Category Archives: Press Release

PRESS CONFERENCE: Farmworkers, advocates and local residents speak up for dignity and respect in front of Melrose Farms

Press contact: Rebecca Fuentes  (315) 657-6799 Workers’ Center of CNY
Farmworkers and advocates give a report to the community about the conditions at Melrose Farms. Enough is enough!
           On February 7, 2018 the town of Owasco ordered the owner of Melrose Farms, in the town of Owasco, to “cease and desist” the use and occupancy of the building where he had been providing housing to farmworkers and their families (see attachment for more information). Many people came together to support the families who then became homeless. It was a beautiful show of support for the farmworker community, as the families were assisted in finding housing, food and support while they found another job.
The farm was not only in violation of housing code enforcement, but also the Cayuga county health department found the farm did not obtained any permit to build a septic tank for the housing and that the waste was being discharged into the farm’s manure lagoon.
Even before many of us became aware of the inhumane housing conditions at Melrose, several workers had contacted the Workers’ Center of Central NY to complain about wage theft, as workers were not getting minimum wage or getting payed for all their hours.
On Tuesday, August 28, we are coming back to Melrose farm to give a community report about today’s working and housing conditions at this farm. We will share worker’s testimonies about current conditions at Melrose and demand action from local officials.

WHAT: Farmworkers and advocates present a report to the community about working and living conditions at Melrose Farms. Farmworkers will share their testimonies about working and living at Melrose Farm.

WHERE: Across the road from Melrose Farms, 3815 Melrose Rd. Auburn, NY 13021
WHEN: Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 11:00 am
 
WHY: Farmworkers deserve dignity and respect now!
Six months after Melrose Farm’s owner J. Tidd was ordered to cease and desist use and occupation of a building that was found unfit for human habitation, what has been done by the owner and the local authorities to correct the working and living conditions at this farm? We must speak up and continue the pressure so employers do the right thing. The safety and dignity of farmworkers as well as the environment, depends on it.
February, 2018

Press Release: NY State Fair Opens with Upstate Demand for Driver Licenses: Farm Workers, all Immigrants Need License Access Now

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, August 21st 2018

Press Contacts:

Rochester: Carly Fox, 585-500-9409, cfox@wjcny.org

Syracuse: Rebecca Fuentes, 3152185708, rfuentes@workerscentercny.org

Buffalo: Jennifer Connor, 716 550 9393 JFMFPress@gmail.com

NY State Fair Opens with Upstate Demand for Driver Licenses: Farm Workers, all Immigrants Need License Access Now

The State Fair largely celebrates New York’s Agricultural industry and the workers that hold up that industry would like to have freedom of movement and protection from being put in the deportation pipeline simply because they don’t have a NYS license. “Farmworkers, are an integral part of the motor that drives our state’s agriculture. says Luis Jimenez, president of the Agricultural Alliance in Western NY. “As a father raising U.S.-born children, I want them to have the same opportunities as others. If the police stop us, we might be deported just because we can’t show a license. My children are terrified every time we drive because it could mean we will be permanently separated.”

Advocates across the state say that New York should join the twelve other states for whom getting a driver’s licenses is only about driving and is not connected to immigration status. “New York should resume issuing licenses to all, and join the 12 other states that do.  It is a simple matter of safety for all who drive, and it will generate $57 million dollars a year for our state’s economy. It is common sense policy and the Rochester City Council is fully supportive of this measure.”  Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council Representative

License regulations can either be changed through two paths: Governor’s direct order, and through a change in the law. Assembly Bill 4050, first introduced in 2016, would make a standard license available, regardless of immigration status. The bill gained momentum during the 2017-2018 legislative session, with 34 Assembly Members signed on, including Pamela Hunter, Harry Bronson, Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and it was introduced in Senate as S? at the end of session. Nine Senators have signed on so far.

 

“Farms are really important in Western New York and form an integral part of New York’s identity and economy, and today, Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse stand together to say: we need New York’s elected officials to deliver on issues that are important to us” says …. The health of our upstate farms and cities are inseparable, and safe driving  for workers, by having access to a license, would drive the health of our region. Driving is not a privilege, it is a necessity to daily life, and both migrant farm workers who keep farms going as well as asylum seekers who bring new life to our cities need access to a license now.

 

“We are out here because we support freedom of movement for the workers who keep our agricultural industry alive through the sweat of their labor” said Carly Fox, Senior Worker Rights Advocate with the Rochester Worker Justice Center. “The State Fair is a moment to celebrate the contribution of Agriculture to New York State, however, for most of the workers in NY who pick our fruit and milk our cows, there are significant barriers to be able to get to the grocery store and buy food.”

