Category Archives: Farmworkers

Our fight for the protected right to organize continues!

May 10, 2016 Filling of lawsuit in Albany NY

June 19, 2018 ALBANY NY– Plaintiffs Crispin Hernandez, the Workers’ Center of Central New York, and the Worker Justice Center of New York, who are represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, filed an appeal late Monday in a case challenging a Jim Crow-era New York law that denies farmworkers the right to organize without fear of retaliation. The lawsuit challenges the exclusion of farmworkers from the State Employment Relations Act, which protects the labor rights of virtually all other private sector workers.
Crispin Hernandez was fired from one of New York’s largest dairies,
Marks Farms LLC in Lowville, after his employer saw him meeting with co-workers and an organizer to discuss workplace conditions, even though it was after work hours and in a worker’s home. Hernandez, who had been working 12-hour shifts for six days a week at Mark’s Farms since he was a teenager, lost his job and his home. He filed suit with the support of the two worker centers and the NYCLU to ensure that farmworkers across New York have the same rights as all other workers.
“Today is an important day for farmworkers who have been fighting to be treated justly. Without farmworkers and our labor, New Yorkers wouldn’t have fruits or vegetables to put on their dinner table,” said Mr. Hernandez. “We deserve to be treated like human beings, without fear of retaliation.”
In January, the Albany County Supreme Court granted a motion to dismiss the case. Mr. Hernandez and the two workers centers contend to the appellate division of the Third Department that the exclusion of farmworkers violates the rights to organize, equal protection and due process under the New York Constitution.
“Farmworkers make essential contributions to New York State and to all of our lives. Their labor produces the food, nutrition, and money that sustain our economy and our communities,” said Rebecca Fuentes, lead organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York. “It’s a shame the state excludes them from one of our most important protections: the right to collectively bargain without fear.”
Unlike other workers in New York State, farmworkers have long been excluded from the right to organize for better pay, benefits and workplace conditions without fear of retaliation. The State Employment Relations Act, passed in 1937, incorporated the federal New Deal Era-protections for workers into state law. However, in doing so, the state law created a carve-out for farmworkers, the majority of whom were black at the time, that legislators used as a compromise to get the votes of segregationist members of Congress. This exclusion now applies to farmworkers in New York today, who are, for the most part, immigrant workers. This lawsuit seeks to eliminate that carve-out and grant farmworkers the same rights as other workers to advocate for themselves in the workplace.
“Farmworkers whom we depend on to put food on our tables deserve to be treated humanely and with dignity like any other hardworking New Yorker,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “New York must end this outdated, racist policy from the Jim Crow-era, and treat farmworkers fairly and equally.”
Even though farming in New York is a multi-billion dollar industry, farmworkers often earn wages well below the poverty level, and many live in overcrowded labor camps and toil under sweatshop-like conditions. The combination of poverty, isolation, and lack of permanent legal status and language access makes farmworkers among the most exploited groups in the American labor force.
“There is simply no justification for depriving farmworkers of the basic right to organize,” said Carly Fox, an advocate with the Workers Justice Center of New York. “For many decades, each time farmworkers and their allies have advocated for much-needed changes to laws governing their labor rights, the Farm Bureau has used its power and influence to lobby New York lawmakers to preserve the status quo and leave farmworkers in a position of vulnerability. Justice is clearly on the side of the farmworkers, and we will keep fighting until we win full equal rights.”
When the plaintiffs initially filed suit in May of 2016, both the Governor Andrew Cuomo and then Attorney General Eric Schneiderman publicly agreed that excluding farmworkers from the right to organize conflicts with the state constitution. Both declined to defend the lawsuit in court. However, the New York Farm Bureau requested that the court allow it to intervene to defend the law as a party in the case. In January, the State Supreme Court dismissed the case, in a brief opinion that offered little analysis of the core arguments.
“The court ruled that farmworkers do not have a constitutional right to organize, despite the very clear language in the New York Constitution giving all employees the right to organize,” said Erin Beth Harrist, lead counsel and senior staff attorney at the NYCLU. “Allowing this racist exclusion that continues to leave farmworkers unprotected in New York goes against our values and our laws.”
The New York State Attorney General’s office and the New York Farm Bureau are expected to file briefs regarding the appeal in the coming weeks.

Marks Farms fined after fatality

Marks Farms in Lowville NY has been fined nearly $25,000 after a worker died there last November.

On December of 2017 we wrote an op ed to bring attention to the history of disregard for worker’s health and safety and violations of other workers rights at this farm.

