New York

Collective Bargaining for Farmworkers

Freedom of association protects workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. Collective bargaining is when workers negotiate with their employer over important arrangements, such as employee benefits and working conditions, with the idea that workers have more bargaining power collectively than individually. Farmworkers have been systemically denied the right to collectively bargain and organize throughout American history. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) excluded farmworkers from the right to collective bargaining. Although this was the progressive era for workers’ rights legislation, it was also the Jim Crow law era. Consequently, farmworkers’ legal exclusion from collective bargaining was likely approved by Congress because the profession had a majority African American workforce. New York law on the matter is in conflict. In 1937, New York passed its State Employee Relations Act (SERA), which conformed to the NLRA’s exclusion of farmworkers. The New York Constitution, passed in 1938, states that there exists a right to organize and bargain collectively. Yet, New York has continued to deny farmworkers their right to associate and bargain with employers. Despite SERA clearly violating the plain language of New York’s Constitution and international criticism of the exclusion, the conflict has now become a matter for the court. [read more]

Exercising Eminent Domain for Economic Development in New York by Alex Racketa

Introduction The law of eminent domain in New York is an area characterized by its lack of clarity.   How cities and municipal corporations operate within the limitation imposed by the phrase “public use” is a particularly complicated area.  Recently, they have begun to assert a more expansive interpretation of this phrase, following the national trend of broadly reading the U.S. Constitution in cases like Berman v. Parker and Kelo v. City of New London.[1] However, the U.S. Constitution is only one constraint on the eminent domain power.  The New York Constitution functions as a separate limit.[2] However, rather than explicitly rule on the independent vitality of restrictions in the New York Constitution, the Court of Appeals has repeatedly reserved judgment on the issue.  This has left open the question of whether New York recognizes the economic development as a public use, as the Supreme Court has declared the U.S. Constitution permits.[3] Because the Court of Appeals has not ruled on this point, significant confusion has resulted.  Any independent limitation on the eminent domain power retained in the state constitution has essentially been rendered meaningless.  This uncertainty is itself damaging to private property interests within the state. The Case for Not [read more]