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By: Paul H. Derrick
The North Carolina legislature has passed a measure that has union leaders up in arms. The Farm Act of 2017 contains two provisions that the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), the only farmworker union in the state, says would make it virtually impossible to collect dues and to organize farmworkers, especially the migrant workers who make up a large segment of the agricultural workforce.
One provision declares it a violation of the state’s public policy for “agricultural producers” (i.e., farms) to be required to collect membership dues from employees and forward them along to a union, even if the union and the farm have executed a collective bargaining agreement that requires such dues collection. The other controversial provision also makes it a violation of public policy for a union to persuade a farm to enter into a union contract as a means of settling a lawsuit or avoiding litigation in the first place.
According to FLOC’s website, the union typically asks farms that are accused of wage and hour violations or other employment-related matters to recognize it as the bargaining representative of the employees and sign the union’s standard collective bargaining agreement as a means of resolving the dispute. That practice would no longer be lawful under the terms of the Farm Act. Union leaders also would have to travel around the state to collect dues from their members, rather than having the farms take care of it through payroll deductions.
FLOC has only two collective bargaining agreements in North Carolina. One is with an individual farm and the other is a master agreement with a large trade association. The latter agreement covers thousands of workers at the various member farms. The state AFL-CIO has joined with FLOC in opposing the Farm Act and both labor groups are actively lobbying Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the measure.
We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Paul Derrick at [email protected].