Last year, Governor Cuomo signed into law the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (FLFLPA), which provided farm workers with long-awaited new benefits, including overtime pay.

The new law also created a wage board that has held six hearings this year (a hearing scheduled for today has been postponed).

The board is responsible for determining whether the new 60-hour-per-week overtime threshold for farm workers should be either sustained, or lowered.

Prior to passage of the FLFLPA, farm workers in New York, and 24 other states, were not entitled to the benefits that workers in other industries had received for decades.

A little history: The National Labor Relations Act which passed in 1935 was a tough compromise for lawmakers who had to buck both the stigma of socialism and the outrage of large industry which was expressed by Senate conservatives. In order to gain the support of Southern Democrats, New York Senator Robert Wagner made a deal to exclude agricultural workers (and others), who at the time were predominantly Black. It wasn’t until 1969 that farm workers received a minimum wage.

In 2020, for the first time, they received overtime pay in New York.  

December 31 is the wage board’s deadline to decide whether to sustain the 60-hour a week overtime threshold, or lower it. 

Twenty-six agricultural organizations sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to keep the threshold at 60 hours.

Farmer A.J. Wormuth, who is on the board of the Northeast Dairy Producers’ Association, and owns the Half Full Dairy Farm in Elbridge New York, told Capital Tonight that the hike in the minimum wage and the new overtime pay has cost his dairy farm about $150,000 this year.

Wormuth also said that many farm workers are deeply unhappy about the overtime limits because it limits their earnings. 

"Some (workers) won’t be returning to New York next year because they can earn more in other states," he said.