The fine it’s in connection with the death of 32 year old Ryan Ouellette. He died while working on Marks Farms just outside Lowville.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, cited the farm for 3 serious violations involving the safe operation and guarding of farm machinery and fined it nearly $25,000.

We demand that Marks Farms is not given any chance to reduce the fines (a common practice known as the “OSHA discount”) and that immediately eliminate any dangerous conditions and provide training and workplace protections to all workers to prevent more fatalities and injustices. All workers deserve safe and healthy conditions to make sure they come back to their families after work.

Another tragedy at Marks Dairy Farm in Lowville, NY

http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news04/marks-farms-worker-dies-from-injuries-suffered-in-farm-accident-20171120

*Press Release* Local Immigrant Advocates Applaud Governor Cuomo Press Conference on ICE Raids, Call for More Support to Local Groups on the Frontlines

Local Immigrant Advocates Applaud Governor Cuomo Press Conference on ICE Raids–Call for More Support to Local Groups on the Frontlines  

CONTACT INFORMATION: Rebecca Fuentes, organizer with the WCCNY‭,  rfuentes@workerscentercny.org (315) 657-6799‬

Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, organizer with the New York Immigration Coalition, fortiz@nyic.org (718) 514-6265

April 25, 2018, Syracuse, NY – On April 18, 2018, organizers from the Workers’ Center of CNY received a frantic call from a dairy farmer, John Collins, stating that just minutes before he had witnessed an unlawful arrest of his employee, Marcial De Leon Aguilar. Mr. Collins recounted how at least seven officers dressed in civilian clothes came to his farm without a warrant and physically assaulted and arrested Mr. De Leon Aguilar in front of his small children, as well as assaulting Mr. Collins and destroying his property.

Today, Governor Cuomo held a press conference condemning the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that took place in Rome, NY. We are thrilled that Governor Cuomo is ready to commit resources to fight the aggressions of ICE in upstate NY. Advocates and community members in Syracuse share the Governor’s outrage. We support the Governor in taking necessary steps to ensure that our immigrant communities are safe, such as his proposed executive order that bars ICE from entering NY State facilities without a warrant.

Peter Swords, a social worker and member of the Syracuse Peace Council states: “These actions send a message of affirmation to all that NY State continues its historic welcome of immigrants and refugees.  It particularly reassures families with children that they have some protection against arbitrary traumatic removal of their parents, and that families will feel safer about entering courts, schools, and hospitals, so they will keep their rights to self-determination in the important areas of housing, education and employment.”

We believe the Governor can even more effectively protect immigrant rights and public safety by reaching out to the local organizations who are documenting and responding first to these incidents for their policy and action suggestions. We urge all NYS Legislators and the Governor to support the campaign Green Light NY Driving Together to expand access to driver’s licenses, including to undocumented immigrants. In addition, these groups are highly under-resourced for their work. We strongly encourage targeting funding to these frontline grassroots organizations to ensure that immigrant needs are being met as effectively as possible.

Sheila Sicilia, a member of the Immigrant and Refugee Defense Network said: “The IRDN and the Workers’ Center, along with other community groups, have been fighting for human rights against the abuses of ICE and CBP.  We thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing and speaking out about this growing problem, and welcome him and the resources that he can provide.”

Kayla Kelechian, an organizer with the Workers’ Center of NY said in a statement: “The fear that plagues this community is reinforced by the use of illegal raids and physically aggressive tactics by ICE and the federal government. Both ICE and the Federal government under the Trump administration violated the rights of New Yorkers. In this case, citizenship did not matter–lawful citizens and immigrants are both affected. We must recognize the organizations and the resources they provide, regardless of their capacity, to advocate for the directly-affected, and the families who are left devastated. They continue to be our greatest asset in response to these difficult times.”

Local Immigrant Advocates Applaud Governor Cuomo Press Conference on ICE Raids

Farmworker Solidarity Housing Meeting 2/25

This Sunday 2/25, we are going to have a meeting with worker leaders and we would also like to invite you all to discuss and a plan an event we are doing on March 8th in honor of the International Women’s Day. We would like to do a panel with some of our amazing women worker leaders to talk about the organizing we have been doing to protect and defend immigrants and farmworkers and we specifically want to highlight just how crucial and important it has been to have Slocum House as a resource to support that organizing. We will also share some updates with you all about Slocum and the local sanctuary coalition The meeting will be from 3-5 on Sunday at the Workers’ Center and there will be food, but bring a dish if you’d like. Please email Nikeeta Slade nslade@workerscentercny.org to let me know if you are able to attend the meeting. Thanks and look forward to seeing you all soon.

Rally for Dignified Living and Working Conditions!!!

