The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this week challenging a state law forbidding farm workers from organizing.
Per the Daily Freeman, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a farm worker that was fired from a dairy farm after he was seen speaking with other workers to discuss working conditions. The suit alleges workers at the farm worked long hours in dangerous conditions and were physically abused by their employers.
According to Rueters, the suit contends about 75 percent of New York’s farmworkers are not U.S. citizens. The suit further alleges that many of the farm workers speak only Spanish and live in “rented farm-owned housing comparable to labor camps.”
Per the New York Law Journal, New York’s state constitution is at issue as it guarantees workers the right to organize without fear of retaliation, but specifically exempts farm workers.
The New York Farm Bureau contends that allowing labor organizing on farms could have negative repercussions and told the Journal, “The right to organize is a labor union tactic that may work in a factory setting, but not on a farm. For a farm to lose employees to an untimely walk-off of the job could jeopardize a season’s crop and place livestock health at risk.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo was also named in the suit, but said his administration will not defend the state law in court. A bill eliminating the exception for farm workers is pending before the New York legislature.