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Farmworker overtime bill advances to floor vote in Oregon legislature

A worker drops off his blueberries at a weigh station at Blueberry Hill Farms.
File photo

The Oregon House could vote as soon as Monday on a bill that would require farmers to pay employees overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours a week.

A special committee created to consider House Bill 4002 voted along party lines Thursday night to advance the measure. Republicans, including Rep. Daniel Bonham of The Dalles, said the requirement would hurt farmers during a period of global instability.

“We’re in a time of greater uncertainty," he said. "And I don’t think that right now is a great time to overhaul a policy related to our food supply.”

Supporters of the bill said it’s unfair to exclude farmworkers from laws that grant overtime to most other hourly workers. Democrats said tax credits included in the bill will soften the financial hit that farmers could take if the measure passes.

The bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Monday morning. If the House approves it, the measure would head to the Oregon Senate for consideration. Lawmakers are under a March 7 deadline to wrap up their session.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”