With the farmworker overtime pay bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, we’re writing to warn that many of the quick fixes to contemporary problems are not what they appear to be.
In a year where Bernie Sanders ignited the Democratic Party with his appeal to the issue of social injustice, the impulse to seize the moment is compellingly strong.
And so, for the United Farmworkers Union and their supporters on the left, it was a propitious time to push a bill that had little chance of succeeding. Even so, to pass AB 1066 took a three-day dance of advancing and pulling the bill, accompanied by a measure of closed-door deal making that makes a mockery of another progressive tenet — greater transparency.
What the farmworker overtime bill does is hand out higher wages to farmworkers as if there was no possible downside to the legislation.
We’d argue that AB 1066 doesn’t adequately assess the risks to family-owned businesses, to the state and to future farm employment if it is signed into law.
The risks to business are straightforward — farmworker overtime rules will be costly and will put new recordkeeping burdens on farmers. In the end, AB 1066 will raise the bar so high that, unlike their parents, today’s generation of Hispanic farmworkers have no path to ownership of an ag-related business.
The risks to the state are not small. The law will cost money to enforce, it will likely reduce overall tax revenue as farmers quit or move to other states, and there will be a big temptation to pay people under the table and pay no taxes at all.
Which brings us to the question of farmworker employment. This bill will likely reduce overall hours, speed mechanization and breathe life into the underground economy. There will be less incentive for employers to provide health care and housing — two widely used benefits that aren’t counted in raw wage numbers.
It would be an act of courage for the governor, whose rise in politics in the 1970s was predicated on his ability to understand the rising need for social justice, to veto this bill.
But this is not a time when consumers are boycotting products and demanding better pay for farmworkers. This is a time when the outcome of AB 1066 for farmworkers themselves is not clear. Until it is, AB 1066 should go back to the drawing board.
CSUCI prepares for the future
Just before the academic year started, CSU Channel Islands inked a transaction that could help reshape its future.
The sale of University Glen apartments for $81 million will provide some $71 million in cash to pay off debt that’s being used to build out the campus. Something like $1 million will flow into scholarship funds.
With a 600-unit student housing complex coming on line and a substantial portion of its debt paid down, Channel Islands now has completed the foundation that it needs for the next stage of its growth. It’s also created a valuable relationship with Kennedy Wilson, a financial partner with deep pockets.
That’s a heck of a tribute to the work of Channel Islands CFO Ysabel Trinidad, who worked tirelessly to put the deal together under former President Dick Rush and his recently arrived successor, Erika Beck. The CI academic year is getting off to a strong start.