Press Statement: Three Local Policies That Can Help Prevent Tragedies/Tres políticas locales que pueden ayudar a prevenir tragedias

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday June 1st, 2018

Press Contacts:
Yanira Rodríguez yrodrigu@syr.edu 315-744-0329
Sara Curtis sara.curtis.wjcny@gmail.com 585-447-2125

Syracuse, NY: Three Local Policies That Can Help Prevent Tragedies

1. Equal Access to Survivor Support Resources
While Selena’s death was senseless, it also represents a chilling reality here in the United States. Fifty-five percent of the women murdered in the U.S. are murdered by an intimate partner. Though it is difficult for many survivors and victims of domestic violence to access much needed resources and support, these difficulties are especially acute for immigrant farmworker women.

The current wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric and the aggressive detainment of immigrants directly contribute to the isolation and vulnerability of farmworker women who have limited financial resources and little to no access to the transportation needed to escape dangerous situations.

We point out the barriers while acknowledging the many great local resources for survivors of domestic violence:

Worker Justice Center of NY Domestic & Sexual Violence Project for Farm Worker Women 24-hour Crisis Hotlines – WNY (866)343-8808 & Hudson Valley Region (845)471-3033

Vera House, Inc. 24-hour Hotline (315)468-3260

The Victim Resource Center, Inc. 24-hour Hotline (866)343-8808

2. Driver’s Licenses Regardless of Immigration Status
One tangible way for farmworker women to access basic services and leave dangerous situations is the ability to obtain a driver’s license.

In twelve states, people can receive a driver’s license regardless of immigration status. Unfortunately, New York state is not one of these states, limiting the ability of undocumented workers to access necessities for themselves and their families. The Workers’ Center is collaborating with organizations across the state to make driver’s licenses available to all as part of the Green Light Campaign. New York once ensured equal access to a license but Governor Pataki caved to anti-immigrant sentiment in 2001. NY A10273, which has 28 co-sponsors in the New York Assembly, would allow the state to issue standard licenses to qualified state residents regardless of immigration status.

“Too often, our immigrant communities find themselves in precarious working conditions and/or violent environments,” said Fabiola Ortiz, an organizer with the New York Immigration Coalition and a Workers’ Center ally. “Having a driver’s license would increase the chances of reporting the crimes that immigrant women are victims of.”

“It’s not just a matter of freedom of movement, but of seeking justice. Driver’s licenses are not a privilege, but a necessity, and sometimes can make the difference between life and death,” said Ortiz.

3. Restrict ICE and Border Patrol
Anti-immigrant rhetoric from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the White House, conservative media, and white supremacists hide the fact that immigrants make communities safer. Every study to look at the relationship between violent crime and immigration has concluded that immigrants commit less violent crime than native born US citizens, and more immigrants in a community typically makes that community a safer place to live.

Yet, despite these incontrovertible facts, ICE is attempting to use Selena’s death as justification to further terrorize and criminalize hard-working families in the region.

Given that ICE’s actions make it less safe for farmworker women to receive the support and resources they deserve, it is unconscionable that field director Thomas Feely would use Selena’s death to further the myth of the criminal immigrant. As the “me too” movement has so clearly demonstrated within the past year, men who commit egregious acts of violence against women are found throughout many different spheres of society–including the state attorney’s office, the white house, and at Feely’s own agency. Hundreds of reports were recently released of ICE agents raping and assaulting women and children in their custody.

As Selena’s mother, Estela Hidalgo Calderon said, “We came to this country in search of safety and we never thought we’d find a demon. But there are demons in all places.”

Restricting ICE and border patrol when possible will help give undocumented workers equal access to basic rights and resources. Private companies like Greyhound should restrict border patrol from racial profiling on their buses. Cities and local law enforcement agencies should not collaborate with ICE or border patrol if they want to help keep immigrant communities safe.

Farmworker women need be able to access life-saving resources without fear that they themselves will be torn from their families, criminalized, detained, and/or violated in the process.

Resources:

Detained, Then Violated: 1,224 Complaints Reveal a Staggering Pattern of Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention. Half of Those Accused Worked for ICE.

ACLU Obtains Documents Showing Widespread Abuse of Child Immigrants in U.S. Custody

Green Light Campaign

Protesters call on Border Patrol to Stop Boarding Buses to Question Passengers

The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant

Special Report: The Criminalization of Immigrants in the United States

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PARA SU PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA
Viernes 1 de junio de 2018

Contactos de prensa:
Yanira Rodríguez yrodrigu@syr.edu 315-744-0329
Sara Curtis sara.curtis.wjcny@gmail.com 585-447-2125

Syracuse, NY: Tres políticas locales que pueden ayudar a prevenir tragedias

1. Igualdad de acceso a los recursos de apoyo de sobrevivientes. Al tiempo que la muerte de Selena no tuvo sentido, su muerte representa una realidad inquietante aquí en los Estados Unidos. El cincuenta y cinco por ciento de las mujeres asesinadas en los EE.UU son asesinadas por un compañero íntimo. Aunque es difícil para muchos sobrevivientes y víctimas de violencia doméstica acceder a recursos y apoyo muy necesarios, estas dificultades son especialmente graves para las mujeres trabajadoras agrícolas que son inmigrantes.

