For more than two decades, Queens Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan has championed the rights low-wage workers through support of labor pushing for passage of her Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.
So, Nolan was particularly pleased with the decision by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division on May 23 declaring that farmworkers across the state have the right to organize and bargain collectively.
“This laudable decision by the court recognizes that our New York State Constitution was written to ensure that the human rights of all workers are respected,” Nolan said. “While there is still more work to be done that ensures farmworkers are provided the same protections as other employees in the state, this decision marks a great stride forward in our fight to see long awaited justice for farmworkers here in New York.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos joined forces with Nolan visiting farms across the state pushing for the end of the last vestiges of Jim Crow discrimination. She called the ruling monumental.
“It is of the utmost importance that the New York State Legislature step up and pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act to codify the labor rights that farmworkers have been waiting on for decades, including a day of rest, overtime pay, unemployment benefits, and the right to collectively bargain, I have been touring New York State, visiting farms and hearing the stories from both farmers and farmworkers, and it is clear we must pass the Farmworkers Fair labor practices Act this session.”
The agriculture industry brings in more than $6 billion a year in New York so it was no surprise that Governor Andrew Cuomo also applauded the court’s decision. When the suit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union against the state in 2016, Cuomo decided the state would not defend itself in the case.
“From the beginning, we chose not to defend against this lawsuit because farmworkers never should have been denied the same basic rights as other workers and we believed this is to not only be morally wrong, but also unconstitutional,” Cuomo said. “I commend the court’s decision to correct this undeniable injustice and reaffirm New York’s principles of fairness and equity for all.”
The Farm Bureau, which represents to owners of the state’s 35,000 farms, vowed an appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
“We are extremely disappointed in the majority’s decision and the breadth of it’s ruling,” Farm Bureau President David Fischer said.
Meanwhile, Nolan will keep pushing for the passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act with less than a month to go in the legislative session, which will break for the summer.
“Congratulations to the farmworkers of our state, who finally have a chance to see real change for themselves and their families, and to the NYCLU, Attorney General James, and many groups who have worked tirelessly alongside our farmworkers to see the end of this injustice in our state,” she said.