Last week, the Joint Committee on Farm Worker Overtime in Oregon voted to move House Bill 4002, which would remove the current overtime exemption for the Ag community, to the full House and Senate for a vote. The approval was solely along party lines. If approved by the legislature, Oregon would become one of just a few states requiring overtime pay for farm workers. Pieper Sweeney, Vice president of the Yamhill County Farm Bureau, said HB 4002 will hurt everyone in Ag.

“There are farmers who will go out of business because of this, but there are a lot of farm workers that are really going to be the ones that see the brunt of this.  Because they need and want those extra hours, and if they can’t get them from us, then my guess is they would then split their hours and work 40 for us, and then find a farmer who can work those extra hours for.”

Last week’s vote came despite a proposal from Representative Shelly Boshart Davis [R-Albany] that would have created a $50M worker relief fund to provide direct overtime payments to farm workers, while creating thresholds for overtime guaranteeing workers overtime and account for the unique seasonal needs of Oregon agriculture. Sweeney added advocacy groups that support this idea think they are doing a good thing, without ever talking with real farm workers.

“They’re talking to other advocates, and until they get out and really interview hundreds of farm workers, they’re not going to get an accurate picture, and by then the damage will be done.  It’s sad, I think we have a lot of advocacy without facts and there are studies that we presented to committees with legislative members and the numbers didn’t matter, they’re looking at an end goal and they don’t seem to care what the results will be.”

Under HB 4002, overtime pay will kick in at 40 hours starting in 2027.

The legislation is expected to clear both the House and Senate on party-line votes, because of Democrat supermajorities.

“We were deeply disappointed to see Democrats in the joint committee ignore the concerns of growers and move this version of the bill. HB 4002 has the potential to devastate and cause the closure of many family farms,” Dave Dillon, Executive Vice President of the Oregon Farm Bureau said. “By voting to adopt a completely unworkable 40-hour threshold, legislators have guaranteed that farm workers will ultimately see reduced wages and reduced hours.”

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