The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Cali. Gov. Vetoes Farm-Worker Protection Bill

by Shreema Mehta

Oct. 10, 2006 – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week vetoed a bill meant to give protection to California’s farm workers, a population the state estimates to have topped 1 million.

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The bill was meant to help workers navigate the system in which growers contract middlemen to hire workers for their fields. The bill would have required those middlemen, known as farm-labor contractors, to provide their employees with documentation revealing the name and address of the grower that engaged their services, as well as basic work information, including hourly wages, hours worked and tax deductions.

According to a statement by the United Farm Workers union, agricultural laborers "are often victimized and cheated out of their wages or suffer other labor law violations."

The union said, "Knowing the grower for whom the farm labor contractor is working would allow farm workers to win relief over violations and recover damages."

Schwarzenegger said the bill would not help protect farm workers against abuse because many of the contractors who refuse to pay their workers are unlicensed.

"As these individuals have not bothered to register with the state, it is highly unlikely they would bother to place additional information on pay stubs," he said. "As such, I am concerned that the only practical effect of AB 2327 will be to place an unnecessary and burdensome requirement on law-abiding contractors and subject growers to additional liabilities through no fault of their own."

A survey of about 1,000 farm workers conducted by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation found that almost half of all farm workers in the state had received pay stubs that did not show all the hours they worked. Half also reported they were not always paid overtime wages owed them.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Shreema Mehta is a staff journalist.

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