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UFW Campaign on Piece-Rate Wages

The November 10 edition of the Fresno Bee reports that the United Farm Workers union is beginning an “awareness” drive today (apparently with press conferences in Monterey, Sonoma, Madera, Fresno, Kern and Ventura counties) to inform workers they are owed unpaid wages for non-productive time under AB 1513, legislation passed by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Brown earlier this year.

According to UFW, AB 1513 may entitle workers to $8 or more per day for unpaid “unproductive” time they may have worked between July 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015.  According to UFW, “the total amount of back pay employers will owe California farm workers over the last three and one-half years will easily reach millions of dollars.”

You can see the UFW's campaign flyer here.

AB 1513 (Williams, D-Carpinteria) clarified that rest and heat illness recovery periods are to be paid at either a rate computed by dividing an employee’s total compensation for a work week, excluding compensation for rest and recovery periods and overtime premium pay by the total number of hours worked by the employee, excluding rest and recovery periods or the minimum wage.  AB 1513 also provided that other non-productive time when workers are not working to produce work that is piece-rate compensated must be separately compensated at the minimum wage.   

AB 1513 also provided a “safe harbor” allowing employers to avoid penalties and damages for past failure to separately compensate rest and recovery periods and non-productive time and failure to compensate rest and recovery periods at the average rate of compensation for the work week.  The safe harbor requires employers to either pay actual wages owed to piece-rate employees for non-productive time and rest and recovery periods, or pay employees 4% of their gross wages for each workweek they earned piece-rates between July 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015.

AB 1513 was precipitated by California appellate court decisions in Bluford v. Safeway and Gonzales v. Downtown LA Motors, in which the courts affirmed that California law requires separate compensation for rest and recovery periods and other non-productive time.  The situation was exacerbated by opinion of Labor Commissioner Julie Su that rest and recovery periods should be paid at the average rate of piece-rate compensation.

You can read more in-depth information about AB 1513 and the piece-rate safe harbor on California Farm Bureau's AgAlert website.