Statement on Lawsuit by Agribusiness


A Statement on Lawsuit by Agribusiness

Dear Allies of RMM, As many of you are aware, New York State farmworkers recently sustained an attack from the Agribusiness industry, which filed a union-busting federal lawsuit on Oct. 2. The suit, filed by the New York State Vegetable Growers Association and five individual farms, petitioned the United States District Court in the Western District of New York, seeking to overturn the historic Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. That bill, which was passed in 2019 — after decades of marches and vigils, endless lobbying and sacrifice — ensured farmworkers for the first time in New York history were given the right to bargain collectively, without fear of punishing reprisal. Now, Agribusiness is conspiring once more to silence the voices and rights of farmworkers. In addition to the Vegetable Growers Association, plaintiffs in the federal suit include A&J Kirby Farms in Albion; Porpiglia Farms in Marlboro; Crist Bros Orchards in Walden; Cahoon Farms in Wolcott; and Lynn-Ette & Sons in Kent. The suit argues that the state’s granting of collective bargaining to seasonal H-2A workers violates the federal program’s rules.  A hearing in the case is now scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the U.S. District Court in Buffalo, where Judge John L. Sinatra — appointed by Donald Trump — will preside. As RMM Executive Director Richard Witt has stated, “We cannot, we must not let there be a return to the times of inequality and injustice! We have all worked too hard for too many years to allow this despicable maneuver to succeed. This is a fight for basic human dignity, integrity and autonomy. This is a fight for all of us!” Witt was recently interviewed by Jacobin magazine, which featured an extensive story about the lawsuit in its Feb. 9 edition (read the full story here). “They’ve been trying so hard to dismantle the legislation in so many different ways,” Witt says in the article. “The ag business is not just trying to come at this from the courts or legal; they’re trying every which way they can grab ahold of to do it. It’s a concerted campaign against this legislation, which means it’s a concerted campaign against farmworkers being treated justly and equally. “It’s easy for consumers and others to not realize that they’re already in a relationship with farmworkers,” Witt said. “But we are already in a relationship, farmworkers are feeding us, and the question is: How are we going to honor that relationship?” Please support RMM's efforts as we continue to stand with farmworkers, and against attacks that seek to quash their humanity and silence their voices. Donate here - and thank you!