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

NY growers still refusing to accept worker organizing law, file federal lawsuit

You won’t believe what farm workers are going through in NY. It took years of fighting to get a law that would allow workers – including H-2A workers – to organize for a union contract. Due to blatant racism, farm workers were purposefully excluded from the National Labor Relations Act almost a century ago, the law which gives most workers the right to join unions. Because of this exclusion, they need to fight for this right state by state. They’ve had this right in California for decades and won the right to join unions in New York in 2019. 

Now because farm workers won UFW representation at five NY farms, growers have found a new way to try to delay. The New York State Vegetable Growers Association and five growers where workers chose the UFW just filed a federal lawsuit attempting to repeal the New York law. Not only are they trying to gut the act, but they asked for a temporary restraining order on using the act until the lawsuit is heard – which can take years – in order to delay negotiating the contracts for the elections that the workers already won. Most of the New York workers are immigrants from Mexico, Jamaica and other countries, making this attempt to shut down their rights especially ugly.

“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.” NY workers have been organizing with the UFW. Workers at six companies voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers. The PERB – NY’s state’s employee relations agency – granted UFW the right to represent the workers at five of the six farms and the sixth case is still being considered. The growers appealed individually to PERB who soundly rejected their arguments. 

We believe this latest lawsuit is an attempt by New York growers to continue to attempt to treat their farms like plantations, and to deny these hard working men and women the ability to exercise the most basic rights afforded to other workers. The UFW will continue fighting for NY workers including those at A&J Kirby Farms, Porpiglia Farms, Cahoon Farms, Wafler Farms, and Lynn-Ette & Sons Inc., where we won elections. We look forward to holding these employers accountable under the law and negotiating fair contracts for these workers and the other workers where we’re organizing.