The New York Civil Liberties Union today denounced the State Senate for failing to pass the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act, legislation that recognizes that farm workers are entitled to dignity, equality and the same basic protections that other workers receive – including the right to join a union.

“Today’s Senate vote is painfully disappointing given our state’s proud tradition of supporting justice and equal rights,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act is basic civil rights legislation. Farm workers are New York’s least protected laborers. Our farm workers deserve the same labor rights that workers across New York have enjoyed for 100 years.”

The bill was amended this year to exempt small farms. The State Assembly passed the farm workers bill last year, and Gov. David Paterson has previously pledged to sign it.

Currently, New York State’s 80,000 farm workers are denied basic rights and protections other workers have had for decades, including a day off every week, overtime pay, disability insurance, and the fundamental right to form unions and bargain collectively with their 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.