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Judge issues restraining order in farm workers unionization case

A new state law granting farm workers the right to unionize and collect overtime took effect Wednesday, but not before a federal judge in Buffalo put a temporary halt to aspects of the law.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the state from enforcing the law's definition of farm workers, which includes supervisors, farm owners and family members of farm owners.

Vilardo's order came just a day after the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association filed a lawsuit questioning the clarity and fairness of the Farm Workers Law.

"We look forward to working with the state and court to ensure that the interests of farmers, their families and employees are represented in the new state law,” said Jon Greenwood, chairman of the dairy association, in a statement following the court order.

The new law is viewed by supporters as a much-needed step in ensuring farm owners provide adequate housing and working conditions to their employees.

"We corrected an 80-year wrong," said Lisa Zucker, legislative attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union. "As of this week, all farm workers are entitled to overtime, a day of rest, workers compensation and, most important, the right to organize."

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