By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- A Senate committee has passed a bill giving farmers with on-site farmworker housing an extra 12 hours to pay workers after harvest.
The Senate Rural Communities and Economic Development Committee moved Senate Bill 677 to the floor with a do-pass recommendation on March 21 after hearing supportive testimony from farmers and farmworker advocates in an earlier hearing.
The bill gives farmers until noon the day after harvest to pay workers. Under current law, farmers must pay by midnight of the final day of harvest.
In testifying before the committee on March 19, Ramon Ramirez, president of the farmworker union PCUN, characterized SB677 as "a good compromise."
"We think it is a reasonable time frame," Ramirez said.
Wasco County orchardist Jeff Heater told committee members that the current deadline is difficult to meet and can lead to miscalculations on payroll.
"If you get home at 8 o'clock at night, it puts a lot of pressure on you," Heater said. "And quite often, running the risk of going too fast to meet a timeline, the risk of creating errors in your payroll goes quite high."
Randy Kiyokawa, a grower from Parkdale, told committee members he sometimes doesn't get home from delivering crop to Portland until 11 p.m. on the final day of harvest.
"Those extra 12 hours, from midnight to noon the next day would be greatly appreciated," Kiyokawa said.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River.