We sued the state of NY because the exclusion of farmworkers from basic labor rights and protections like the right to organize, overtime pay and a day off are a violation of their Human Rights.
We sued because organizations like ours can’t do their job of bringing education and important services to workers who live isolated and who lack transportation when employers threaten workers and representatives of organizations with the police and fire workers just for meeting with us.
We sued the state of New York because workers like Crispin Hernandez and many others should be able to have a life after work and meet with anyone they like to speak about how to improve their working conditions. They deserve to live with dignity and respect.
We also sued because Article I: Bill of Rights of the NY Constitution states:
“Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.)
We are very grateful to all of the workers and the community who have supported our fight for workers rights. The WCCNY is out there in the farms of NY visiting workers to bring education and resources as they live in the rural areas without access to transportation and community support. We have been doing education, talking about workplace health and safety and what to do when employers do not respect your rights. You may remember how we helped organize a protest when a worker was violently fired from Marks Farms. Later the owners at Marks Farms intimidated workers, even calling the police when the workers were speaking to each other about the harsh working conditions at the farm. Finally on September of last year the owners fired Crispin and Saul, just because they decided to speak to their co-workers, outside of work time, about their right to receive visitors. Many friends of the WCCNY helped to get the word out about this injustices, as Saul and Crispin lost their jobs and their housing. We came together to give them support and we continue to talk to many workers, not only from Marks Farms but from so many other farms where they were not getting paid all their wages, or the employers didn’t give them their last paycheck, or didn’t pay minimum wage. We get calls from workers telling us they are tired of working 16 hour shifts and living in deplorable housing but they are afraid to speak up. When they try to get together just to speak about what they want to their employer they get intimidated or worst, fired, like Saul and Crispin. Over and over we hear “no es justo” it is not just. That is why we filled the lawsuit, to say BASTA. The Bill of Rights in the NY Constitution says in its article 1, section 17:
Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; amended by vote of the people November 6, 2001.)
But the state’s entity that protects this constitution right, the state labor relations board (today, under PERV) excludes farmworkers. It is time to correct this and make history in NY! Workers should not be afraid to lose their jobs if they ask for gloves to protect themselves while working in unsanitary conditions and handling chemicals, or because they receive visitors in their house or because they are asking for safe working conditions.
There are too many fatalities and injuries in the farms of NY, too many injustices, too many indignities, but also too many workers speaking up, like Antonio, and Crispin who continue a tradition of getting together to empower each other, to be strong and speak the truth.