Of the many millions of workers across the country facing wage theft, retaliation, workplace injuries and other denials of dignity in the workplace, farmworkers face some of the most brutal conditions. We at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) agree with and support the lawsuit filed on behalf of Upstate New York farmworker Crispin Hernandez.
The lawsuit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union with the Worker Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York, challenges the exclusion of farmworkers from the right to organize. The only way to protect farmworkers’ right to work with dignity is to enable farmworkers themselves to organize together to safeguard their own rights.
Farmworkers in New York are currently singled out and excluded from the right to organize by New York law, an exclusion that violates Article 1 section 17 of the Bill of Rights of the New York State Constitution. The Constitution states, “Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”
The exclusion of farmworkers and agricultural workers from basic labor protections is a vestige from the Jim Crow era in our nation’s history that has no place in present day New York or in our future. We commend Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement on the lawsuit, which says, “We will not tolerate the abuse or exploitation of workers in any industry. This clear and undeniable injustice must be corrected.” And we especially applaud and stand with courageous farmworkers like Crispin Hernandez who are fighting for healthier, safer, and fairer working conditions for farmworkers.