Court rules New York farmworkers have the right to unionize

Court rules New York farmworkers have the right to unionize

An appeals court ruled a New York state law barring farm workers from unionizing and collective bargaining is a violation of the state constitution, according to the New York Law Journal.

The panel ruled the state cannot exclude farmworkers from a state constitutional amendment enshrining workers’ rights to form a union. The New York Farm Bureau had argued the state constitution explicitly disallowed farmworkers organizing.

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“We believe that the majority’s conclusion is unsupportable and disregards decades of precedent,” said David Fisher, president of the Farm Bureau. “New York Farm Bureau fully intends to appeal the court’s ill-conceived ruling.”

Former farmworker Crispin Hernandez joined the Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York, as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), to file the lawsuit three years ago. The office of state Attorney General Letitia James (D) opted not to defend the constitutionality of the law, arguing along with the plaintiffs that it should be shut down.

“The court’s ruling today was unequivocal that denying farmworkers basic labor rights is flat-out unconstitutional, and farmworkers, like other workers, have the right to organize,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of NYCLU. “The workers on whom we depend for the food on our tables have the right to be treated humanely and with dignity, like any other hardworking New Yorker.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also hailed the ruling and urged the state legislature to pass a bill that would enshrine farmworkers’ right to unionize into state law, according to the publication.

“This is a victory for some of the most vulnerable members of New York’s workforce,” Cuomo said. “From the beginning, we chose not to defend against this lawsuit because farmworkers never should have been denied the same basic rights as other workers and we believed this to not only be morally wrong, but also unconstitutional.”