Lewison: New Overtime Rules Will Be Challenging For Farmers, Farm Workers

Starting this weekend, overtime rules for the farming community in Washington change. As of January 1st, overtime kicks in once an employee works more than 55 hours in a week. It’s the first step in legislation that will require overtime pay for work over 40 hours starting in 2024. Pam Lewison with the Washington Policy Center said farmers will start to change not only their wage models, but their work crews as well.

“Typically, you see work crews work 65 hours during peak season, and you’re going to be losing about ten hours a week of work, and that’s quite a lot really.  I suspect what we’ll see is those work crew hours may actually be trimmed back some to allow for farms to potentially hire a third crew, if they can figure out the economics of that.”

That Lewison said will result in smaller paychecks for farm workers across Washington. She added labor unions, which pushed extremely hard for this overtime legislation during the 2021 session, represent roughly 1% of all farm workers across the state.

“If you look at just doing the basic math, the people that are going to be hurt the most by this overtime legislation are farm workers.  Because their hours are going to be the ones that are cut, and their wages are the ones that are going to potentially be cut.  And what it does is it demonizes their employers.”

Lewison added this new rule will vilify employers, despite the fact they are doing what they need to observe new law and run a business.

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