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New NC Law Improves Protections of Farmers Against Unionization

July 19, 2017

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

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

William Floyd is a Certified Labor and Employment Law Specialist, and the former Chairperson of the South Carolina Labor and Employment Law Section.  Throughout his career, he has exclusively represented employers confronting labor and employment law issues.