Carolina farmworkers win a round in labor union struggle


Few states are as officially anti-union as North Carolina. (In fact, Wikipedia reports that only ONE state has a lower percentage of unionized workers: SOUTH Carolina.)

But if there’s some way to make it even harder for NC workers to unionize than it already is, our legislature is all over it. Especially if the workers are in agriculture, toiling in the fields under the hot summer sun.

And even MORE especially if these workers are Latino. . . .

. . . Which, it turns out, about ninety per cent of NC’s farm laborers are.

This Wikipedia list includes 51 jurisdictions: all the states plus the District of Columbia.

And the politicos don’t rest on their anti-union laurels: As the Raleigh NC News & Observer put it:

Last year the N.C. General Assembly passed a law that, in part, made it illegal for farms and unions to negotiate settlements involving union contracts. It also made it illegal for farm workers to directly transfer parts of their paycheck to the union as dues . . . .

In North Carolina there is just one union for farm workers, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

It and some of its members sued to overturn the law, as did the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NC Justice Center.


[Emphasis added.]

For agriculture, the additional restrictions in the 2017 law meant that farms couldn’t directly help workers pay their union dues, even if both the farmer and the worker wanted to. It also meant that if a farm was accused of mistreating its workers and the owners wanted to avoid a lawsuit by settling with the union to enter into a union contract, they also wouldn’t be able to do that.

In 2017, Union County Republican Rep. Jimmy Dixon, who is a farmer himself, added the anti-union language to that year’s wider-ranging Farm Bill. But at the time Dixon told The N&O the intent was not to target FLOC specifically, but rather to help individual farmers who felt pressured by the union.

Uh-huh. Yeah, Jimmy.

But on Sept. 20, 2018 a federal judge ruled that the new law was likely unconstitutional, and couldn’t be enforced while the lawsuit proceeds.

That’s very good news for NC farmworkers wanting to organize for better pay and conditions.

But the relief is only temporary. Such lawsuits take a long time to reach a final decision. Along the way, as many observers have noted, the higher levels of federal courts are being stacked with rightwing judges who are — among other things, tho it’s not so often noted– strongly anti-union.

So stay tuned on this one, folks. It’s a big deal here already, and it may turn out to be a much bigger deal before it’s finished.

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