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You can’t invent greater irony and hypocrisy than what surrounds California’s Assembly Bill 1066, which pretends to help farmworkers but in reality will make their lives worse.
It is one of those bills that looks good, but is sure to raise costs for farmers and hurt workers.
Because of those higher costs, farmers will be forced to limit their current workers’ hours and hire additional workers when it becomes busy.
According to a recent study, the passage of this bill is expected to result in at least a 33% reduction in the income of many farmworkers during the busy harvest season.
It is not fair to California’s farmers, nor the workers.
Those pushing for the measure – especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez – are so drunk on ego and fantasy that they actually fancy themselves as civil rights activists in the same vein as Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King. They are so obsessed with this that they delude themselves into actually believing we live in the year 1968 – not 2016.
The world has changed a lot since the sixties. California has evolved into the state with the best and most progressive protections for workers than anywhere in the nation, and that includes farmworkers – California is only one of a few states to provide overtime to farmworkers.
It also is important to recognize that other industries – ski resorts, trucking, healthcare, etc. – all have different overtime laws.
This is not the case for agriculture, which pays more than minimum wage and overtime pay after 60 hours. Farmers tend to treat their workers with respect for a couple reasons. Many farmers are Latino, Asian or Whites whose families faced discrimination here and in their home countries; for many, they were once farmworkers themselves.
Farmers know something about being a minority in California. They also know a little something about hard, honest work and what it takes to meet a payroll, keep their workers employed and food on the table.
Farmers also take care of their workers because without farmworkers their crops will die in the fields. This is why many voluntarily offer bonuses, free housing or stable enough work so their workers can purchase their own homes and put down roots in their communities.
All these factors explain why the United Farmworkers (UFW) only represents one or two percent of all farmworkers. The reality is, while the group has a proud and honorable history, the world has passed it by, and the union no longer seems to be relevant. (As an aside, it is interesting to note the UFW fired some of it’s own workers last year when they tried to unionize themselves!).
But Gonzalez and the rest of the wanna-be Latino superheroes in Sacramento have resorted to race baiting to inflate their insatiable egos and distract attention to their extremely weak policy position.
By evoking nearly a century old arguments, ignoring the progress of history and the efforts of true civil rights leaders, Gonzalez and those of her ilk disgrace their memory and work. They are feeding the fire of racism instead of working to eradicate it because it creates a narrative that suits their political and personal agendas. They cannot live up to the legacy of their idols – Cesar and MLK – if there is no injustice. So they invent one.
Assemblymember Shannon Grove (D-34) says she will oppose the bill.
“Sacramento Democrats can’t stop themselves from hurting California agriculture and reducing farmworker hours…they mandate farmers cut the gas coming out of their cows, and now, on top of drastically raising the minimum wage, reducing emissions 50 percent, and passing numerous bills that restrict our water use, AB 1066 is mandating additional labor costs.”
With their charade, they are undoing the work of these true historic leaders and making a mockery of their accomplishments. If AB 1066 becomes law, Gonzalez will be known as the daughter of a farmworker who became an ivory tower elitist that turned her back on her own, destroyed the fabric of thousands of lives and returned California farmworkers to a dark time of economic instability, rootless migration and second-class citizenship. Her legacy will not be pretty.
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