On July 13, 2017, North Carolina helped farmers by improving statutory protections against unionization. Although farmworkers generally do not have a statutory right to unionize under N.C. or federal law, unions are using indirect tactics to force farmers to unionize, such as asserting economic pressure or filing federal lawsuits.

The NC Legislature recently passed the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017, and Governor Cooper signed the bill into law on July 13. The law amends an existing statute by countering indirect unionization tactics and protecting a farmer against having to collect union dues. The amended law provides as follows (the new provisions are underlined):

“(b) Any provision that directly or indirectly conditions the purchase of agricultural products, the terms of an agreement for the purchase of agricultural products, or the terms of an agreement not to sue or settle litigation upon an agricultural producer’s status as a union or nonunion employer or entry into or refusal to enter into an agreement with a labor union or labor organization is invalid and unenforceable as against public policy in restraint of trade or commerce in the State of North Carolina. Further, notwithstanding G.S. 95-25-8, an agreement requiring an agricultural producer to transfer funds to a labor union or labor organization for the purpose of paying an employee’s membership fee or dues is invalid and unenforceable against public policy in restraint of trade or commerce in the State of North Carolina. For purposes of this subsection, the term “agricultural producer” means any producer engaged in any service or activity included within the provisions of section 3(f) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 203, or section 3121(g) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, 26 U.S.C. § 3121.”

Section 205(b) This section is effective when it becomes law and applies to agreements and settlements entered into, renewed, or extended on or after that date.

The union has vowed to fight the new law, which applies only in North Carolina.