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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ALBANY -- State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo each made public declarations today in response to an NYCLU lawsuit against the state regarding labor practices on New York farms.

The complaint, filed against the state and Cuomo, alleges that a dairy worker was fired from a Lewis County farm after he and other workers contacted the Workers’ Center of Central New York seeking assistance in organizing the dairy farm’s employees. The suit alleges that he and a fellow employee were intimidated by the farm manager and were forced out of the rooms they rented from the farm within four days of their termination.

Cuomo, who was named in the suit, said he sides with the farm workers and indicated that he will not defend the case in court.

Ortt, meanwhile, said that farming is a specialized industry and should not be subject to the same labor regulations as those that oversee other larger corporations.

Ortt's and Cuomo's statements follow below in their entirety:
From nail salons to restaurants to the home health care industry, this administration has fought tirelessly to end abusive employment practices and protect the rights of employees. We have moved aggressively against employers who abuse their workers, and held bad actors accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We raised the minimum wage to restore the basic promise of economic justice, and have fought to strengthen worker protections statewide.

“Yet because of a flaw in the state labor relations act, farm workers are not afforded the right to organize without fear of retaliation – which is unacceptable, and appears to violate the New York State Constitution. I agree with the NYCLU that the exclusion of farm workers from the labor relations act is inconsistent with our constitutional principles, and my administration will not be defending the act in court. We will not tolerate the abuse or exploitation of workers in any industry. This clear and undeniable injustice must be corrected.”

-- Gov. Andrew Cuomo

This lawsuit is nothing more than politically-driven theater from New York City radicals. Anyone who knows anything about farming, or about New York State north of the Bronx or East of Queens, knows how vital agriculture is to our economy and to our communities. And, they know a measure such as this would be the final nail in the coffin for many of our small family farms and result in dramatic price increases for nearly all of our foods. Efforts to apply certain labor practices from other industries to the agriculture industry ignores the realities facing our farms. We have a very short growing season in New York with many specific crops that demand intensive labor or specific skill sets. Our farms aren’t giant corporations, they’re universally small family operations that require flexibility. They already face one of the nation’s worst tax and regulatory climates and yet they persist because farming is in their blood and it’s in their hearts. It’d be a shame if our Governor and our state turned our backs on them to appease the swelling influence of liberal New York City interest groups.”

-- State Sen. Rob Ortt

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