Reprinted from Jacobin by Margaret Gray and Olivia Hefferna on November 16, 2019.
In late August 2015, state and local police descended on Marks Farm in Lowville, New York, where workers were meeting with labor organizers. The police separately interrogated each group about the alleged crime they had committed: discussing a possible English-language tutor and better protective gloves for the workers.
“I felt a lot of anxiety, stress, and pressure,” one farmworker, twenty-four-year-old Crispin Hernandez, said of the raid. “I have never felt such upsetting feelings.”
Rebecca Fuentes, the lead organizer from the Workers Center of Central New York (WCCNY), was also there when the police arrived. Fuentes had been bullied by the police and farm owners for her organizing work before, but she described this incident as different. “It was dark outside and [the police] had the power, the guns, the cars,” Fuentes said. “It was intimidating.”
During the interrogation, workers repeatedly told the farm supervisor and the police that Fuentes was a guest — and therefore protected by a 1991 New York attorney general opinion stating farmworkers who reside on farm property have the same rights as other tenants, including the right to have guests in their homes. “Why are you wasting your time here?” Fuentes asked the police. “You have to know that you are being used by the farm owners to intimidate the workers.” …