Last Updated on September 25, 2015 by Alex Brown-Hinds
This statement is from Hardy Brown, Founder of California Black Media and Publisher of Black Voice News concerning the Governor’s Veto of the Farm Worker Bill.
I understand Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto SB 1121 because I have been on both sides of the issue.
What I don’t understand is the penchant of people to compare everything and every situation to the Jim Crow experience. Senator Florez said the Governor, “decided to use his pen in the spirit of the politicians of the segregationist South, who pushed to discriminate against the least protected members of our society…it is a vestige of Jim Crow.”
Being from North Carolina and a farm worker myself I can understand the farm worker’s argument. I worked for 50 cents per hour in a 10 hour day in the tobacco field. There was no overtime. As a worker in tobacco some workers could make you go broke by the speed in which they harvested the tobacco from the field. To pay overtime in this type of labor might drive a farmer into the poor house.
I also worked a full day picking cotton for 4 cents a pound and on a good day you might get 100 pounds. The pay was different when I was picking corn and digging sweet potatoes. We were paid by the bushel. In these situations it was to both the workers and farmers advantage to be fast because the pay was contingent on productivity. The productive workers made more while the farmer got the crop in a timely fashion.
I was also on the farmer’s side paying the workers for my father’s sharecropping business. From the farmer’s side of the pay issue you have to decide which pay method to use based on the crop being harvested. I don’t know if the legislation takes all of those things into consideration. To compare this with the southern treatment of Blacks might be stretching the point but I remember vividly how I felt when I first came to California and went to pick grapes in Fontana. While it’s not the type of work I wanted to do, it was in no way similar to the “slave labor” or “sharecropping” history of the state I was from.
I am concerned that the issue of the veto of overtime for farm workers is unfairly compared to America’s history of racism, segregation, and Jim Crowism, especially as those things relate to Governor Schwarzenegger. Since he has been in office, he has included more diversity in his cabinet appointees than any governor who served before him, just ask CPUC Commissioner Tim Simon, who was appointed the first African American to serve as Appointments Secretary by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The Governor has also been a champion for workers: signing legislation to increase the minimum wage, forcing regulations that help improve farm worker’s working conditions such as requiring breaks during the work day and setting aside an area for breaks, supporting a heat illness prevention campaign, and supporting the (EEEC) Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition to insure employers of agriculture workers are in compliance with labor laws.
I understand the need to do more. However with this state in its current fiscal crisis and with companies threatening to leave the state because the cost of doing business here is higher than most states in the union, I understand the Governor’s action. And I reject the notion that race was a reason for that decision.