On this day of bounty, the state’s farmworkers should give thanks that Lee Zeldin wasn’t elected governor, as he had promised to stop the planned phase-in of overtime pay that they have long been owed.
Everyone else gets OT after 40 hours a week. Under deeply discriminatory laws, those who pick the food and milk the cows, unique among laborers, got zippo for generations. Then the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act took effect in 2020, promising true progress — and a new fight to stall it as long as possible.
Fairness is finally coming, albeit slowly. Gov. Hochul’s labor commissioner, Roberta Reardon, is now receiving public comment on a rule; it will then be formally adopted and the first step-down from the current far-too-high OT threshold at 60 hours a week will come on Jan. 1, 2024, to 56 hours. The threshold will drop another four hours every 24 months until the 40-hour standard is finally reached on Jan. 1, 2032 — 94 years after 40 became the national norm for everyone else.
So, on this Thanksgiving, there is no real overtime for people who raise the turkeys for today’s dinners, who cut the flowers for the table, who harvested the grapes for the wine, who pulled the potatoes from the earth, who picked the apples from the trees.
Yet there is fair time and a half at the bakery that baked the dinner rolls, at the natural gas utility that heats the oven, at the manufacturer of the pots and pans and tableware.
On the farm, the suppliers of the fuel, fertilizer, seed and equipment get fair overtime. There is OT on the transportation lines that carry the produce.
There is OT at the factory where they make the packaging, from the plastic wrapping of the turkey to the tin cans with the cranberry sauce to the cardboard boxes for the potatoes. There is OT at Hunts Point, where the food is distributed from wholesalers to retailers. There is OT for the supermarket clerks who stock the shelves and ring up the purchases.
There is OT for all the hands except for the hands at the beginning.
Daily News Editorial Board