Workers stage demonstrations as union contract negotiations with Pindar reach impasse

More than a year since the founding of Local 338 at Southold’s Pindar Vineyards, contract negotiations are at an impasse, according to union lead organizer Noemi Barrera.

Workers have been picketing outside of Pindar Vineyards in Peconic and the Pindar Wine Shop in Port Jefferson for about a month.

“They are blatantly refusing to provide fair wages and health insurance and any union protections,” Ms. Barrera said. The union is also trying to negotiate paid time off, including sick days and vacation time to be in the contract.

Alethea Damianos Conroy, a co-owner of Pindar, said any allegation that Pindar “has been unwilling to negotiate a fair contract for these valued employees is completely false.”

“Despite the union’s unfounded allegations, Pindar and the union have come to many tentative agreements throughout the negotiation process regarding terms and conditions of employment and Pindar has made proposals regarding paid time off (vacation, bereavement, holidays, sick time), raises and due process protection for its employees,” she wrote in an emailed response to questions.

Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial Workers Union was certified by New York State on Sept. 27, 2021, to represent agricultural workers. More than a dozen Pindar employees joined what was recognized as the state’s first agricultural union.

It was the first union approval the state had granted since it passed the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act in 2019, which ensures the right of agricultural and farm workers to collectively bargain, among other protections. Ms. Barrera said the union sought full support of its 12 members for the demonstrations. They are demonstrating on the weekends and trying to target times that could help them get more awareness of the issue to the community.

“It’s the time when we see most of the people going out to the vineyards, they [go] pumpkin picking, they [go] apple picking, so we try to target those times too,” she said.

Ms. Barrera said community members have been supporting the cause as well.

“We’ve had customers in full support that have literally gone in there, marched and then said, ‘why aren’t you negotiating a fair contract for your workers?’ ”

Part of the impasse, according to Ms. Damianos Conroy, is that the union made a proposal that would require Pindar to automatically terminate any current employee or any future employee who does not sign up to be in the union. A counter proposal from Pindar would allow employees to have the right to choose whether to join the union and not include automatic termination, she said.

“The agricultural labor supply in Eastern Long Island is very competitive and Pindar wants to ensure that all employees have the right to choose what is best for them,” she said.

Ms. Barrera said the union is willing to demonstrate as long as necessary. .

“We will continue demonstrating as long as we have to,” she said. “Ultimately, we will probably end up having to meet with a mediator and we’ll follow whatever the law says.”