There appears to be a lot of public interest in Senate Bill 5476 that would increase the amount of hours an agricultural worker would need for overtime time to 50 hours per week.
Over 2,000 Washingtonians tuned in to the public hearing on the bill that would allow agricultural employers to select 12 weeks a year to employ workers for up to 50 hours a week before overtime applies. 14th District Sen. Curtis King of Yakima is the key sponsor of this bill, while 12th-District Rep. Keith Goehner is the key sponsor for the accompanying house bill. Rep. Goehner also owns a pear orchard in Dryden.
Last week Sen. King presented his bill to the Senate Labor & Commerce committee, saying it would provide flexibility for farmers during peak harvest seasons. Plenty of comments were heard both for and against the bill -
Washington Farm Labor Association Representative Enrique Gastelum testified in support of this bill, stating that the current overtime law is negatively affecting
Ruben Orozco was one of the farmworkers who supported the bill, stating that the new overtime requirement is reducing hours for farm workers and that they need more than 40 hours to survive.
Wenatchee’s Chairman for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, Mark Hambelton, said if this bill doesn’t pass, growers would need to hire more workers or limit them to 40 hours per week, and that the bill itself is a good compromise.
Andrea Schmitt with Columbia Services testified against this bill, stating that the original policy for excluding overtime for farm workers was based purely on racism.
Charlie Brown with the Washington Asparagus Commission said that without this bill, the asparagus industry in Washington would die just as it did in California.
Ryan Poe with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers says growers provide many benefits to workers and that they may remove benefits if they have to pay overtime.
Maria Acosta with the LULAC organization in Yakima says she supports this bill due to workers currently struggling with the hours they are currently getting.
Maria Rodriguez, who is the CEO of Visions Economic Development Center in Yakima, said this rule would help small farmers in her region.
In 2021, the state legislature repealed a law that exempted agricultural workers from receiving overtime pay entirely. This proposed law would affect anyone working on a farm, orchard, produce packing facility, or canning facility. Dairy workers would be exempt.