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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Agricultural Labor #49

Michigan Farm Bureau should continue to inform the public about agricultural employment and the economic contributions farm labor makes to the local and state economies, and correct widespread misconceptions about farm labor conditions.

Michigan does not have a labor relations law for farm workers and they are using basic contract law as the basis for achieving successful labor agreements.

The lack of an agricultural labor relations law allows for consumer and secondary boycotts of perishable farm commodities. We are not opposed to removing the agricultural labor exemption from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and prefer this action over enactment of a state agricultural labor relations act. While we are opposed to a separate agricultural labor relations board, we believe a separate counsel and staff, cognizant and understanding of the challenges of agriculture, should be designated if the agriculture exemption to the NLRA is stricken.

Any state legislation must protect the rights of the workers, farmers and consumers against the loss of crops during labor disputes. Such legislation should:

  • Preserve the right of secret ballot elections for farm workers.

  • Prohibit secondary boycotts.

  • Include workable provisions on bargaining units.

  • Prohibit strikes by workers during critical periods of growing and harvesting.

  • Guarantee the right of agricultural employers to reduce labor needs through mechanization.

  • Ensure that such legislation shall not include any requirement for a successor clause in a labor contract.

  • Ensure the continuation of the piece rate of payment for workers.

  • Ensure the equal opportunity to work without being forced to join a union or be required to finance or collect on behalf of a union.

  • Ensure that organizing activities do not infringe on the safety of the workers’ and employers’ lives and property.

  • Ensure union organizing activities do not interfere with normal agriculture production.

  • Ensure if a union agreement is in effect, money from workers’ dues could not be used for political issues, candidates or parties without the individual union member’s authorization.

The family farm exemption in the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act is being eroded by the expansion of the terms “recruitment” and “transportation.” We oppose the inclusion of gratuitous referrals and transportation in the course of employment when the vehicle is not driven by a family member, in the determination of whether the family farm exemption applies.

The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), sector 11 should be the standardized definition for agriculture and farm work for all state labor legislation.

MFB should continue participating in recruiting efforts to ensure an adequate and legal agricultural work force in Michigan. Recruiting methods and programs currently being used should be evaluated for effectiveness. Efforts should be ongoing to more effectively encourage workers to come to Michigan.

The State Workforce Agency should only refer legally authorized workers to all employers.

We support:

  • The concept of an inmate vocational training program in cooperation with Michigan Works or other educational institutions to provide non-violent inmates the skills to be reintroduced to the work force through the agricultural industry.

  • MFB efforts through the Great Lakes Ag Labor Services to assist growers in navigating the cumbersome H-2A program. We encourage expansion into other viable visa worker programs. We support this program continuing as a “user pays” system and available to all MFB members.

  • The right of farm workers to join, not join, or resign from a union by their own convictions.

  • Reestablishment of Michigan’s position as a Right to Work (Freedom to Work) state, where employees only voluntarily associate themselves with a union.

  • Expanded opportunities for employment of young people in agricultural operations.

We oppose:

  • Efforts by purchasers of farm commodities to force farmers to legally recognize and negotiate with specific labor organizations.

  • Purchasers of farm commodities enticing farm workers to join unions by paying the union dues for the workers.

  • Third party organization attempts to force organized labor negotiations between farmers and farm workers.

  • A specific segment of our workforce being targeted for mandatory testing or regulatory compliance.

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