New York Gets its First Farmworkers Union
12 employees at Pindar Vineyards have joined RWDSU Local 338
After decades of union activists fighting to change the law, New York finally has their first farmworkers union.
The organizing effort was made possible due to a change in state law in 2019. Previously farmworkers were banned from organizing like they have been able to do in California. However thanks to the passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, the law was changed to give these workers protections and the right to organize.
The 12 agricultural workers who have formed the first agricultural union in the state all work at the Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, New York. They have organized with RWDSU Local 338. The New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified Local 338 as the official representative of the workers on September 27th after the group originally filed for union recognition on May 28th.
“My coworkers at Pindar and I joined Local 338 because we want dignity and respect. Our work should be valued and only by receiving equal treatment and things like sick days and paid time off to spend with our loved ones will it be. We know that being a union member will help us get the recognition we deserve for all of our efforts,” said Rodolfo M., Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW member and worker at Pindar Vineyards.
Referring to the original law banning farmworkers from organizing, State Senator Jessica Ramos who sponsored the legislation, called the previous ban a “Jim Crow sin” and said she dreamt of the day workers would answer the call to organize. Under the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, farm employees have the right to organize but cannot strike. They are also eligible for disability insurance, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and a day of rest every week. They have also gained overtime benefits if they work more than 60 hours in a week, something that the New York State AFL-CIO says they are working with state government to adjust down to the normal 40 hours. The wage board is meeting to decide on whether to change that threshold on November 1.
“When New York passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, there was a fundamental understanding that agricultural workers needed key protections that they have lacked for decades, including the right to join a union,” said RWDSU Local 338 and Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President John Durso. “PERB’s historic certification is the next step in securing dignity and respect for the essential workers who ensure we have food and beverages on our tables. We are incredibly proud to represent the workers at Pindar Vineyards and are looking forward to securing a strong collective bargaining agreement.”