‘Job Killer’ Bills Will Increase Food Costs
(July 23, 2012) Two California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bills that will increase food costs for consumers will be heard on August 6, when the Legislature returns from summer recess.
- AB 1313 (Allen; D-Santa Rosa) drives up the cost of commodities to consumers by removing the existing overtime exemption allowed for agricultural employers.
- AB 2346 (Butler; D-Los Angeles) could increase the price of food and force growers to move their crop production to other states and countries, thereby hurting California exports, by creating excessive, unnecessary new rules regarding heat illness prevention with unreasonable consequences for violations.
AB 1313; Competitive Disadvantage
AB 1313 imposes costly new mandates on California farmers that will limit their ability to maintain their operations and will place them at a competitive disadvantage.
Given the seasonal and unique nature of agriculture production, farmers are exempted under both state and federal law from the eight-hour workday so as to provide farmers with greater flexibility with scheduling employees.
Currently, farmers are required to pay overtime to their employees after ten hours of work in any workday or after six days of work in any workweek.
AB 1313 would remove this exemption and force farmers to pay overtime rates to agricultural employees after eight hours of work in any workday or forty hours of work in a workweek. Removal of this exemption will significantly increase farmers’ cost of doing business.
During a time in which farmers in California are struggling to keep their farms open, this increased burden will force them to:
- completely shut down;
- avoid overtime by limiting employees’ hours, thereby cutting employees’ pay;
- reduction of jobs; or
- pass of the increased costs onto consumers. Any of these four options will interfere with California farmers’ ability to remain competitive with other states.
Job growth in the private sector, including the agricultural industry, is a key to helping our economy recover. Saddling private industries with new and costly burdens such as AB 1313 will only hamper California’s economic growth and potentially contribute to the unemployment rate, which is currently the third highest in the nation.
AB 2346; Complex and Overly Burdensome Requirements
In 2005, California was the first state in the nation to adopt heat illness regulations. These regulations were developed with extensive input from labor and management. Since the adoption of these regulations Cal/OSHA has actively worked with employers providing education and compliance assistance, as well as an enormous enforcement effort and presence. In response to the regulations and the assistance of regulators, employers have stepped up compliance efforts and successfully reduced the incidence of heat related illness in outdoor workplaces. Cal/OSHA attests to the success of their program in impacting increased compliance in outdoor places of employment throughout the state.
Agricultural employers made enormous strides in compliance and created unprecedented public – private partnerships. There is no reason for this bill.
The enforcement provisions combined with fines and penalties are extraordinarily high and unwarranted. The opportunities for litigation are almost limitless; from private rights of action and enormous awards of damages, bounty hunter provisions, joint liabilities and high penalties. State regulators have effective enforcement authority and statutory provisions for fines, penalties and due process for employers which should be respected as the appropriate authority for heat illness prevention enforcement.
This bill creates such complex and overly burdensome requirements that agricultural employers may not be able to comply. The bill is filled with procedural traps nearly impossible to avoid. As such, the overly punitive fines for violations could be a disincentive for employers to remain in California.