Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Labor Commissioner Makes the Final Decision: 

Overtime Farm Threshold Decision could Take Months

The impassioned shouts of farmers opposed to the Wage Board’s recent decision to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers rang from the Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase on Tuesday in their hopes the echoes would reach Gov. Kathy Hochul and members of her cabinet meeting on the second floor.

It will likely be springtime before Labor Department Commissioner Roberta Reardon makes the final decision to accept or reject the Farm Workers Wage Board’s Jan. 31 vote to reduce the overtime threshold for farm workers to 40 hours over the next decade, reducing the threshold from 60 by four hours every two years.

“Commissioner Reardon has not yet received the Farm Laborers Wage Board’s official report,” Labor Department officials said in a statement Tuesday. “When she does, the commissioner will have 45 days to review the recommendations and announce her decision on the matter.”

In the Capitol on Tuesday, agricultural advocates said the commissioner could request an extension to review the decision for an additional 45 days — or at least three months after the board submits its official report to the department.

Farmers estimate a 42% cost increase with the overtime changes — a price tag they say will bankrupt many small and mid-sized family farms across New York, forcing them to shutter after two years weathering pandemic hardships.

“The fate of farming and agriculture in New York state now rests with only two people: Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Gov. Kathy Hochul,” said Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, a former dairy farmer who has been a leader in the fight against the threshold reduction.

“This isn’t an inevitable tragedy that we need to accept, though, because Gov. Hochul and Commissioner Reardon still have the power to put an end to this madness,” continued Tague, a ranking member of the Agriculture Committee. “They had an opportunity to save farming as we know it today. If we have no farms. We have no food. ... Commissioner Reardon and Gov. Hochul, I implore you: Don’t bite the hand that feeds us. Stay at 60.”


About 73% of the farmers, farm owners, migrant workers and lawmakers who testified to the Wage Board on Jan. 4, 18 and 20, spoke in opposition to the threshold reduction, representing small or mid-sized family farms.

Labor unions and other organizations have advocated for the 40-hour threshold to give migrant farm workers a more fair wage and protections comparable to other industries. U.S. farm workers earned $14.62 per hour on average in 2020, which is just 60% — or three-fifths — of what production and nonsupervisory nonfarm workers earned at $24.67, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“I believe those who support lowering the overtime threshold have done so with good intentions and out of concern for all who work on our farms, but I cannot stress enough that lowering this overtime threshold will only hurt the very people the measures intended to help,” said Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, a former third-generation farmer, represents farm country throughout the GLOW region.

Hawley, a member of Genesee County’s Farm Bureau, voiced concerns reducing the threshold will lead to increased food prices and a reduced diversity of available New York-grown crops and products.

“The plain truth of the matter is that farms cannot operate on less than a 60-hour workweek, and the failure to recognize that fact will lead to the loss of our beloved family farms,” he said.

Hochul and the Labor Department commissioner continue to weigh the decision, the governor told reporters after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting concluded, adding she continues to solicit opinions from all sides of the issue.

“We still have time to have that under consideration,” Hochul said. “We are looking at it closely, but we are also looking at a way if this is going to be the case, it would be as a long rollout, you know, plenty of time for people to adapt to it.”

Commissioner Reardon was at the table with a microphone and ability to speak, but did not provide input about the upcoming decision.

The Labor Department responded to subsequent questions with an identical statement: “We have not yet received the Farm Laborers Wage Board’s official report.”

Hochul’s executive budget proposes doubling the farm workforce retention tax credit to $1,200 to help offset rising labor costs from ongoing minimum wage increases — a proposal that surprised agricultural advocates, they said Tuesday, adding it was something they have not requested.

“The governor is trying to have it both ways,” said Jeff Williams, New York State Farm Bureau’s director of public policy. “It’s critical that if this goes forward and we go to 40, farmers need the opportunity to get their overtime offset. It’s not that they won’t pay, they simply can’t pay.”

Tague said the tax incentive “is a slap in the face” to farmers.

“If I was still a dairy farmer and in business and it was offered to me, I’d say ‘No, thank you,” he said. Anyone may file objections to the Wage Board’s vote for a 15-day period after the board files its report with the Labor Department.

The commissioner will issue a report with details about her intended decision, which will be open for public comment before made final. Hochul recently met with New York Farm Bureau officials and other representatives in the state’s agriculture community to discuss their fiscal needs and legislative priorities.

Hochul on Tuesday urged the federal government to make more work visas available to increase the number of migrant farm workers throughout the year to benefit vegetable and dairy farmers alike.

“Agriculture — this is an essential industry for us,” the governor said, adding urban food banks rely on the state’s strong agricultural practices. “We need to keep that lifeline open as well. ... We want to get it right for them as well and make sure that we take care of our workers, gives them what they need, but also gives the farmers perhaps tax relief to help ameliorate the impacts.

“It is not final, but we’re getting close.”

If accepted, the new rate for farm laborers will begin Jan. 1, 2024 with a threshold of 56 hours, down to 52 hours Jan. 1, 2026; reduced to 48 hours on Jan. 1, 2028; 44 hours on Jan. 1, 2030, and the 40-hour threshold in effect Jan. 1, 2032.

The state’s 60-hour threshold for farm workers was established down from 80 hours under the 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act and took effect in 2020.

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SILVER LAKE EXPERIENCE (SLE) - Registration now Open for this August 4-6, 2022's SLE. See: SilverLakeExperience.org

W. PETE MAIRS

W. PETE MAIRS
Walter D. “Pete” Mairs, 81, died peacefully on July 23, 2021. Born in Avon, N.Y., on Sept. 3, 1939, Pete was a longtime resident of Geneva, N.Y., and these past many years in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as his beloved Silver Lake. Pete is survived by his wife, Linda Bergstrom Mairs, a loving and true companion; children, Mimi C. Mairs, Jonathan B. Mairs; sisters, June Huff, Helen Dole; brother, Thomas Mairs; stepchildren, Daniel Brinkworth, Jennie Ramsey; sister-in-law, Anne Bergstrom, eight beautiful grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. A service and celebration of life is planned for the fall when all can share the joy of Pete’s life together. Arrangements by Stephenson – Dougherty Funeral Home, Avon, N.Y.

Editor's Note: It was a privilege knowing and working with Pete Mairs during his presidency of the Silver Lake Institute. He was a kind and gentle man, but also firm in his leadership. I served as Treasurer and Chaplain of SLI during those years and I could always depend on Pete's presence in the worship service. He was a man of faith and a gem of a human being. May he rest in God's care.

GERALD C. SAHRLE

GERALD C. SAHRLE
Gerald C. Sahrle, 80, of Perry, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. He was born on Oct. 10, 1941, in Wayland, N.Y., to the late Charles A. and Helen I. (Blowers) Sahrle. Gerry was a line foreman for 32 1/2 years for NYSE&G, working out of the Perry and Hamburg locations, and was a Town of Perry Councilman. He was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Constellation Lodge -404 in Perry. He was an avid fisherman, hunter and woodworker. He is survived by his wife, Valary A. (Conley) Sahrle; 1 son, Gerald (Pamela) Sahrle II of Silver Springs; 2 sisters, Millie Edmond of Greece, Bonnie Fink of Winston-Salem, N.C., 3 brothers, Ronald (Linda) Sahrle of Dansville, Robert (Susan) Sahrle of Springwater, Kenneth Sahrle of Dansville; 5 grandchildren, Bradley Musscarella, Stone and Winston Sahrle, Conley and Cooper Gayton; along with many nieces, nephews and friends. Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a brother, Thomas Sahrle, who passed away in 2012. Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Gerry will be laid to rest in West Perry Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Perry Center Fire Department, P.O. Box 204, Perry, NY 14530. For more information, please call (585) 237-2626 or to leave a message of condolence, visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 North Main Street, Perry, NY 14530.

Editor's Note: Gerald and Valarie could always be seen in the family pew with Pamela, Stone and Winston at Perry First United Methodist Church and continue to be loved. Gerry will be sorely missed. Both were supporters of the Arts at the Silver Lake Institute and Valarie was active in painting and participating in the Annual Show in August. Valarie's presence was always valued and appreciated.

