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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

NC union agreement ushers in benefits for immigrant ag workers

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Thursday, February 1, 2024   

Immigrant workers at an agricultural packing shed in Battleboro, North Carolina are celebrating a union agreement which will bring them new benefits.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee recently concluded a two-year campaign resulting in a collective bargaining agreement to cover those who work in packing operations and will bring a wage increase of 8%, guaranteed overtime pay, paid leave for union business as well as bereavement pay.

Ana Lilia Rentería Sanchez, a warehouse packer, said she had never been part of a union in Mexico but encouraged her co-workers to get on board after she learned how helpful the union would be.

"I am someone that likes to offer support," Sanchez explained. "I don't like it when a colleague isn't being helped. I like to assist and I believe that the union is giving that a sense of importance because we are going to have more support from them."

Sanchez has been working at the packing shed for 10 years, and over that time has become an informal leader for her colleagues. She contended the wage increase is what most workers are excited about.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, with support from the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice, helped give Sanchez and others like her the union representation they had been wanting.

Mario Vargas, coordinator and organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, was key in educating workers on what a union does and the benefits it could usher in. The committee is the only farmworker union in North Carolina and the Deep South. Vargas said he is hopeful this "historic" moment catalyzes change in the region.

"When you have happy workers, production goes up," Vargas asserted. "I've been a manager and a supervisor. When your workers are pleased, they work better, they look after machinery and they don't stand waiting around because they're content and they have their benefits."

Vargas added he wants workers to feel more seen and heard and not be afraid to speak up, and believes the union agreement is a step in that direction.

Disclosure: The Farm Labor Organizing Committee contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families, Rural/Farming, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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