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U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez tweets support for expanding overtime pay for California farmworkers

Fabric Fierros of Salinas and other United Farm Workers members cheer as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) appears in a balcony during a rally after California lawmakers passed legislation that would expand overtime pay for farmworkers. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Fabric Fierros of Salinas and other United Farm Workers members cheer as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) appears in a balcony during a rally after California lawmakers passed legislation that would expand overtime pay for farmworkers. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on Tuesday took to Twitter to voice his support for a California bill that would expand overtime pay for thousands of farmworkers across the state.

Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after it was approved Monday in a historic vote on the state Assembly floor. Brown has made no indication as to whether he will sign the legislation, and his office said Tuesday he generally does not comment on pending proposals. A spokesman also said he would not comment on Perez's support for the bill.

The proposal would roll out new rules for farmworker overtime in 2019, lowering the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also would phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The governor would be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions. 

The United Farm Workers association, which sponsored the bill, said it addressed an injustice inflicted on farmworkers nearly eight decades ago, when they were first exempted from federal minimum wage and overtime standards. The bill has drawn wide and diverse support, including from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

But prominent business groups, led by the California Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of agricultural producers, have thrown their political weight against it, saying the legislation would devastate the agricultural community and backfire on the workers it seeks to help.

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