The case was brought on behalf of the only farmworkers’ union in the state — the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) — and two individual farmworkers who are members of FLOCto challenged portions of the Farm Act of 2017 that severely restricted the ability of North Carolina farmworkers—a population overwhelmingly comprised of migrant workers from Mexico — to form and join unions. Plaintiffs’ claims highlighted North Carolina’s (and the nation’s) history of discriminatorily excluding farmworkers (who historically have been disproportionately Black and are now almost entirely Latinx) from labor protections enjoyed by other workers.

The federal district court preliminarily enjoined the law from being implemented while it reviewed the parties' claims that the Act violated the First Amendment, the Fourteeth Amendment’s equal protection clause, and other civil rights laws. In 2021, the court granted partial summary judgment for the plaintiffs, ruling that the portion of the Farm Act restricting the rights of FLOC and its members to make settlements with agricultural employers violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. However, the court ruled against plaintiffs on their challenge to the portion of the law that prevents farmworkers from making purely voluntary agreements with their employers to deduct union dues from their paychecks, allowing that portion of the law to take effect. Plaintiffs partially appealed the court's summary judgment decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the state cross-appealed. Unfortunately, the Fourth Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs on the settlement issue and for the state on the union dues issue, and the full Fourth Circuit declined to rehear the case en banc.

Although Plaintiffs did not prevail on their efforts to invalidate the Act, the Fourth Circuit interpreted its prohibitions narrowly and in a manner that allows agricultural employers to discretionarily administer union dues deductions for employees who request it.

Date filed

November 14, 2017


U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina