After destroying the California “gig” economy and independent contractors in more than 300 industries with Assembly Bill 5, former Democrat Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, now the head of the California Labor Federation, has set her sites on the Goat herding industry. California labor laws slated to go into effect in January could raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to $14,000.
Targeted grazing is used to reduce wildfire risk because goats can eat just about anything that grows. Goat grazing is used all across California as weed abatement. It’s a win-win: the goats get to eat until their bellies are full and the land owner gets their weeds and vegetation grazed down to the nubs, lessening wildfire threats.
“California is investing heavily in wildfire prevention after the state was ravaged by several years of destructive flames that scorched millions of acres, destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people,” the Associated Press reported. “Goats have been used to clear fuels around Lake Oroville, along Highway 101, and near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.”
Most of us have seen herds of goats munching away in a big field. And many of us wondered why this form of weed abatement hasn’t been used more given California’s lack of forest management, as well as draconian government restrictions on logging, grazing, prescribed burns and herbicide use on public lands.
However, Ms. Gonzalez, who never passes up an opportunity to unionize employees who don’t want to give over part of their paycheck to a labor union, just destroys the industry if she can’t unionize it.
The AP reports:
Companies have historically been allowed to pay goat and sheepherders a monthly minimum salary rather than an hourly minimum wage, because their jobs require them to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But legislation signed in 2016 also entitles them to overtime pay. It effectively boosted the herders’ minimum monthly pay from $1,955 in 2019 to $3,730 this year. It’s set to hit $4,381 in 2025, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Legislation signed in 2016 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown…
But in January, those labor costs are set to jump sharply again. Goatherders and sheepherders have always followed the same set of labor rules last year. But a state agency has ruled that’s no longer allowed, meaning goatherders would be subject to the same labor laws as other farmworkers.
That would mean goatherders would be entitled to ever higher pay — up to $14,000 a month. Last year a budget trailer bill delayed that pay requirement for one year, but it’s set to take affect on Jan. 1 if nothing is done to change the law.
The goat-grazing industry is pushing the Legislature to approve legislation that would treat goatherders the same as sheepherders. A bill to do so hasn’t yet received a public hearing.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who heads the California Labor Federation, said goatherders are among the “most vulnerable workers in America” because they are on temporary work visas and can be fired and sent back to their home country anytime. Most of them work in isolation, speak minimal English and don’t have the same rights as Americans or green-card holders.
Tim Arrowsmith, owner of Western Grazers, which provides grazing services to West Sacramento, employs seven goatherders from Peru under the H-2A visa program for temporary farmworkers, the AP reported. He pays the herders about $4,000 a month and provides food, housing and phones.
“I can’t pay $14,000 a month to an employee starting Jan. 1. There’s just not enough money. The cities can’t absorb that kind of cost,” Arrowsmith said. “What’s at stake for the public is your house could burn up because we can’t fire-mitigate.”
Assemblywoman Megan Dahle (R-Redding) authored AB 1099, to repeal the 2016 law. Her bill says:
Existing law establishes specified labor protections for goat herders, as defined, relating to wages, meal and rest periods, lodging, and other conditions of employment. Existing law imposes civil penalties, as prescribed, for violations of these provisions. Existing law requires the Labor Commissioner, on or before January 1, 2024, to issue a report to the Legislature on wage violations, including minimum wage and overtime, affecting sheepherders and goat herders. These goat herder provisions are repealed on January 1, 2024.
This bill would delete the repeal language, thereby making the provisions operative indefinitely.
However, Assemblywoman Dahle’s bill hasn’t received a hearing or analysis yet.
Ms. Gonzalez will tell you she’s only trying to help the goat herders, when what’s really at risk if this ridiculous labor law continues is they will lose their jobs, the goats will go to slaughter, land still needing vegetation and weed abatement will go up in flames, and there will be one-less industry for Lorena to unionize.
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