Local News

Farmers Take Wait-And-See Approach With New Migrant Labor Unions

Posted September 20, 2004

— Working conditions are about to change for thousands of Hispanic migrant farm workers in North Carolina. Labor groups recently announced a migrant farm worker's union. It is the first in North Carolina, and it has many farmers wondering what is next.

Barnes Farming Corp. employs between 200 to 300 migrant workers at one time in Nash County, which is why they are paying close attention to the creation of a new farm workers' labor union.

"We are cautiously optimistic. We are in a wait-and-see approach," said Johnny Barnes of Barnes Farming Corp.

Last week, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee signed a collective bargaining agreement with the N.C. Growers Association. It guarantees workers a union where they can voice concerns about labor and working conditions.

"It can be a good thing if the union and the farm workers and the farmers can all work together to try to solve some of the problems," Barnes said.

However, Barnes said the agreement could cause trouble down the line if the union goes for a steep pay increase for workers.

"If it is a situation that it is just going to increase cost, then I'm afraid it may pry us out of business," he said. "The labor-intensive farms could be impacted greatly by this agreement."

The labor union will fight for legal immigrant farm workers. The group hopes it will encourage more people who cross the border to do it legally.

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