"Rights ripe for the picking"

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Today’s editorial in the NYC “Daily News” highlights our workers’ center organizing efforts to improve the working conditions for Farmworkers in NY.

New York Daily News Editorials,

Monday September 5, 2016

Another Labor Day, another full day of labor for New York’s 100,000 farm workers, who toil on holidays. Alone among workers, they are also denied overtime pay, extra pay for holidays and an unpaid day off per week.

Most egregious of all, they are denied the right to organize and bargain collectively that is explicitly safeguarded in the state Constitution.
After decades of attempts to right the wrong, there’s light breaking through the clouds: This may be the last Labor Day that the people who feed us are without the freedom to band together in a union to better their lot — because the exclusionary state law that puts them outside of these protections is facing a serious court challenge.

Another Labor Day, another full day of labor for New York’s 100,000 farm workers, who toil on holidays. Alone among workers, they are also denied overtime pay, extra pay for holidays and an unpaid day off per week.

Most egregious of all, they are denied the right to organize and bargain collectively that is explicitly safeguarded in the state Constitution.
After decades of attempts to right the wrong, there’s light breaking through the clouds: This may be the last Labor Day that the people who feed us are without the freedom to band together in a union to better their lot — because the exclusionary state law that puts them outside of these protections is facing a serious court challenge.
The language in the Constitution is unambiguous: “Labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce and shall never be so considered or construed. Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”
Yet a discriminatory statute written in the 1930s, when many farm workers were black, said otherwise about this one underprivileged cohort, a complete contradiction in which the Constitution must prevail.

In May, fired upstate field hand Crispin Hernandez sued along with Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York, in a case handled by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The defendant, Gov. Cuomo, and his lawyer, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — duty bound to stand by any and all laws of the state — both rightly declared that they could not defend the law’s constitutionality in court. It was the first record of such a disavowal in state history.
Into the vacuum stepped the grower’s lobby, the New York Farm Bureau, asking for the right to argue in court for keeping the law’s exclusion.
The Albany judge in the case, Richard McNally, should grant that request, and quickly get to the overwhelming merits of the suit.

Other workplace rights, like overtime pay and an unpaid day off per week, will either flow from collective bargaining or be won in the Legislature, where the Democratic-run Assembly has repeatedly passed a farm workers’ bill of rights, only to have it blocked in the GOP-controlled Senate despite a majority of senators being in favor.

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