While Minnesota Public Radio touts the conventional talking points about this year's session in What the 2014 Legislature did for you, Bluestem is finding all sorts of goodies in the supplemental budget bill, and we'll be posting more about them in the coming week.
One provision leads our list of Other Things the 2014 Legislature Did For You: a study of the numbers of agricultural employers who are using a 48-hour work week to figure overtime and the number of employees this exemption for agricultural business affects.
Sec. 22. AGRICULTURAL EMPLOYMENT; REPORT.
53.2The commissioner of labor and industry shall report by January 1, 2015, to the chairs
53.3and ranking minority members of the standing committees of the house of representatives
53.4and senate with jurisdiction over labor policy and finance issues on the number of
53.5agricultural employers who are using a 48 hour work week and the number of employees
53.6affected. The commissioner shall include recommendations for appropriate compensation
53.7for such agricultural employees. For the purposes of this section, "agriculture" has the
53.8meaning given in Minnesota Rules, part 5200.0260.
During the minimum wage debate, we made no secret of our disappointment that a provision in the House version of the minimum wage bill that would have required employers to pay agricultural workers overtime using the same formula used by employers in other sectors.
Those who opposed the measure cite hard working family farmers who hire a few seasonal hands--maybe a niece or that nice neighbor kid down the road--in the rush of the harvest, while those supporting the change have suggested that the exemption mostly helps larger operations. Governor Dayton's office supported the change.
While supporters of the change were willing to settle for the study, those opposed fought authorization and funding of the study. This resistant suggests that they'd rather create policy based on myth-making, rather than fact-finding.
Bluestem looks forward to the facts discovered by the report, as well as learning more about how this provision entered the final report on the bill heading to the governor's desk.
Disclosure: Bluestem's editor and proprietor, Sally Jo Sorensen, served on the Minnesota Farmers Union Policy Committee for 2013-2014. At its 2013 convention, the Minnesota Farmers Union adopted policy supporting a 40-hour work week for the calculation of overtime for ag workers. The views expressed here are the opinion of the author and not the Minnesota Farmers Union.
Photo: We love Terence Malick's "Days of Heaven" but doubt its gorgeous depiction of farm labor is a sound ag or family policy.
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