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UPDATE: NY growers refuse to accept worker organizing law; File federal lawsuit to strip farmworkers of their rights 

We wanted to update you more on the news we started sharing in December. You might remember workers were able to organize and win UFW certification at five NY farms. This came after years of fighting to get a law that would allow workers – including H-2A workers – to organize for a union contract.

But, when it came to negotiating, growers decided to buy time for dirty tricks. Instead of bargaining fairly for a union contract, the growers filed a federal lawsuit — reusing arguments that were previously denied by a judge at the NY Public Employment Relations Board. 

This resulted in the NY Attorney General’s office agreeing to put the worker victories in limbo until the lawsuit is heard. They agreed to a temporary restraining order on using this law – which means negotiations have been put on hold for the contracts for the elections that the workers have already won. Now workers who had the courage to organize not only don’t have the benefit of a union contract, but can be subject to retaliation by growers, or may be left off the hire list for next season, with no protection from PERB.

On the morning of February 21st, the US District Court for the Western District of New York will be hearing oral arguments on the case in Buffalo. Immediately before the preliminary hearing where the federal court considers the grower lawsuit to strip farm workers of their union rights, the UFW will be holding a rally. If you plan to be in the Buffalo NY area and can join us, click here to RSVP. 



Background: When basic New Deal era federal labor laws were written in the 1930s, farmworkers were excluded from the right to organize unions. In 2019, the State of New York passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which rectified this injustice by extending the right to organize to farm workers in the State of New York. Under the terms of this law, farm workers in New York are able to unionize once they demonstrate a majority of workers at a specific company support unionization. Once a farm is certified by the State of New York’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the law requires employers to enter into union contract negotiations.

Organizing Wins: Because of the NY law we fought to win, nearly 500 farm workers won UFW representation at five NY farms. The unionized farms are: Wafler Farms (Wolcott, NY), Porpiglia Farms (Marlboro, N.Y.), Cahoon Farms (Wolcott, NY), A&J Kirby Farms (Albion, N.Y.), and Lynn-ette & Sons Farms Inc. (Kent, N.Y.). Furthermore, the UFW has filed for certification at two additional farms.
Grower Retaliation: Since the UFW went public on its organizing campaign with its first 5 certifications, New York growers have fought against union recognition at every turn. Agricultural employers have retaliated against unionized workers, have interrupted union meetings, and have even sought to not recall pro-union workers. But worst of all has been the lawsuit from the New York growers that seeks nothing less than to strip the right to a union from all NY farm workers. The grower lawsuit argues that the H-2A visa precludes H-2A workers from being included under New York’s 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. This is despite the U.S. Department of Labor saying otherwise and legal precedent from other states showing this argument is frivolous.