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")

KATHARINE E. PRACZKAJLO ("Kathy P.")
"Kathy P." passed November 8, 2021, of Hamburg and Boston, NY. Beloved daughter of Joseph and Barbara Michalak; loving sister of Daniel Michalak; devoted wife of the late Jeffrey Praczkajlo; cherished mother of Jennifer (Shawn) Jump; loving babcia of Lily Jump; also survived by many beloved family members and friends who became her family. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Editor's Note: "Kathy P." as she was better known to us at Silver Lake was an annual summer visitor for most of the last number of years at the invitation of Silver Laker Julia Hoffner. She stayed at the Hoffner Cottage, and became known as both the fun visitor with the vivacious smile to the neighbors at the intersection of Haven Ave. and the Ames Walkway. Kathy P. and Julie could be seen walking and talking between the cottage and the Hoffner boathouse where they could be close to the water. She was also occasionally seen at the Saturday morning breakfasts at Stoody Hall. Her stay was anywhere between 4 days and a week where she had the opportunity to develop a love for Silver Lake. She was not yet eligible for retirement when late last week she developed "a cold" and had to remain home from her job. She did not update her condition over the weekend so the local police made a wellness visit and found her deceased on Monday. She was one of those many people who found Silver Lake and friendship for brief respites where she also found new strength and energy to return to work. She is being particularly mourned by those in the Haven/Ames neighborhood. She will be memorialized next summer at the annual Celebration of Life Memorial Service at Epworth Hall.

BRENDA J. PADDOCK

BRENDA J. PADDOCK
Brenda Joan Paddock, 82, of Perry, born April 15, 1939, now resides in heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brenda met Jesus as her Savior in 1965. She met him in person on Nov. 14, 2021. She had a beautiful homecoming with music, singing and praying, leading her into Glory. Her last words were “I am well, I am well.”

Brenda’s greatest loves were her family and friends. Brenda had five children with her husband Roger: Don and Daelene Paddock of Florida, Jody and Tim Von Sanden of Pavilion, Bradley and Jeanie Paddock of Warsaw, Jennifer and Paul Guy of Massachusetts, and Nathan and Jill Paddock of Perry.

Brenda dearly loved her grandchildren: Jessica Morillo, Nikki and Clint O’Brien, Luke Paddock, Paul Paddock, Ian and Brooklyn Paddock, Joe and Louana Paddock, Burke and Megan Paddock, Aaron Paddock, Ellen Paddock, Andrew Paddock, Rachael Paddock, Abigail Paddock, Erik and Cassandra Von Sanden, Jacquelyn and Michael Jones, Tim Von Sanden, Brandon and Brandee Paddock, Jamey and Laura Paddock, Peter and Kara Guy, Candy and Jay Waitkevich, Marlo and Ryan Bolger and Jenna and Rory Peterson.

Brenda was blessed and loved her great grandchildren: Chloe, Olivia and Nicholas Von Sanden, Joshua and Jaxon Morillo, Jameson and Cassandra O’Brien, Atlas Paddock, Noah and Ezra Jones, Colton, Brantley and Charlotte Guy, Cameron Waitkevich, Amelia Bolger and Brennen Leonard.

Brenda is also survived by her brother and sister in laws; Frank and Emma Paddock, Viva and Jim Phillips-Richardson and Kurt and Lynn Paddock.

Brenda first started working as a secretary at Perry Central School. She then assisted her husband building Paddock’s Breeding Service. Roger and Brenda together built and ran the Sandsabarn teenage nightclub. Brenda was owner and operator of Serendipity Travel. Brenda’s pleasures included playing organ and piano. She played at a number of area churches along with performing for her loved ones. UPDATED -- Brenda also played with conviction at both indoor and outdoor services at the Silver Lake Institute where her grandson, Luke, sang at Epworth Hall on several occasions and was appreciated by all who heard his inspiring voice.

Brenda was preceded in death by her parents Noble and Freda Buckland, her husband Roger and son Bradley.

A Committal service at West Perry Cemetery will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 17 at 11 a.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at LaGrange Baptist Church at 4 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made in Brenda’s honor to the LaGrange Baptist Church 7092 LaGrange Rd. Perry, NY 14530 or to the First Congregational Church P.O. Box 156 Perry, NY 14530. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 N. Main St., Perry, N.Y. 14530. For more information or to sign the online guest registry please visit www.eatonwatsonfuneralhome.com.

AUGUST 4-7, 2022

AUGUST 4-7, 2022
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