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United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Farm workers who voted for UFW seek binding arbitration to win union contracts at five New York farms; state certifies UFW after workers voted at a sixth company

Albany, N.Y.—More than a year after farm workers at five upstate New York and Hudson Valley farms voted for the United Farm Workers, the union is asking the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to order the companies into binding arbitration to produce union contracts. The arbitration filings follow a failed effort by New York growers to overturn the state’s landmark 2019 farm labor law granting field laborers the right to unionize. These are the first arbitration filings under the law.

Meantime, PERB certified a sixth UFW election victory following a vote last November by workers at Cherry Lawn Fruit Farms LLC near Rochester, N.Y. This state action was held up because of a federal judge’s temporary injunction in response to the industry lawsuit trying to halt enforcement of the statute. The judge lifted his stay of the law in February.

Even after state officials certified the UFW as the workers’ bargaining representative, growers at the first five farms either refused to bargain in good faith or failed to reach agreement on union contracts during mediation by the state. That triggered the UFW’s request for binding arbitration, the workers’ last resort under the law.

The five farms where the UFW is filing for arbitration are Wafler Farms (apples, Wolcott, NY); Porpiglia Farms (apples, Marlboro, N.Y.); Cahoon Farms (apples, Wolcott, NY); A&J Kirby Farms (apples, Albion, N.Y.); and Lynn-ette & Sons Farms Inc. (vegetables, Kent, N.Y.).

“It is unfortunate growers have refused to bargain in good faith and instead tried to overturn their workers’ right to a union,” said UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes, who oversees organizing by the union in New York state. “That refusal leaves the UFW no choice but to file for binding arbitration. Workers have waited far too long to have the fair union contracts for which they voted. It is time for the state of New York to step in.” 

“It’s about time to file for arbitration because this is taking too long,” said Owen Salmon, a Jamaican worker at Wafler Farms. “It’s been a year since we chose the union. We hope for a good union contract with job security because right now I have not been recalled to my job because of my involvement with the union.”

Many workers from Jamaica and Mexico say they have not been recalled by employers where they voted for the union in New York because of their participation in union organizing. The UFW continues organizing in New York state, has filed for certification at an additional farm and expects farm workers at more companies to be voting for the union.