Statement from Workers’ Center of Central New York on Governor Cuomo Signing Farmworker Rights Bill Today
New York, NY: Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act, a bill that gives farmworkers in New York State the right to form unions and other important protections for the first time. The law will go into effect January 1, 2020.
The following statement can be attributed to Crispin Hernandez, former dairy farm worker, main plaintiff in Hernandez v. State of New York, and organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York:
“These new protections for New York State farmworkers would not have become a reality without the steadfast solidarity and support from our beloved brother Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU Local 32BJ, who passed away last week. He stood with the Workers’ Center of Central New York for years as we fought to protect the rights of farmworkers in our state.
“We have the same determination to lift up farmworkers today that we had in 2015 when my coworker and I were fired from the dairy farm where we worked for organizing our colleagues and educating them about our rights. The lawsuit we filed resulted in a court ruling that it’s unconstitutional to exclude farmworkers from state law that protects other workers from retaliation for organizing. Now that those protections will be enshrined into law through the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act, we are ready to take the next step and call on our bosses to respect our right to form unions.
“Chobani, the biggest Greek yogurt company in New York State, recently announced a fair trade certification program for its suppliers. The farm I was fired from was part of a cooperative that supplies Chobani. It’s time for Chobani to show its commitment to fairness and to make sure that no other workers in its supply chain ever face retaliation for organizing. We are calling on Chobani to include respect for union organizing rights as part of the fair trade certification program.”
The Workers Center of Central New York in Syracuse has been working with dairy workers to organize for fair, safe and humane working conditions. Dairy production is essential to the economy of New York State yet workers, who are mostly immigrants, often labor under harsh and unjust conditions. For an overview, see our comprehensive 2017 report, “Milked: Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers in New York State. www.milkedny.org