A bill expanding labor rights for farm workers has long been opposed by farmers themselves. But now the New York Farm Bureau says they're willing to strike a compromise with lawmakers as the measure moves toward a potential vote.
”We do think that there's room to find some kind of middle ground where both sides can be happy on this and those discussions are being had and hopefully they will continue for the next couple of weeks, end of session,” said Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau.
The bill would provide farm workers with collective bargaining rights, the ability to form a union and be paid overtime for their work. Vegetable grower Brian Reeves says he's open to collective bargaining rights, but is worried by the potential of labor strikes.
“Personally I find it difficult for me to deny another's right to bargain with their peers and their colleagues, but we are afraid of strikes,” said Reeves. “We're extremely dependent on weather and climate. We can't just do work whenever we like.”
The overtime provision could also have a negative effect for farmers.
“Farmers need to be able to work around the weather and 40 hours, eight hours a week is real draconian,” said Reeves.
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairmwoman Donna Lupardo says a compromise can be reached that takes into consideration farmers as well as workers.
“I'm interested in the whole food system and I want to make sure that as we are trying to find common ground we find a way to really acknowledge some of the hard work on behalf of the farmers and also look to ways to make farming a bit easier for the farmers as well,” said Lupardo.
Lupardo says a final deal could include help for farmers alongside their workers.
“We're trying to find some incentives, some additional tax breaks, some things we can do to help farming become more sustainable so they can pay their farm workers want they deserve,” said Lupardo.
The legislative session is due to conclude on June 19.