A worker removes protective netting before picking grapes during harvest...

A worker removes protective netting before picking grapes during harvest at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic.  Credit: Randee Daddona

A dozen farmworkers at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic are the first state-recognized agricultural labor union in New York.

RWDSU Local 338 is representing the 12 workers, who were certified on Sept. 27 by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board.

Pindar Vineyards owners acknowledged Friday that the farmworkers had unionized, but otherwise declined to comment.

Union officials said the farmworkers will now be able to collectively bargain and negotiate benefits. They unionized under the 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which provides for workplace protections such as worksite safety standards, salary raises, overtime pay and contractual employment requirements.

"For the first time we can call farmworkers in New York State union members. For far too long, farmworkers have worked to nourish our communities without necessary workplace protections for themselves or their families," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said in a statement. "It was a decades-long struggle to win farmworkers’ right to organize in this state, and now workers at Pindar Vineyards are seeing the seeds they planted come to fruition by becoming the first in the state to be recognized as a union."

Statements from farmworkers said they wanted to unionize for equal treatment, including sick days and paid time off, along with "dignity and respect."

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