STOCKTON — Local members of the United Farm Workers of America gathered in a downtown Stockton office building Tuesday evening to celebrate the signing of a bill that will entitle agricultural laborers to the same overtime pay as most other hourly workers.

About a dozen local UFW members met in a small office on the third floor of The Metro office building on North Sutter Street a day after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB1066. They ate pizza while watching UFW President Arturo Rodriguez speak from Salinas during a conference call that was broadcast live on the internet. Simultaneous meetings were held in Madera, Oxnard and Santa Rosa.

The new law, the first of its kind in the United States, will end the 78-year practice of applying separate labor rules to farmworkers. It will be phased in over four years beginning in 2019.

Victor Lopez, 37, a local organizer for the UFW, praised the bill, which was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

“It’s very important,” Lopez said. “With this law, we are equal opportunity for overtime. For almost 80 years, farmworkers have not had these benefits.”

Employers in California currently must pay time-and-a-half to farmworkers after 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week. Other workers receive overtime pay after eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.

Brown signed the bill following a push from the UFW and its allies. Some argue that workers will have their hours cut and consumers will be affected as farmers re-evaluate what they grow and make choices to reduce labor costs. Others contend that exempting farmworkers from labor laws is unfair.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Contact reporter Jason Anderson at (209) 546-8279 or Follow him at and on Twitter @Stockton911.