United Farm Workers Dispute USDA’s Claim that Need for Injunction “Evaporated”

On Wednesday, the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the UFW Foundation filed an opposition to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) motion filed last week in the Eastern District of California. This opposition continued the plaintiffs’ efforts to have the court require the USDA to continue production of the November 2020 farm worker report, which it cancelled earlier this year. 

The USDA, in its motion, asked the court to modify and dissolve the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction entered against the defendant. The defendant purported that the rule presented by the Department of Labor (DOL) would replace the need for the USDA’s report. It argued that the need for the restraining order and injunction was no longer present and that the plaintiffs could not allege any injury addressed by the injunction. 

On October 28, following the requests of UFW, the court enjoined the USDA from ending the Farm Labor Survey (FLS) and Farm Labor Report (FLR), and required them to produce the report this year. The plaintiffs said that “the Court recognized that unless the USDA collects data now, hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers and agricultural guestworkers would likely experience devastating wage cuts if the DOL cannot provide a satisfactory replacement … by the end of the year.”

The plaintiff said that although the DOL has issued a rule to replace the FLS and FLR for calculating Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) which will go into effect on December 21, the new rule “does not impact the Court’s conclusion that farmworkers will be irreparably injured absent injunctive relief.” They said that the rule is likely to be challenged, causing it to go into effect at a later date, and that questions exist about the rule’s validity. 

The defendants claimed that the legal basis for the injunction against them had “evaporated” because of the DOL’s rule, but the plaintiffs said the legal basis “remains intact.” UFW argued that there was no support for this claim from the defendant and that the DOL’s rule does not make it legal for the USDA to fail to conduct a program under its purview. 

The opposition contained allegations that members of UFW would suffer if the injunction requiring the USDA to complete the FLS and FLR this year is dissolved. The plaintiffs argued similarly in October in response to the USDA’s notice of the new DOL rule. The plaintiffs also asked the court to hold an oral argument, contradicting the USDA’s request for the court to approve the motion without oral argument because of the timing of their request. 

The United Farm Workers are represented by Farmworker Justice and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Sonny Perdue, William Northerly, and the USDA are represented by the United States Department of Justice.