• 50°

Judge says farm workers’ union law provision is unconstitutional

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s only farm worker union is pleased despite mixed decisions so far from federal courts about a 2017 law it says obstructs mostly Latino field hands organizing for better benefits and conditions.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs issued a permanent injunction this week declaring a provision is unconstitutional that prevents legal settlements between workers and farms from including mandates for a farm to enter a collective bargaining agreement. Bargaining agreements between FLOC and farms in North Carolina are voluntary.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, with more than 9,000 members in the state, said the legislation it challenged in court  included a power play by lawmakers linked to agricultural interests as FLOC made organizing inroads in a state with otherwise low union membership.

“Farmworkers are essential workers who put food on the tables of families throughout the country,” FLOC president and founder Baldemar Velasquez said in a news release Thursday praising Biggs’ action. “They deserve better than being bullied by politicians trying to deprive them of the same rights that all other private-sector workers have.”

Biggs had already agreed in March with a U.S. magistrate judge’s recommendation that the settlement provision violated the First Amendment and other equal protection language. Magistrate Judge Patrick Auld wrote the language “broadly prohibits all settlement agreements between FLOC and agricultural producers.”

She also, however, agreed with Auld in upholding the bill’s other union-related provision that prohibited farming operations from entering into agreements to collect union dues from workers. Auld wrote FLOC failed to present evidence showing how it affects its members, and that the law does not prevent farms from agreeing outside of a bargaining agreement to offer such dues collection.

FLOC already appealed Biggs’ earlier dues checkoff ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The union will be successful because “farmworkers are entitled to the same rights as other North Carolina workers to freely choose” whether dues are deducted, said Kristi Graunke, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina representing the plaintiffs.

Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican, farmer and a chief sponsor of the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017, had no comment Thursday on the rulings, a spokesperson for Senate Republicans said. Union language was initially added to the bill in the House.

The office of Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, who is now the lone defendant as he enforces state law, is reviewing the ruling, spokesperson Nazneen Ahmed said. Stein could appeal Judge Biggs’ ruling, issued Wednesday in Greensboro federal court.

Biggs told Stein to ensure local prosecutors and the state labor commissioner were aware of her ruling. The ACLU of North Carolina said it knew of no such pending prosecutions related to the union settlement provision.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed the legislation into law, was initially named a defendant but was removed. He took heat from FLOC when he signed the bill. Cooper’s office had pointed out the bill’s bipartisan support and other provisions that helped North Carolina’s farming industry.

FLOC currently has one collective bargaining agreement in the state that covers 9,400 workers and 700 farms within the North Carolina Growers Association, the state ACLU says. Most laborers under the association contract are guest workers from Mexico. The minimum wage for these “H-2A” workers are $13.15 an hour.



Firms hoping to lead Salisbury manager search will make pitches to council members Friday


$2.24 million grant will major boost to Livingstone College STEM programs


Salisbury man arrested for running from deputies in smoke shop, tossing gun under table


Blotter: Salisbury man charged with indecent liberties, first degree sex offense


Council to discuss potential changes to Downtown Revitalization Incentive grant program


Election 2021: Bowman challenging Taylor in Rockwell mayor’s race


Public safety, city manager, economy: Mayoral candidates Alexander, Heggins discuss city’s biggest issues


Political Notebook: Rowan Democratic Party makes endorsements for municipal races


Spencer looking for big impact from new storefront grants

Granite Quarry

Election 2021: Granite Quarry’s new mayor will be a veteran or a newcomer

Ask Us

Ask Us: If I received my vaccine in another county, is it recorded in Rowan?


Young entrepreneur raises $1,000 for Rowan County United Way with lemonade stand


Election 2021: Candidates in East Spencer hoping to continue moving town forward


Election 2021: Candidates detail their visions, goals if elected to Salisbury City Council

China Grove

Election 2021: China Grove Town Council candidates detail approaches to handling economic, residential growth


Election 2021: Four candidates competing for three seats in town of Cleveland


County hopes software will streamline foster home licensing process


Election 2021:Four vie for pair of seats on Granite Quarry board

High School

High school volleyball: Carson tops Mustangs again


Judge: No waiting on NC budget to act on school funding


2 more House Democrats retiring, underscoring 2022 obstacles


Man jailed for shooting at Davie detectives in Rowan County given $560,000 bond


County Commissioner Craig Pierce pleads guilty to driving while intoxicated


Overdose call turns into homicide investigation on Ted Lane