Supervisors pass resolution against lower farm OT minimum
Ted Remsnyder is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media the Columbia County Board of Supervisors September 14, approved a resolution in opposition to lowering the state’s overtime threshold for farm laborers. The state Farm Laborers Wage Board has recommended to state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon that the minimum be decreased from 60 to 40 hours per week ten years from now. That would pay farmworkers the same way that grocery workers, and other employees, are paid. Reardon has until October 21 to make a decision on the proposal. According to the resolution approved by the supervisors, farmers “face a tremendous number of challenges outside of their control, including obtaining labor, climate change, land management policies, foreign market competition and livestock and crop disease.” The resolution argues that local farmers will not be able to handle the increased costs they believe a lower overtime minimum would create. Board Minority Leader Tistrya Houghtling of New Lebanon expressed reservations about the initial draft of the resolution and wanted to table it. She suggested holding a special meeting to hear from local farmers and farm workers. Chatham Town Supervisor Donal Collins supported Houghtling’s motion to table the resolution, saying the county should support the farm labor workforce. Houghtling subsequently made a motion to amend the proposed resolution to state the board acknowledges the overtime changes would harm farmers in Columbia County and the board would “commit to a process of hearing from all involved parties to come up with alternative solutions.” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Murell said discussions with local farmers led to the introduction of the resolution. “We had heard from people in the agriculture business that felt it was going to hurt farms,” Murell said. "...[W]e felt that we would do a resolution prior to the governor signing it to let her know how we feel.” He said nothing about meeting with farm workers, who are paid less than all other employees in the state. Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.