Willamette Valley Vineyards Adopts Phased-In Overtime Schedule


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Turner, OR – December 9, 2021 – Willamette Valley Vineyards (NASDAQ: WVVI & WVVIP), one of Oregon’s leading pinot noir producers, will adopt the same incremental time-and-a-half schedule for farm worker overtime starting in January 2022, as ‘passed by the Washington State Legislature. In addition, as an emergency measure, the company announced that hourly farm workers will receive an increase in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) of their base salary by 6.2%. This action comes into effect on January 1 for these workers before and before the annual company compensation review which will be held in May.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Founder and CEO Jim Bernau said these families needed help coping with new high inflationary pressures.

“Rapidly rising inflation hurts our hourly agricultural workers the most, so we are increasing their pay as of January 1,” said Bernau. “We will also begin the transition to provide hourly and a half pay for overtime to our farm workers by following the schedule of recently passed Washington state law.”

Bernau explained that this change will cause the company to provide fair treatment to all cellar employees in an orderly fashion, where these new costs can be successfully absorbed over time without costing jobs.

He urges Oregon lawmakers to carefully tailor the elimination of the farm overtime exemption by recognizing the great diversity of farming sectors and peak seasonal challenges, as well as providing a fund to help smallholder farms make the transition without costing workers their jobs or wages.

“Our farmers and their employees have to work as Mother Nature dictates and sometimes cannot regulate their working hours,” noted Bernau. “It is important that this change takes place without endangering all of their work that has been done for the crop during the season or the jobs of farm workers. While Willamette is able to switch to paying overtime for field work without using government assistance, not all small farms have this capacity due to their higher and increasing fixed costs.

Vineyards of the Willamette Valley • 8800 Enchanted Road SE • Turner, OR 97392 Tel. : (800) 344-9463 • E-mail: [email protected]

Bernau added that recent developments on the issue, the next extraordinary session and the short session on legislation in January will give the state’s policymakers the opportunity to find a win-win solution for farm workers and farmers.

Willamette Valley Vineyards employs approximately 45 full-time farm workers per hour, reaching 135 at harvest. The winery did not use any federal PPP loans or grants during the pandemic, as Bernau said he believes these limited taxpayer funds should be available to small businesses that need them the most.

Under the state’s new law Washington, agricultural employees will have the right to collect overtime as of 1 January 2022, with the removal of the exemption for agricultural overtime after the phase-in schedule during three years.

Each year, the progressive schedule gradually reduces the number of hours employees must work in a workweek to receive overtime pay:

  • From January 1, 2022: 55 hours
  • From January 1, 2023: 48 hours
  • From January 1, 2024: 40 hours

Additionally, Willamette Valley Vineyards provides all employees with full company matching for employee contributions to their 401K pension plan of up to 4% of an employee’s compensation and employees can accumulate up to 96 hours of paid sick leave. Juneteenth is included as one of the cellar’s paid holidays, plus a full day of paid compensation for non-profit work. For the pandemic, Willamette Valley Vineyards is compensating all employees three hours paid for each vaccination and recall.

About Willamette Valley Vineyards:

Founded in 1983 by Jim Bernau with the dream of creating world-class Pinot Noir while serving as guardian of the land, Willamette Valley Vineyards has grown from a bold idea to one of the region’s premier wineries, earning the title of “one of the great American Pinot Producers Noirs” of Magazine for wine lovers. All the vineyards have been certified as sustainable by the LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture and Oenology) and Salmon-Safe programs. The winery is owned by the community of wine lovers who are dedicated to sharing Oregon’s history of world-class wines.

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