The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Wednesday dismissed an appeal regarding the constitutional validity of North Carolina Farm Act 2017. Section 20.5 of the Act prohibits agreements that: (1) are conditional upon a union affiliation and (2) have an agreement requiring the employer to process dues checkoffs to unions. The court noted 95 percent of workers in North Carolina’s large agricultural sector are “Latinx,” and that the provisions in question are of benefit to those workers. However, the prohibition on union affiliation preconditions is not based on the status or identity of the parties involved, but on the words used in the agreement. Therefore, the provision is constitutionally valid.
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) argued these provisions violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, while also reducing workers’ abilities to collectively bargain for improved working conditions, fair wages, and “meaningful workplace grievance procedures.” The state argued the provision was aimed at ensuring North Carolina was a “right-to-work” state where all have the right to choose whether or not to become affiliated with a union without undue pressure.
In September 2021, the district court held the prohibition on the conditional union affiliation was unconstitutional, but that the other section of the provision regarding dues checkoffs was constitutional. FLOC heralded the decision as “a major victory” and stated, as the only union in North Carolina for farm workers, they felt “targeted” by the act.
FLOC has not yet released a statement regarding this decision.