Worker Transportation Pay is a New Threat to Agriculture

Plaintiff Trial Attorneys Pushing For Ag to Pay for Transportation Time

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Something serious that could cost growers a lot of money concerns paying for worker transportation to and from a field, which traditionally has not been paid.

Michael Saqui is the principal owner of the Saqui Law Group, with offices in Roseville and Salinas. He specializes in labor and employment in agriculture.

“We’ve been having area meetings around the state regarding what we consider to be the most pressing and catastrophic issue facing agriculture today,” Saqui said. “The macro view is the proliferation of litigation against farmers for wage and hour Private Attorney General Acts.”

Saqui said it’s moved from nonproductive time, which could have bankrupted many companies had there not been a fixed put in through AB 1513.

“However, now the California Rural Legal Assistance and plaintiff attorneys have moved to the next big issue and that’s farm worker transportation.”

Farm worker transportation spins off the fact that we have a serious labor shortage, and we’re transporting workers greater distances than ever before.

And workers in car crews and buses and vans are being transported or transport themselves greater and greater distances.

“And the theory, of course from plaintiff trial attorneys is that even when they’re clearly voluntary mechanisms by which workers get transported on buses and vans, that it’s defacto involuntary because their theory is that farm workers have no position or station in life to make their own free decisions or have no other means, which is simply not the case.”

“Our workers for the last 30 years through car cruise and carpooling arrangements in vans have been getting around in servicing our crop needs and we have the best, most productive workforce on the planet,” said Saqui. “The plaintiff trial attorneys just keep nipping at different issues, and this is an issue that could potentially cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more information go to www.CAFarmersforFairness.com.

CAWG Gears Up to Fight New Overtime Bill

Following Defeat of Overtime Bill AB 2757, CAWG Gears up to Fight New Overtime Bill AB 1066

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

California Assembly Bill 2757, which called to end the 10-hour workday for farm laborers (by enforcing overtime) and to illuminate extra work time opportunities, was voted down in June 2016, but a new version of the bill, AB 1066, is back on the drawing table.

 

Brad Goehringtreasurer of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Board of Directors and current chair of the CAWG State Government Affairs Committee, spoke about the process of fighting back on this bill. “We already beat it and we had a major victory in the California State Assembly earlier in the year. The author of the bill didn’t like that result, and it is all union-backed and backed by taxpayer groups like California Rural Legal Association, Inc. (CRLA),” Goehring said.

 

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“But the pressure is back,” said Goehring, also a fourthgeneration winegrape grower and owner of Goehring Vineyards, in Clements, near Lodi. “They did a dirty gut and amend bill¹, which is a slide of hand and basically reintroduces the bill again under a different bill number. This time it’s going to start in the Senate and we’re expecting a tough battle; but we’ve got a very organized coalition of Ag associations and we’re going to put the same energy into fighting this that we did before,” explained Goehring.

 

“It was a bloody fight in the Assembly,” noted Goehring. “But still, we’re optimistic as there are plenty of no votes from the party that wanted this to go through that we think it will be hard for the governor to sign even if [the bill] makes that far.

 

Goehring maintained, “The key is to educate legislators that the bill would hurt farmworkers because it would force farmers to minimize work hours to prevent overtime payroll. In fact, farmworkers are pushing for this second bill to fail.”

 

“Where the lack of understanding lies is the clear line between the urban legislators and the rural legislators,” Goehring commented. “The urban legislators, ironically, are the ones who already hav $15 minimum wage laws in their towns—San Diego, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These legislators are trying to cram it down our throats and our lives here in the rural areas. We’re not having any real hard times getting to agreement with either party, if they are in the rural areas. It’s the urban ones that are doing all the damage.”

 

“We’ve had these legislators out to our farms. We’ve walked away and let them talk openly with our employees, and our employees have told them they don’t want it,” Goehring said. “Our employees have told them that they want to make an honest living. They want to teach their kids how to do the same thing. Our employees have taken it one step further; we overheard them telling the legislators they are not even in favor of any of the entitlement programs because that’s not the way to make an honest living that they want for their kids.”

 

“With all that said,” Goehring concluded, “the urban legislators are turning their backs on and ignoring our employees. This is all about unions and CRLA. They don’t care about the employees—is basically what they’re saying,” noted Goehring.

 


¹GUT AND AMEND is when amendments to a bill remove the current contents in their entirety and replace them with different provisions. (Source:  California State Legislature Glossary of Legislative Terms).