Statement of the WJCNY Board of Directors on Black Lives Matter

WJCNY stands in unqualified solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Our mission demands that we embrace the nationwide movement that has coalesced in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd. Racial justice and freedom from violence (whether interpersonal or state-sanctioned) are core commitments that WJCNY is bound to uphold at every level of the organization, in both our public-facing work as well as internally.


Release of COVID-19 Guidelines for Agriculture Marks Progress, but New York Lawmakers Must Do More

After months of calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to take immediate action to protect farmworkers from COVID-19, we are pleased to share the news that NY's Department of Health, Department of Labor, and Department of Agriculture & Markets have finally released guidance documents aimed at addressing the threat COVID-19 presents to our state's farmworkers and their families. 

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WJCNY Opinion: Green Empire Farms COVID-19 Outbreak Shows NY Fails to Protect Farmworkers

The Syracuse Post-Standard recently published an op-ed on the coronavirus outbreak among greenhouse workers in Central New York which was co-written by WJCNY Advocacy Director Emma Kreyche.

The latest testing showed 169 of Green Empire Farms’ 250 workers tested positive for COVID-19. When those workers arrived to work in the company’s greenhouses in December, the housing which was planned onsite had not been built, so they were crammed into local hotels.

When workers living in the hotels contracted the disease, it spread rapidly in the overcrowded, communal spaces.

The fast infection rate highlighted the state’s failure to protect these and other vulnerable workers from the coronavirus, as well as abusive and negligent employers.

The state Public Health Law requires employers secure a permit for operating migrant housing facilities. However, they often use hotels for housing workers instead.

We at WJCNY, along with local farmworkers, have for months been warning state officials that the often unsanitary conditions migrant and seasonal workers are pushed into by employers could provide the perfect conditions for COVID-19 to spread.

 

We are asking Governor Cuomo for immediate emergency health and safety regulations for agricultural operations, and to ensure farmworkers can access proper quarantine housing if they are infected or have been exposed to the virus.

Read the op-ed here: https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/2020/05/green-empire-farms-outbreak-shows-ny-fails-to-protect-farmworkers-commentary.html

 

Photo: N. Scott Trimble, Syracuse.com

 


First-Ever NY Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act Lawsuit Launched!

The Worker Justice Center of New York has filed the first lawsuit of its kind over unpaid overtime wages against Wayne County-based Smith Family Farms and Smith Family Acres. The complaint alleges that the agricultural employer violated the recently enacted Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act.

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Action Alert! Sign our Petition Today

We are calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State lawmakers to take immediate action to protect farmworkers from COVID-19 and support those who have already been impacted. The agricultural workforce is essential to New York’s economy and to the security of our food supply, yet farmworkers remain unprotected and vulnerable to both infection and extreme economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus.

Sign our petition today! 

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Honoring our Essential Workers After International Workers’ Day

By: John Marsella, Senior Staff Attorney

In another week filled with news of the global pandemic, it would have been easy to overlook May 1 as just another day in quarantine. However, stopping to recognize the significance of International Workers’ Day is as important during the COVID-19 outbreak as it has ever been.

The celebration of the working classes dates to May of 1886, when members of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions gathered in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to strike and demand an eight-hour workday.

The event began as a peaceful rally, but it ended with violence. A bomb killed several police officers and civilians. Labor activists, immigrants and union sympathizers were arrested and interrogated. The ensuing trial was widely considered a sham, and seven individuals were convicted and sentenced to death.

The hysteria surrounding the event and government-backed repression invigorated people who sought to advance workplace justice. The Haymarket Riot inspired the creation of International Workers’ Day, a day for laborers to band together and seek better working conditions.

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2019 Annual Report

"2019 was an impossible year. Oppression of immigrants and workers became impossibly vicious. And victories that for so many years seemed impossible, became reality.  These victories are the result of courage, hard work, and the will to create a better future. These victories belong to the workers we are honored to stand beside. Please take a look, and join us in celebrating what we can do when we work together."

 

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Domestic Violence Survivors on the Dangers of Life in Quarantine

Domestic violence survivor and former WJCNY client Serena Chiboleka (pictured, right) gives a powerful interview on her experience of when she lived with her abuser to the Washington Post. Warning: This video includes graphic descriptive content.  

Celebrating Legal Victories for WJCNY Clients

We are very excited to announce two major legal wins WJCNY and our clients have shared in recent months.

First, we secured $175,000 in a disability discrimination lawsuit for former employees of KTF Enterprises, a nail polish factory in Newburgh.

WJCNY represented Javier Amigon in the case. Amigon, a double amputee, had used a stool for his job for decades and was more than capable of doing his job while sitting.

Then a new company purchased the factory. After years of successfully using a stool to do his work, Amigon was denied access to it and told he would have to stand instead. The owner refused to allow alternative accommodations. Amigon was forced out of his job and terminated in a clear violation of state and federal anti-discrimination disability law.

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Take Action Now to Protect NY Farmworkers from COVID-19

New York's farmworkers are geographically isolated and face extreme challenges in securing food and supplies even in ordinary times. Lack of reliable transportation makes it difficult to seek testing and medical treatment. Some employers are failing to take the necessary measures to protect workers from COVID-19, and even less so on farm labor camps where workers often live in over-crowded and unsanitary conditions.

It's Farmworker Awareness Week! Will you fight for the workers who keep us fed at great risk to themselves? 

Here is what you need to do:

1. Read our letter to Governor Cuomo and the legislature here.

2. Contact Governor Cuomo, your NYS State Senator and Assembly Member today.

3. Tell them to take swift action to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of New York’s farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic by: 

  • Developing a coordinated plan to address the unique needs of the agricultural workforce, including accessible know-your-rights materials, free testing in rural communities, and food and clean water. 
  • Requiring agricultural employers to inform workers about their rights to COVID-19-related benefits, like paid sick leave, paid family leave, and temporary disability. 
  • Extending unemployment benefits to H-2A workers affected by COVID-19.
  • Providing direct financial assistance to farmworker families regardless of immigration status.
  • Mandating health and safety protocols specific to COVID-19 for agricultural operations and farm labor camps.

Can you do even more?

We know that we will only get through this by working together. That's why we're asking you support these important campaigns led by some of our key partners! 

  • Sign on to the Food Chain Workers Alliance's petition to Protect Front Line Food Workers during and after the pandemic.
  • Support the NY United Campaign and call on all levels of government to immediately enact common-sense measures to ensure immigrants across the state can remain safe and healthy. Text NYICto 528-86 or go to bit.ly/NYUnited and follow the prompts!
  • Call for the release of people in immigration centers across NY State, including the 500+ people detained in the upstate Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia. Learn more about how to take action here.

Thank you for standing together with workers!


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