Friday, August 24, 2018

Farm Worker Update: Organizing in NY, Protesting in WA

Farm workers in upstate New York constantly face hurdles in their efforts to organize. As reported in an important article from Documented, the workers, who tend to be immigrants, are currently suing to have the state include them in labor protections afforded other workers. But if some industry groups have their way, these farm employees will eventually be replaced by guest workers. Much of the state’s farming is in dairy, and there’s a lot of pressure to have the H-2A program extended so that dairy farmers can take advantage of it. David Bacon’s recent article in The American Prospect describes some of the abuses H-2A guest workers are subjected to, in this case by farm owners in Washington state.

New York’s diary farmers and others are in fact suffering economically, but it’s not because their workers are getting paid too much or have an excess of labor rights. The causes, according to the New York Times, are global warming, Trump’s tariffs, and a shortage of immigrant workers intimidated by the threat of ICE raids.—TPOI editor

Farmworkers Struggle to Unionize in New York. Crispin Hernandez May Change That
Crispin Hernandez and the NYCLU are taking on the New York Farm Bureau

By Clara McMichael, Documented
August 17, 2018
Crispin Hernandez doesn’t want to talk about his personal life. He’s originally from Mexico. He’s 23. Everyone asks him about his favorite food, he says, but he doesn’t want to talk about that either, because you can’t find it here in New York.

What he does want to talk about is the potentially groundbreaking court case that has dominated his life for the past two years. Hernandez is fighting the New York Farm Bureau, which represents agricultural interests, to win the right for farmworkers to organize for collective bargaining without retaliation. State Supreme Court Judge Richard J. McNally, Jr. dismissed his case at the state Supreme Court in Albany in January, but the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents Hernandez, has appealed the judgment.[…]

Read the full article:

August 5 farm worker protest in Washington state. Photo: David Bacon
What Was the Life of This Guest Worker Worth?
While Washington state agencies reduce farmworker pay and find employers faultless for a death in the fields, Trump and congressional Republicans back proposals to turn farmworking into permanent indentured servitude.

By David Bacon, American Prospect
August 15, 2018
On Sunday, August 5, a group of 200 farmworkers and supporters began walking at sunrise along the shoulder of Benson Road, heading north from Lynden, Washington, toward Canada. When they reached O Road, the marchers turned right to walk along the border. Unlike the frontier with Mexico, with its walls, floodlights, and patrols, the border line here is no line at all—simply a road on each side of a weed-choked median.

The procession, chanting and holding banners, passed a succession of blueberry fields for the next 14 miles, finally reaching the official border crossing at Sumas. Pausing for a protest in front of the local immigrant detention center, it then continued on until it reached its objective one mile further on—the 1,500-acre spread of Sarbanand Farms. There, in front of the ranch’s packing and warehouse facilities, participants staged a tribunal.[…]

Read the full article:

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