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strawberry pickers working hunched over in the field. worker transporting a full crate accross the field.
The California legislature has passed or is considering a set of bills that highlight just how inadequate worker protections are in the United States as a whole. Because these bills—to extend overtime to farm workers and domestic workers, to strengthen heat protections for farm workers, and to ensure that subcontractors employing warehouse workers follow labor laws and actually have the money to pay the workers—would put California ahead of the majority of, if not all, other states, but still behind much of the rest of the world.

The bills to extend basic labor protections to subcontracted warehouse workers and to strengthen heat regulations for farm workers have already been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill to give farm workers overtime after eight hours, like other workers, instead of after 10 hours or 60 hours a week, is likely to pass the Assembly Friday and go to Brown's desk. The question is whether Brown will sign these bills.

In his current stint as governor of California, Jerry Brown has compiled a mixed record, signing a law penalizing misclassification of workers, but forced a compromise on measures to protect farm workers trying to organize, after having vetoed the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act. He vetoed a bill that would have allowed child care workers to unionize, but signed bills helping pregnant women keep their health care during pregnancy. Like I say, a mixed record.

Strengthening overtime and heat protections for farm workers and making sure that warehouse subcontractors actually have the money to pay the workers they hire are not exactly the first steps to revolution, but of course the industries that run on low wages, long hours, and inadequate safety measures don't want to see the law chipping into their ability to exploit. They're pushing back, insisting these measures would have all sorts of dire consequences. Of course, that's also what they say about raising the minimum wage, about requiring paid sick leave, any damn thing that keeps workers safe on the job or puts teeth behind the notion that if you work full time, you shouldn't be living in poverty. Brown has a chance to do the right thing. The rock-fucking-bottom, basic right thing for human safety and dignity. This Labor Day weekend, he should take that chance.

Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:12 AM PT: The overtime bill failed in the Assembly. Gov. Brown still has the chance to strengthen heat protections for farm workers, a bill that could save lives.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Dream Menders.

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