National Farm Worker Ministry Statement about the recent Supreme Court ruling, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid.
The National Farm Worker Ministry believes in the dignity and value of every person as created in the image of God. As such, no person should be diminished in any way and no person should suffer exploitation in their work. The vulnerability of farm workers already makes them prone to exploitation and rulings like this further marginalize them from the basic human rights that are accorded by this country to all other workers These basic rights include the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association without retaliation.
NFWM is troubled at the decision of the Supreme Court last week that denies farm workers access to education about their rights to organize in order to better their working conditions and pay. Instead, the Supreme Court has put the property rights of growers over the human rights of farm workers. This ruling is an attack on the UFW and on the efforts Cesar Chavez put in place to reach out to farm workers specifically to help them be fully aware of their rights and to give them support in organizing.
To suggest that farm workers can be organized mostly via the internet or outside their workplaces is ignorance at best, nonsense at worst and shows an utter lack of knowledge about the realities of farm worker life. H2-A farm workers (“guest workers”) are housed by the grower, often at the work site. Their transportation is employer-provided, so off-site access to them is virtually impossible. Most farm workers earn very low incomes, speak little or no English, and are located in rural and isolated areas with limited internet access if at all. The stark reality is that opportunities to learn about and enforce their rights are limited by their employers. Since wage theft, harassment, and exploitation are unlikely to be reported by the perpetrators, farm workers are incredibly vulnerable without union organizers to help monitor and to assist with formal grievances.
Already, U.S. farm workers are excluded from the protections included in labor laws passed in the 1930s that protect other workers.. The recent Supreme Court decision is a sad continuation of that racist tradition. It may extend, by implication, to other union organizing should the same logic be used by employers in other circumstances.
During the pandemic, farm workers literally fed this country. They were designated as “essential”. But now property rights are judged superior to their simple humanity. When will their right to collectively bargain, to freedom of association without retaliation be realized? Not soon it seems. Shame on the Court.
-Julie Taylor, Executive Director, National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM)
National Farm Worker Ministry is a faith-based organization that seeks to connect people of faith and conscience to farm worker campaigns.