Last year, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down a 60-year-old state law exempting dairy workers from overtime pay in Washington state. The broader farm community is anticipating a transition to these changing laws, and will continue following all wage and hour laws, as has been the case for the last six decades.
However, after the rule change, several lawsuits were filed seeking three years of retroactive back pay. Many small and mid-size operations that source our neighborhood farmers markets with fresh organic produce operate on razor-thin margins. In other cases, the global market sets the price of many of Washington’s farmed commodities, leaving few options for recouping unforeseen financial burdens.
Applying such a sweeping and retroactive standard when farmers and ranchers who were following the existing rules of the road would be devastating to the families, workers, and communities that depend on this industry.
Our ask is clear: As decisions are being made in Olympia about the future of our industry, we ask legislators to support solutions that protect the long-term health of our farms and the thousands of supporting jobs that rely on them.