Legislative Memo: Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act

Subject: A.1867/ Nolan

AN ACT to amend the  labor  law, in relation to granting collective bargaining rights to farm laborers and allowing farm workers one day of rest each week and including farm laborers within  the provisions pertaining to overtime compensation and unemployment insurance; to amend the public health law, in relation to the application of the sanitary code to all farm and food processing labor camps for migrant workers; to amend the workers` compensation law, in relation to the eligibility of farm laborers for workers` compensation benefits and the provision of claim forms to farm laborers injured in the course of employment and in relation to service as farm laborers; and to amend the labor law, in relation to labor on a farm and regulating the employment of certain employees whose earning capacity is affected or impaired by youth or age.

Position: SUPPORT

This bill would, among other provisions, amend the labor law by removing farm laborers from the list of workers excluded from coverage under the New York State Labor Relations Act.  The NYCLU, while it takes no position on the various other aspects of labor law amended by this bill, strongly supports the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively as these rights are aspects of freedom of association.  Therefore, we urge the passage of this bill.

Farm laborers are currently excluded from the protected categories of workers covered by the New York State Labor Relations Act, they are not guaranteed the rights given to other workers by section 703 of the Act.  These rights include “the right of self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, free from interference, restraint, or coercion of employers.”

The NYCLU believes that the rights to organize and bargain collectively are aspects of freedom of association granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution.   Employees, through their association with other persons in a labor union, may seek working conditions they believe should govern their employment, and through collective bargaining pursue the realization of their aims.  Organization for the purposes of negotiation, furtherance of interests, and mutual protection is a civil liberty, shared by private and public employees alike.

The NYCLU urges passage of this bill.