor.

As of now, farmworkers do not receive any overtime pay unless they work more than 10-hours daily. Some employers do not pay any overtime at all and know they can get away with it because farmworkers are scared to stand up and demand it.

Farmworkers in Coachella Valley near Mecca
Farmworkers in the Coachella Valley near Mecca

Under AB 1066, that 10-hour limit will be brought down by half an hour starting in 2019, and an additional 30 minutes each year after until, in 2022, farmworkers are receiving overtime pay for every hour worked beyond the traditional eight hour workday.

It is about time. Not only do farmworkers put fruits and vegetables on the tables of Americans across the country, they do so often at the risk of their own health, suffering from a variety of issues that stem from their time in the fields.

As a farm worker myself, AB 1066 will benefit me personally and it will benefit my community. We will know that we are being compensated for the work we do and the many sacrifices we make by being out in the fields.

Top image courtesy of David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images

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