Commentary

Legislators push last minute assault on worker freedom

The list of reactionary proposal on Jones Street seems to grow by the minute these days. As Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported late last night, one of the latest outrageous proposal would seek to undermine the already paltry union rights that the state’s farmworkers enjoy. This is from “NC legislature moves to stifle farmworkers’ unions”:

“A measure the legislature approved Wednesday night would prevent farms from transferring workers’ dues directly to unions or labor organizations. The proposal also would prohibit farmers from settling workers’ lawsuits by agreeing to union contracts.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the only farmworker union in the state, said it is the measure’s target.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County farmer, said the measure is not aimed at FLOC.

Dixon worked to attach the provisions prohibiting dues collection and contracts to the Farm Act, a bill the House approved Wednesday. Dixon’s amendment passed 73-42. The Senate later approved the bill with no discussion about the union limits.

Dixon said the N.C. Farm Bureau and other farm organizations requested the limits on unions. Farmers are under undue pressure to collect union dues and sign union contracts, Dixon said. “That’s something that I’m hearing,” he said.

The restrictions would make it difficult to collect dues from members spread throughout the state, said FLOC vice president Justin Flores.”

This morning, the state AFL-CIO issued the following statement on the bill which will be sent to Governor Cooper shortly:

Statement by NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan on Anti-Union Amendment to Farm Bill (S615)

“A conflict of interest and abuse of power”

“Sneak attack on some of our state’s most vulnerable working people”

On the same day legislative leaders wasted time introducing a resolution to impeach the Secretary of State, they launched an unnecessary attack on farm workers by sneaking in a last-minute amendment to the Farm Bill (S615) that takes away farm workers’ freedom to use payroll deduction for voluntary dues to a labor organization. In addition, the amendment makes it illegal for farm workers to ask growers to sign an agreement with their union as part of settling a lawsuit over wage or labor violations.

This attack on farm workers’ rights is most likely in retaliation for a series of lawsuits brought by farm workers and their union (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) over wage theft and mistreatment on several farms in Eastern NC — including one owned by Sen. Brent Jackson, who sponsored this bill and chaired the Senate conference committee.

It is a conflict of interest and an abuse of power for legislators who are also growers to push policies that infringe on farm workers’ freedom of association and make it more difficult for them to collectively negotiate for better wages and working conditions.

Legislators should be ashamed of themselves for this sneak attack on some of our state’s most vulnerable working people.

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