Politics & Government

NC legislature moves to stifle farmworkers’ unions

In this file photo, Efrain Hernandez, a migrant farmworker from Mexico, shows his support for workers during a Farm Labor Organizing Committee rally in Mount Olive.
In this file photo, Efrain Hernandez, a migrant farmworker from Mexico, shows his support for workers during a Farm Labor Organizing Committee rally in Mount Olive. File photo

It may get harder for farmworkers in the state to win job benefits negotiated by 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.

“If we had to stop by every single week to pick up dues, we wouldn’t do anything but collect dues,” he said.

FLOC asks farmers who are accused of violating workers’ rights to agree to union agreements as part of a settlement, Flores said. The agreements include wage increases, job security, benefits and improved working conditions, FLOC said. That practice would end if the bill becomes law.

FLOC has two collective bargaining agreements in the state, one with a farm and another with a grower’s association.. The bill does not appear to invalidate those agreements, Flores said.

FLOC is going to ask Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill, Flores said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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