UFW expects mediation or arbitration will produce fair union contracts for hundreds of apple and vegetable workers
Wafler Farms Inc. is the latest of five New York State growers ordered into mediation for union contracts after hundreds of farm workers at Wafler and other farms voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers. The apple producer in the Wayne County town of Wolcott, N.Y. was obligated to negotiate when the union was certified as the workers’ bargaining representative on May 11 by the state Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).
Under New York’s landmark 2019 Farm Laborers’ Fair Practices Act, if no contract results within 40 days after the union is certified, either party can request mediation. On August 29, the PERB board declared an impasse in bargaining at Wafler Farms and appointed a neutral mediator to set up mediation sessions. If mediation fails to produce a union agreement, then either party can request binding arbitration, where a neutral arbitrator hammers out a union contract over the outstanding issues.
“It is outrageous that Wafler Farms is ignoring the democratic expression of its workers’ desire to have a union by thus far refusing to negotiate in good faith,” said UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes. “Worse, Wafler seeks to deny most of its workers—who are H-2A temporary foreign workers—any right to have a union.”
Wafler’s arguments to exclude temporary foreign workers from the union contract talks were soundly rejected in a 29-page ruling issued on May 11 by Sarah G. Coleman, PERB’s acting director for private employment practices and representation. Similar claims by other growers attempting to deny H-2A workers union representation were also turned down.
Farm workers at all five companies voted for the UFW by signing cards declaring they wish to be represented by the union. Wafler leveled unsubstantiated charges of fraud in the signing of the cards, an argument PERB’s Sarah Coleman also dismissed.
“We welcome the assignment of a mediator at Wafler Farms,” the UFW’s Elenes added. “If mediation at Wafler or any of the other four New York farms is not successful, we anticipate the workers winning the protections of union contracts through binding arbitration.”
The other four companies where workers voted for the UFW are:
—Porpiglia Farms apple company in the Hudson Valley town of Marlboro, N.Y.
—Cahoon Farms apple ranch, in Wolcott, Wayne County, east of Rochester
—A&J Kirby Farms apple firm in Albion, N.Y., west of Rochester
—Lynn-ette & Sons Farms Inc., a vegetable company in Kent, N.Y. also west of Rochester