Joining a union to become easier for farm workers in New York

A law that is set to go into effect in New York on Jan.1 will require agricultural employers in the state to give their workers at least one day off each week and pay them overtime when they work more than 60 hours during a workweek. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act will also make it easier for farm workers to organize and join unions.

Union representatives from organizations like United Farm Workers and the AFL-CIO who visit New York farms usually receive a cold welcome and are sometimes subjected to intimidation and threats of violence, but this kind of behavior will soon subject employers to more severe sanctions. Unscrupulous tactics employed to deter workers from organizing are often referred to as TIPS, which stands for threatening, interrogating, promising and surveilling. Agricultural employers who wish to prevent their workers from unionizing have until the new law goes into effect to make their arguments.

Farms are private property, which means their owners are permitted to restrict access. However, a farmer cannot allow some people, such as equipment representatives or feed salespeople, to set foot on their property while refusing access to union representatives. When access is granted, farm owners are not permitted to refuse entry to parts of their property unless they have a valid and compelling reason. A senior figure from the New York Public Employment Relations Board says that new judges have been hired to deal with an anticipated uptick in grievances filed by farm workers.

Attorneys with experience in this area may help unions and employers to draft collective bargaining agreements that are beneficial to both workers and management and mediate disputes when they do arise. Attorneys could also seek to hold organizations responsible when union representation violates labor laws or advocate on their behalf during government investigations or audits.

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