La propagación actual de narrativa anti-inmigrante y la detención agresiva de inmigrantes contribuyen directamente al aislamiento y la vulnerabilidad de las mujeres trabajadoras agrícolas que tienen recursos financieros limitados, y poco o ningún acceso a transporte necesario para escapar de situaciones peligrosas.

Señalamos los obstáculos al tiempo que reconocemos que hay muchos y excelentes recursos locales para sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica:

Worker Justice Center of NY Domestic & Sexual Violence Project for Farm Worker Women 24-hour Crisis Hotlines – WNY (866)343-8808 & Hudson Valley Region (845)471-3033

Vera House, Inc. 24-hour Hotline (315)468-3260

The Victim Resource Center, Inc. 24-hour Hotline (866)343-8808

2. Licencias de conducir independientemente del estado migratorio.
La capacidad de conseguir una licencia de conducir es una forma concreta para que las mujeres trabajadoras agrícolas accedan a los servicios básicos y salgan de situaciones peligrosas.

Actualmente, en doce estados, se puede recibir una licencia de conducir independientemente de su estado migratorio. Desafortunadamente, Nueva York no es uno de estos estados, lo que limita la capacidad de los trabajadores indocumentados para acceder a las necesidades para ellos mismos y sus familias. El Centro de Trabajadores está colaborando con organizaciones de todo el estado para que las licencias de conducir estén disponibles para todos como parte de Luz Verde NY Manejando Juntos.

A pesar de que Nueva York aseguró el acceso equitativo de las licencias, el gobernador Pataki cedió al sentimiento antiinmigrante en 2001. Ahora, NY A10273, que lleva 28 co- patrocinadores en la Asamblea de Nueva York, permitiría al estado para emitir licencias estándar a residentes estatales calificados, independientemente de su estado migratorio.

“Con demasiada frecuencia, nuestras comunidades de inmigrantes se encuentran en condiciones de trabajo precarias y / o entornos violentos,” dijo Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, organizadora de la Coalición de Inmigración de Nueva York y aliada del Centro de Trabajadores. “Tener una licencia de conducir aumentaría las posibilidades de denunciar los crímenes de los que son víctimas las mujeres inmigrantes.”

“No es solo una cuestión de libertad de movimiento, sino de buscar justicia. Las licencias de conducir no son un privilegio, sino una necesidad, y en ocasiones pueden marcar la diferencia entre la vida y la muerte. ” dijo Ortiz Valdez.

3. Restringir el ICE y la Patrulla Fronteriza
La retórica antiinmigrante de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE), la Casa Blanca, los medios conservadores y los supremacistas blancos ocultan el hecho de que los inmigrantes hacen que las comunidades sean más seguras. Cada estudio que analiza la relación entre el crimen violento y la inmigración ha concluido que los inmigrantes cometen menos crímenes violentos que los ciudadanos nativos de los EE.UU, y que más inmigrantes en una comunidad suelen hacer de esa comunidad un lugar más seguro para vivir.

A pesar de estos hechos incontrovertibles, ICE está intentando usar la muerte de Selena como justificación para aterrorizar y criminalizar aún más a las familias trabajadoras en la región.

Dado que las acciones de ICE hacen que sea menos seguro para las mujeres trabajadoras agrícolas recibir el apoyo y los recursos que merecen, es inconcebible que el director regional Thomas Feely usará la muerte de Selena para promover el mito del inmigrante criminal. Como el movimiento “yo también” ha demostrado tan claramente el año pasado, los hombres que cometen actos atroces de violencia contra las mujeres se encuentran en muchas esferas diferentes de la sociedad, incluida la fiscalía estatal, la casa blanca y la agencia de Feely. Cientos de informes fueron liberados recientemente por agentes de ICE que violaron y agredieron a mujeres y niños bajo su custodia.

Como madre de Selena, Estela Hidalgo Calderón dijo: “Vinimos a este país en busca de seguridad y nunca pensamos que íbamos a encontrar un demonio. Pero hay demonios en todos los lugares “.

Restringir a ICE y patrullaje fronterizo cuando sea posible ayudará a dar a los trabajadores indocumentados el mismo acceso a los derechos y recursos básicos. Las compañías privadas como Greyhound deberían restringir la patrulla fronteriza de perfiles raciales en sus autobuses. Las ciudades y las agencias locales de aplicación de la ley no deberían colaborar con el ICE o la patrulla fronteriza si desean ayudar a mantener seguras a las comunidades de inmigrantes.

