On Tuesday, October 3rd, the United Farm Workers became aware of a lawsuit filed by the New York State Vegetable Growers Association along with A&J Kirby Farms, Porpiglia Farms, Crist Brothers Orchards, Cahoon Farms, and Lynn-Ette & Sons Inc. that asks a court to overturn the 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, the state law which granted farm workers in the State of New York the right to unionize for the first time. The growers behind this lawsuit have already previously made the exact same arguments with the NY Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) seeking to exclude H-2A visa workers – who make up the majority of their workforces – from their rights under this law. The PERB has already considered all of their arguments and has applied the law in a fair manner, rejecting all of the grower arguments.
Workers at all 5 of these companies have told PERB that they wish to be represented by the United Farm Workers, and the UFW won certification – the legal right to represent these workers – at 4 of the 5 farms, as ordered by PERB. The fifth request for representation – at Crist Bros. – is still being considered by PERB. The UFW is additionally certified as representing the workers at Wafler Farms. Since certification, all 5 certified farms have resisted negotiating a fair union contract as required by New York law, resulting in impasse being declared and PERB mediators assigned at all 5 farms. The UFW has also filed several Unfair Labor Practice charges against these employers for their violation of the new law.
Regarding the claims that the Union has engaged in any misconduct or coercion in gathering worker support, as alleged by this baseless lawsuit, those claims are fabricated and false, and the union considers them defamatory. All of these allegations have been presented to PERB, the state agency responsible for adjudicating labor disputes and such allegations, and PERB has not found any validity to any of these false allegations. In challenging the union certifications, each of the employers have had the opportunity to present allegations of fraud or misconduct to PERB, and to date there have been no findings of any such fraud or misconduct in any of the 5 certifications, and the pending case in Crist Bros. Because of this, it is clear that this lawsuit represents a pathetic attempt to get a different result for allegations that were already rejected PERB.
“It is disgraceful that the grower bosses want to return New York to the exclusionary racist past by asking a court to strip away farm workers’ hard won right to a union,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “This lawsuit by the New York Vegetable Growers Association and growers is the latest attempt by the grower bosses to overturn a law that requires them to treat their workers with respect and rights, something they have not been willing to do. Every billable hour the growers spend with their lawyers refusing to honor the certified union majority at their farms is an hour they should have spent at the bargaining table negotiating fair union contracts. We look forward to holding these employers accountable under the law, and look forward to negotiating fair contracts for the workers at A&J Kirby Farms, Porpiglia Farms, Cahoon Farms, Wafler Farms, and Lynn-Ette & Sons Inc.”