Local farmer reacts to farm worker overtime bill

Date overtime

THERMAL, Calif. - A local date farmer said it would be difficult for her small farm if California's proposed farmworker overtime bill is signed into law.

The bill would give farmworkers overtime pay after 8 hours of work during a day instead of 10 hours. This would be in line with other workers in the state. It is sitting on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.

Saralyn Delk, the owner of Regulus Farms in Thermal, said if the bill passes, she may have to cut hours for her workers.

"Traditionally we work five days a week. Eight hours plus or minus a day and then we usually work Saturdays. So that will end up cutting out Saturdays right there," she said.

Delk said despite having a small farm, they would still be able to stay afloat by adjusting the hours. She is concerned in the long term about competition from Mexico across the border were farms have low labor costs.

"It's going to cost you more to raise it, on a market that you're already handicapped by Mexico and or other countries that grow just as good of fruits or vegetables as we do," she said.

The bill is welcome news for Alfredo Baldovenos, a farm laborer who manages Delk's farm.

"That's a great option, and it hasn't been done in a long time. We'll have better benefits that way," he said through a translator.

He felt with the additional overtime pay, it would mean more money could be sent to his family in Mexico.

"That's a significant help for people that work in the fields," he said. "With these benefits we could do better for our families and also have a better income to help them."

If the bill is signed into law, large farms would have until 2022 to comply with the law, while smaller farms with 25 or less workers have until 2025.

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