Norm Green, chairman of the Chautauqua County Democratic Committee, is a 1996 charter member of the state Democratic Rural Conference, or DRC. 

  • The DRC represents 47 of the state's 62 counties
  • DRC leadership opposes farm bill as written
  • Other members say it should pass this session

"This is the first time I've seen the DRC take a position on any controversial bill," Green said.

That bill is the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act — a measure which allows farm workers to have collective bargaining rights, earn a standard wage, collect overtime, and have access to unemployment insurance, as well as worker's compensation.

"They should be earning enough money to be able to support a household. It's more than three decades [where] farm workers in the state of New York have not been paid minimum wage, not been entitled to a day off, not been entitled to organize," Green said.

"There are real, real challenges right now the farming community faces that makes this a time where we have to take a balanced approach," said Judith Hunter, NYS Democratic Rural Conference chairperson.

DRC leaders recently opposed the bill as written, saying it does not provide enough protections to the actual farmers themselves, given a collapse in milk prices, the uncertainty of tariffs, and lousy wet weather.

Leaders say there is no additional financial support for farmers in this year's budget.

"Even though we completely support the right of collective bargaining, we applaud the goals of this legislation, we hope it can be passed next year during the budget process in a more balanced way," Hunter said.

Green says Hunter's view does not reflect the opinion of the entire conference membership.

"They took a position that was contrary to what a lot of us believe in. The idea of kicking this bill down the road, the idea we should be continuing one single day paying people less than minimum wage, just because it's farm labor, is just wrong," Green said.

"He is entitled to his opinion. I think actually, we're more on the same page than not. I think we disagree more about timing than anything else," Hunter said.

The bill currently sits in the labor committees of both the senate and assembly. With democrats in control of both chambers, the measure is expected to pass before this year's legislative session ends June 19.