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Leaders in the agriculture community say the rights of farmworkers in New York are at stake.

Farmworkers’ right to collective bargaining was put in place in 2019, when the state passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (FLFLPA). However, last fall the Grow NY Farms Coalition filed a motion against it claiming, under New York’s current farm labor collective bargaining law, farmworkers do not have the same rights as all other private sector workers in NYS.

The argument is that under the act, farmworkers are not given the right to a secret ballot election, and farmworkers do not have the right to choose to no longer be represented or to decertify.

“It’s just getting started here in New York state, there are very few farm unions, why not get it right the first time,” said David Zittel, who owns Amos Zittel & Sons.

Zittel says he’s not against his employees unionizing, but wants to make sure it’s done correctly.

“I do understand that there is a process, a need for unions and certain circumstances. It’s not about being right or wrong or good or bad or for me or not for me. If our workers decided they needed a union representative or to represent them, we’re ok with that, we just want it to be safe for them,” he said.

Members of New York’s agriculture community are advocating for amendments and improvements to the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act ensure farmworkers’ rights are protected.

Some argue the motion is preventing farmworkers from unionizing.

“What they’ve done, is they’ve frozen the law,” a union representative said during a rally downtown. “Our negotiations have been frozen and all the bargaining units we have won so far. So they have caused irreparable harm already.”

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered downtown ahead of a preliminary Injunction hearing. The hearing was scheduled to address the concerns of farmworkers and farmers.

“Whether you’re a farmworker, a nurse, a trades or a barista, we are here to improve the lives and increase the power of working families. To bring fairness and dignity to the workplace and secure social equity,” said Peter DeJesus, who is the president of the WNY Area Labor Federation.

“While progress was made, our efforts to protect farmworkers’ rights have been delayed. We will continue to advocate for fairness for farmworkers in New York State,” said Brian Reeves, president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association. “Farmworkers deserve the same rights as everyone else. By making the amendments and improvements to the FLFLPA that New York’s agriculture community is seeking, farmworkers will finally have the same collective bargaining right as all other private sector workers.”

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