Four years ago, in New York, workers won a law to help them organize. In the last year, workers organized and won union representation at five farms and have just filed at another farm. However, now due to a grower lawsuit, the NY Attorney General effectively froze the enforcement mechanism of farm worker law and left vulnerable H-2A workers who’ve spoken out unprotected and victimized. The US Department of Labor (DOL) can step in and change this, as they have jurisdiction over the guest worker visa program.
Background: Basically, NY growers decided they didn’t like bargaining fairly for a union contract. After they lost their arguments to the state agency, they judge-shopped and took the same arguments to a federal district court where they filed a lawsuit asking to overturn the law. The New York Attorney General’s office then made a decision to put everything on hold until the lawsuit is heard, without investigating how that would affect the workers.
The repercussions are being felt. Worker leaders had thought they were protected when they spoke out for the union. Now the growers know who they are and are retaliating. At one of the companies, Cahoon Farms, as employees boarded the bus for the trip back to Jamaica, around half of the H-2A workers were told they wouldn’t be recalled in 2024 — including a large number of union supporters. Unsurprisingly, this included four out of the five union committee members.
The reason was they supposedly didn’t reach the production quota. However, according to more than a dozen workers, it was impossible to reach the quota, as there were not enough apples of the correct size to pick. “Jack” shared, “For most of the 2023 harvest season, our crew was assigned to spot pick in fields that did not have sufficiently sized apples to meet the minimum productivity requirement … We were sent to these fields numerous times, which I believe was intentional so that we would be set up to fail.”
Sign the petition today. Ask the DOL to immediately step in and remedy this situation. Growers are retaliating against workers for protected union activity. Without the DOL’s intervention, these H-2A workers will be hung out to dry.