Thanks so much for the outpouring of support. We are very happy to report that many Auburn community members in general and members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church have mobilized to provide the families with housing and financial. If you would like to support the family and find out what else they need, please contact the pastor Patrick Heery at pastor@westminsterauburn.org. Thanks so much to them and to so many of you for reaching out to your networks and working quickly to help provide support and solidarity with the families.  We invite you to join us in an action tomorrow at the farm to highlight the unjust and undiginified living and housing conditions and to demand justice.

Join us at the action tomorrow:

Rally for Dignified Living and Working Conditions
Friday, February 16th at 10:15am
3815 Melrose Road Auburn, NY 13021

Some of us will be leaving from the center at 9:00am to arrive a little earlier so if you would like to carpool with us, if you have any questions, or if you will be attending (even if you have your own transportation) please email Nikeeta at nslade@workerscny.org.  

Thank you all again so much for all of the support and solidarity!

WCCNY

EMERGENCY ALERT: Evicted Farmworkers Need Housing in Auburn ASAP!

Hello friends,

Two families who worked and lived at Melrose Farm in Auburn New York are in need of housing. They lost their employer provided housing because it was in such a horrific, dangerous, and in uninhabitable state, that code enforcement just condemned it, leaving 5 children and two mothers without a place to live. The employer has received numerous warnings and requests from code enforcement and from workers to address the housing and unfortunately, rather than do so, he has chosen to be negligent which has forced the families into homelessness. The employer has told workers to stop inviting and speaking to two ESL teachers who have been supporting them with the housing and raising the fact that the workers are being sub minimum wages which is of course illegal. This violates the opinion and guidelines from the Attorney General’s office that says that farmworkers are permitted to have visitors as they choose. Essentially, the employer wants workers to not be empowered to know their rights and to take action to address the injustices on the farm.

We are reaching out to you all to see if you could reach out to your networks in Auburn to see if there are community members that could provide emergency housing for the 5 children and, 2 mothers. The fathers have found work in Auburn, and their new job provides housing for them, but not for their families. Also, the children have just enrolled in school, so to make sure their education and lives are not interrupted, the families need to stay in Auburn.

In addition to the housing needs, we are also in the process of planning an action today (or at the latest tomorrow) to hold the employer accountable and to get justice for the workers who have lost their housing so please be on stand by. We will send out details very soon.

If you have any leads on housing please email Nikeeta at nslade@workerscentercny.org.

Thanks for your solidarity and support.

Farmworker and Immigrants Rights News

Read Farmworker Justice’s press release about Congressman Goodlatte’s introduction of a devastating bill to expand the H2A guest worker program to year round workers which would include dairy workers.

Monthly Greenlight Coalition Call 10/25

Wednesday, October 25 at 11:00am we will have our monthly coalition call. The call is conducted in English. We will report back from the consejo retreat and talk about next year.

El miércoles 25 de octubre a las 11:00am se llevará acabo la llamada mensual de la colación.  La llamada es en inglés.  Vamos a dar un informe del retiro del consejo y hablar del año que viene.

To join with video from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/908728614
Or Telephone:
    Dial: +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) or +1 646 876 9923 (US Toll)
    Meeting ID: 908 728 614

Como conectarse:

1. Llamar al  +1 646 558 86562.  Marcar clave “908 728 614#”
3. Marcar el signo numeral “#” de nuevo
O para conectarse con video: https://zoom.us/j/908728614

Green Light NY Driving Together : Luz Verde NY Manejando Juntos 10/15

Central and Western NY were presente yesterday at the Green Light NY: Driving Together campaign’s retreat where we learned together and established our goals for the next year.
El Centro y el oeste de NY estuvieron presentes el día de ayer en el retiro de nuestra campaña para ganar licencias de manejar en NY “Luz Verde NY: Manejando Juntos” donde nos preparamos juntos y establecimos metas para el próximo año. Sí se Puede!

Syracuse Rapid Response Team Meeting 10/12

The Syracuse Rapid Response Team will be meeting at the Worker’s Center Thursday, October 12 at 6:30pm.

At the end of September, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted ruthless raids over the course of 4 days, which resulted in over 500 immigrants being rounded up. This specific raid–disgustingly called “Operation Safe Cities”– was specifically targeted towards sanctuary cities. The Trump Administration’s unrelenting attacks on immigrants demonstrates the importance of our Rapid Response Team. Please join us at the next meeting this Thursday. Becoming a member of the Syracuse Rapid Response team is a concrete way you can be in solidarity with immigrant members of our community. Come to the meeting and a bring a friend!