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Inslee signs agriculture worker overtime bill

Senate Bill 5172 creates a phased-in path toward full overtime pay for agricultural workers by 2024.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this June 16, 2020, file photo, orchard worker Francisco Hernandez reaches to pull honey crisp apples off a tree during a thinning of the trees at an orchard in Yakima, Wash. The agriculture industry is asking Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee to move migrant farmworkers and food factory workers closer to the front of the line for the coronavirus vaccine because they perform work that cannot be delayed or performed remotely. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Agricultural workers in Washington state would become eligible for overtime pay under a bill signed Tuesday by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. 

Senate Bill 5172 creates a phased-in path toward full overtime pay for agricultural workers by 2024.

For 2022, they ensure overtime pay for any time worked over 55 hours a week; 48 hours a week in 2023; and 40 hours a week by 2024. 

Washington joined a handful of states that grant overtime pay to agricultural workers. Inslee noted that the state has more than 30,000 farms that produce over 300 different commodities, many of them picked and processed by hand. 

The state has about 200,000 agriculture workers.

President Joe Biden congratulated the state Legislature and Inslee for approving and signing the bill. 

"Agricultural workers in Washington and across the country have helped carry our nation through this pandemic — working long hours, often at great personal risk, to meet the needs of their communities and keep America healthy and well-nourished," Biden's statement reads. "These overtime protections will ensure that agricultural workers in Washington are paid for all of the vital work they do.

"For too long — and owing in large part to unconscionable race-based exclusions put in place generations ago — farmworkers have been denied some of the most fundamental rights that workers in almost every other sector have long enjoyed, including the right to a forty-hour work week and overtime pay.  I was proud to stand with farmworkers during the Obama-Biden Administration, when California passed the nation’s first farmworker overtime bill, and I am proud to stand with the farmworkers of Washington State today.  It is long past time that we put all of America’s farmworkers on an equal footing with the rest of our national workforce when it comes to their basic rights — and I urge Congress to pass HR 1177, the U.S. Citizenship Act, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, so that we can extend those rights to farmworkers in all fifty states."