Judge temporarily halts Farm Labor Rights Act

C-GM file photoCows at A. Ooms and Sons Dairy Farm.

BUFFALO — The new law that expands labor rights for farm workers will be delayed until the end of January, a federal judge ruled last week.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Vilardo, of the Western District of New York, wrote in his Dec. 31 decision the so-called Farm Labor Rights Act would cause farmers to “suffer ‘irreparable harm’ should certain provisions of the Act go into effect on January 1, 2020.” He ruled to temporarily restrain the law in order to preserve the status quo hearing while deliberating the merits of the case, at least until a Jan. 24 hearing.

Vilardo added the plaintiffs, the New York State Vegetable Growers Association and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, demonstrated in their Dec. 30 complaint a “sufficient ‘likelihood of success’ in challenging the provisions” of the law.

The Farm Labor Rights Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June, extends multiple fair labor practices to farm workers, including ensuring they get paid overtime after working 60 hours a week and that they get one day off each week.

Proponents for the law have said it delivers long overdue and reasonable rights to New York’s farm workers. However, opponents have cited concerns that it would financially cripple farms, particularly those that are smaller and family-owned.

The Vegetable Growers and Dairy Producers associations claimed in the lawsuit the law violates the 14th Amendment because farms will not be able to immediately comply with its regulations.

“Plaintiffs have voiced a series of concerns regarding the Act’s extreme and potentially ruinous economic impact on their businesses (which in turn will leave thousands of agricultural workers out of work),” the lawsuit reads.

However, the main concerns voiced in the lawsuit are over some wording in the law the plaintiffs interpret as broad. For example, the law’s definition of “farm laborer” could include farm owners, their families, supervisors and administrative employees on the farm.

“The Act’s language in this respect therefore makes compliance impossible because it flouts the reality of family relations on farms,” the complaint reads.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Jessica Ramos, D-13, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at mmikati@columbiagreenemedia.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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