By MITCH LIES
A Oregon House committee has unanimously moved a bill to the floor to give farmers with on-site farmworker housing an extra 12 hours to pay workers after harvest.
The House Business and Labor Committee on May 13 moved Senate Bill 677 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation after hearing supportive testimony from farmers and farmworker advocates.
The bill gives farmers with on-site housing until noon the day after harvest to pay workers.
Under the current law, farmers must pay workers by midnight of the final day of harvest.
"We think (SB677) helps those farmers that are doing the right thing," said Ramon Ramirez, president of the farmworker union PCUN.
"It is a little change in the law," he said. "It doesn't hurt us from going after unscrupulous labor contractors that fail to pay workers on time or that close their labor camps.
"We still have the tools to go after those people," Ramirez said. "But we didn't want the law to hurt good farmers."
The current law was put in place to protect farmworkers from being shut out of a labor camp before getting their paycheck, said bill sponsor Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River.
Thomsen told committee members that the bill does not address farmers who don't provide farmworker housing.
"They still have to pay immediately," he said.
The bill previously passed the Senate floor by a vote of 29-0.