Appeals Court Denies Ag Industry Attempt to Stop COVID-19 Testing and Will Consider Amicus Brief by Worker Rights, Labor, Public Health Experts, and Latino Groups and Leaders
Michigan’s Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the agricultural industry’s motion for a preliminary injunction, an attempt to stop the emergency public health order protecting agricultural workers from the coronavirus. The court is also considering the “friend of the court” Amicus brief filed on Aug. 27 by a coalition of worker advocates, community organizations, labor unions and public health experts on behalf of farm workers and other workers in Michigan and nationwide.
The decision rightly affirms that the growers "did not establish that the order had a discriminatory purpose," that the order is presumed constitutional and that the state had multiple permissible justifications for the order, according to the appeals court. The appeals court recognized the "state’s rational desire to protect migrant workers, their families, their communities, and the food supply," and that "enjoining the testing scheme poses a substantial risk of harm to others given that identifying and isolating COVID-19-positive workers limits the spread of the virus."
“This case has caused confusion among farm workers in Michigan with respect to their right to get tested free of discrimination or retaliation,” said Michigan Immigrant Rights Center Supervising Attorney Diana Marin. “Today the court made it clear that the State of Michigan can act to protect farm worker health. If plaintiffs in the case truly care about the rights and health of Michigan’s agricultural workers, they should help implement the state’s public health order and not undermine it.”
“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed what we already knew—that free COVID-19 testing is imperative to the health of farm working communities,” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “Farm workers have been at the frontlines of the pandemic and deserve protections from the novel coronavirus. The UFW Foundation will continue fighting for the labor rights and protections that farm workers urgently need.”
“As essential workers, farm workers need free COVID-19 tests,” said United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero. “The UFW is pleased the court denied the agribusiness’ disturbing attempt to block Michigan’s emergency public health order and create division between farm workers. Workers are at risk day in and day out, we must do everything in our power to protect their lives.”
The amicus brief reflects broad support for the public health order from farm worker advocates, including overwhelming backing from Hispanic and Latino leaders who soundly reject the lawsuit’s claims of racism and discrimination. Nineteen Michigan organizations joined in the brief, spanning from legal services, to community organizations, labor unions, faith-based, and health-focused organizations. Nationally, 14 legal advocacy organizations and labor unions joined.
The full list of amicus brief signatories can be found below.
Amicus Brief Signatories:
Action of Greater Lansing
Avanti Law Group, PLLC
Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC)
Hispanic Latino Commission Of Michigan (HLCOM)
Interfaith Action of SW Michigan
Justice and Peace Advocacy Center (JPAC)
Latinos Leaders for the Enhancement of Advocacy and Development (LLEAD)
Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice
Michigan Alianza Latina para Mejoramiento y Avance (MI ALMA)
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Michigan League for Public Policy (The League)
The Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center, Inc.
The Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA)
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE)
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (“CRLAF”)
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM)
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
Florida Legal Services, Inc.
National Employment Law Project
North Carolina Justice Center
Northwest Workers' Justice Project
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
United Farm Workers (UFW) of America
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