Albany, NY – On August 21st, a UFW-led meeting inside a farm workers’ living quarters was forcibly raided and broken up by the owners of Porpiglia Farms and their family members, a major apple producer in upstate New York. Farm owners Anthony and Joseph Porpiglia forced their way into Mexican and Jamaican workers’ living space without permission alongside two additional, unknown, white men. The Porpiglia brothers and their muscle began shouting, physically intimidating, and aggressively interrogating workers as to who had invited the union representative, leading many workers to run from the premises or hide in their rooms. The 4 men also verbally and physically threatened to arrest a lone female UFW organizer into leaving the property, in violation of New York labor law.
The United Farm Workers is certified to represent the Jamaican and Mexican H2A visa workers at Porpiglia Farms. Therefore, UFW representatives have a legal right under New York law to visit with the workers it represents, regardless of the fact that worker housing is on employer property. The reality that workers’ housing and visa are both dependent on their employer opens H2A visa workers to retaliation and abuse. Both Mexican and Jamaican H2A workers at Porpiglia Farms have voted to join the United Farm Workers to alleviate abusive working and living conditions, as well as for protection against retaliation. As indicated by a 2006 Consent Decree imposed on Porpiglia Farms by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Porpiglia Farms also has a track record of alleged discriminatory and abusive treatment directed towards its Black Jamaican H-2A workers.
In response to these actions, the United Farm Workers has filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the New York State Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) against Porpiglia Farms.
“The bosses’ aggressive and threatening effort to limit workers from speaking with union organizers only underscores what we believe to be deeply unjust, exploitative, and abusive status quo at Porpiglia Farms,” said UFW Secretary-Treasuer Armando Elenes. “The Porpiglia brothers should be ashamed of themselves for using these intimidation tactics to silence their workers from speaking with their elected union representatives, for trying to crush their workers’ right to a union, for physically threatening and intimidating a union organizer, and above all – for seeking to profit off the misery and fear of their fellow human beings. The Porpiglia brothers need to immediately cease these illegal activities and negotiate a fair union contract with the UFW.”
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