Warnick: Ag Overtime Hurt Workers, Needs Improvements

While some claim the legislation righted a wrong, many in Washington’s Ag community say the recently approved overtime legislation does little more than hurt farmers and farmworkers. Senate Bill 5172 stair steps over time requirements for the farming community, where overtime pay will be expected past 40 hours a week starting in 2024.

Moses Lake Republican Judy Warnick, a farmer herself said the legislation does little more than to punish farmers for following existing laws. She added while some claim the legislation was a victory for farm workers across the state, she pointed out that many workers testified the legislation would hurt them in the long run.

“They like being able to work the extra hours and be flexible.  What they are afraid now is that they will only get a certain number of hours, and then, someone will come in and take the second shift.  That’s very easy to do with dairies.  So, those folks know they stand to lose money under this scenario, rather than make more money.”

She pointed out while Washington ag had been exempt from paying overtime, the straight time paid for every hour worked is the highest agricultural wage in the nation at $16.34 an hour, the same rate as Oregon. Warnick added the overtime law will need to be tweaked in future sessions, pointing out what passed this session did not address the need seasonality.

“When crops are ready to harvest, like cherries, you need people to pick those cherries now.  You can’t wait until next week by asking them to work a 40 hour week, so you have to pick it now.  So, there is going to be some extra hours needed to do that.  We have to address that where they put in more hours some parts of the year and less hours the other parts of the year.”

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