New York judge rejects farm worker collective bargaining suit


A New York judge has thrown out a lawsuit that sought collective bargaining rights for farm workers.

“New York Farm Bureau learned today that Judge Richard McNally has granted our organization’s request to dismiss the New York Civil Liberties Union’s baseless lawsuit that sought to create collective bargaining rights for farm workers. The Court’s decision is a major victory for New York’s family farms. New York Farm Bureau argued in State Supreme Court in Albany, NY last July that our system of government requires that the legislature change state law, not the courts. The Court agreed.

In his decision, Judge McNally wrote, “…the plaintiffs and the State have not demonstrated that the Labor Law statues are racially discriminatory or that farm workers are a suspect class entitled to constitutional protections. Any changes to the SERA (State Employee Relations Act) should emanate with the New York State Legislature as ‘the legislative power of this state shall be vested in the senate and the assembly.’”

The court previously granted New York Farm Bureau intervenor status in the lawsuit. Our organization petitioned the court in 2016 to become a defendant only after the Governor and Attorney General refused to uphold and defend the State Labor Relations Act from the lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

New York Farm Bureau has long opposed farm worker collective bargaining for one simple reason. Farms do not have a standard eight-hour workday. Last year’s growing season demonstrated that. Weeks of heavy rains followed by shorter bouts of sunshine forced farmers and their employees to squeeze in weeks of work into just a few dry days. Work never stops inside the barn. For instance, cows need to be fed and milked multiple times every day. A farm worker strike or confining work agreements could jeopardize a crop or the health of an animal. Everyone who works in farming understands this, including farm workers. Farmers have great respect for the people who they employ, and this court victory does not diminish that. They value their employees’ commitment, work ethic, and the partnership it takes to get the job done on the farm.

New York Farm Bureau has represented farmers for more than a century, and today’s ruling will go down as another defining moment in Farm Bureau’s long history. New York Farm Bureau will always stand up for our members, either in court or at the Capitol, to ensure that their rights are protected and their voices are heard,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.

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