Las mujeres trabajadoras agrícolas deben poder acceder a los recursos que salvan vidas sin temor a que ellas mismas sean arrancadas de sus familias, criminalizadas, detenidas y / o violadas en el proceso.

Recursos:

Detained, Then Violated: 1,224 Complaints Reveal a Staggering Pattern of Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention. Half of Those Accused Worked for ICE.

ACLU Obtains Documents Showing Widespread Abuse of Child Immigrants in U.S. Custody

Green Light Campaign

Protesters call on Border Patrol to Stop Boarding Buses to Question Passengers

The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant

Special Report: The Criminalization of Immigrants in the United States

We Will Keep Pushing To Be Treated Like Human Beings!

Worker’s Center of CNY – Contact: Rebecca Fuentes 315.657.6799 rfuentes@workerscentercny.org

Worker Justice Center of NY – Contact: Carly Fox 518.500.9409    cfox@wjcny.org

 

Court Rules Against Organizing Rights for Farmworkers, Advocates Plan Appeal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 16, 2018 – The Albany County Supreme Court today dismissed a challenge to a Jim Crow-era state law that denies farmworkers the right to organize without fear of retaliation. 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, plan to appeal the decision.

Under the New York Constitution, all workers have a right to organize and collectively bargain. Yet a more than 80-year-old law known as the Employment Relations Act includes a carve-out from these protections for farmworkers. The law reflects the segregationist politics of the Depression Era during which it was passed, when farmworkers were predominantly black.

Plaintiff Crispin Hernandez was fired from one of New York’s largest dairies, Marks Farms LLC in Lowville, after his employer saw him meeting with coworkers and an organizer to discuss workplace conditions. The meeting took place after work hours and in a worker’s personal residence. Hernandez had been working 12-hour shifts six days a week at Mark’s Farms since he was a teenager, but he lost both his job and his home.

When the plaintiffs filed suit in May of 2016, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman publicly agreed that the excluding farmworkers from the right to organize conflicts with the state constitution. Both declined to defend the lawsuit in court. In response, the New York Farm Bureau requested that the court allow it to intervene to defend the law as a party in the case. The plaintiffs and the NYCLU did not object to the Farm Bureau’s motion to intervene, allowing the matter to be resolved in the state courts.

“I am disappointed with today’s decision, but we will continue fighting for a victory,” said plaintiff Crispin Hernandez. “With the help of God and all of our supporters, we will change the conditions that we deal with as farmworkers and we will keep pushing to be treated like human beings.”

“It’s a shame that the judge has decided to continue the Jim Crow era exclusion of Farmworkers from the protected right to organize,” said Rebecca Fuentes, lead organizer at the Workers’ Center of Central New York, a plaintiff in the case. “Today’s decision is a slap in the face for workers like Crispin Hernandez who have to live under threat and intimidation from employers and law enforcement.”

Farming is a multi-billion-dollar industry in New York, yet farmworkers often earn wages well below the poverty level. Many live in overcrowded labor camps with sweatshop-like conditions, contending with infestations of rats, cockroaches and bed bugs, and no regular access to transportation. Farmworkers are excluded from workplace protections afforded to nearly all other workers, including a day of rest, overtime pay, disability insurance and the right to organize without retaliation.

Farmworkers operate dangerous machinery at grueling rates and use toxic chemicals, often without enough training. Their fatality rate is 20 times that of the average worker in New York. Some report working 95 hours a week. Most are racial minorities who do not speak English, and as many as 75 percent are undocumented, a fact supervisors use to intimidate them into silence.

“While we are disappointed with Judge McNally’s ruling today, we are steadfast in our resolve to continue our fight through the courts,” said Carly Fox, senior worker Rights Advocate at the Worker Justice Center of New York, a plaintiff in the case. “We know that, ultimately, we stand on the side of justice and we won’t stop until we win, simply because the workers we serve are depending on it. When we are out in the field, hearing from farmworkers about the dangerous conditions on farms, depressed wages, grueling hours and unsanitary and sub-standard employer-provided housing, we know that the best resource workers have is their unity. The Worker Justice Center of New York will fight for equality for farmworkers until it is won.”

“Because of an outdated law, the people we rely on for the food in our kitchens are condemned to poverty, abuse and even death,” said NYCLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel on the case Erin Beth Harrist. “We will appeal this ruling and continue to fight this law, which violates our constitution and our state’s commitment to human rights.”

“We will not rest until farmworkers are free to organize and have a voice in their working conditions,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Today’s decision will not deter us from making sure that farmworkers enjoy the same basic rights as every other hardworking New Yorker.”

In addition to Harrist, NYCLU staff on the case include Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg, associate legal director Christopher Dunn, staff attorney Jordan Wells, staff attorney Aadhithi Padmanabhan, and paralegal Andrea Barrientos.