Unions File Amicus Brief in Ag-Gag Lawsuit



Earlier this week a slew of individuals and organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU-Idaho, filed a lawsuit against Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden over the ag-gag law, which the governor signed into Idaho code earlier this month. Today, the AFL-CIO and Idaho Building Trades Council joined the fray, announcing their intention to file an amicus brief with the court against the controversial law.

Where the litigants in the case largely oppose the law because of the constraints it places on First Amendment freedoms and animal welfare, the unions worry that it creates a hostile work environment for construction and agricultural workers. 

"With much of the conversation rightly focused on animal welfare, we want Idahoans and the court to also understand that this law has the potential to imperil workers, and infringes on workers' rights to a safe workplace," said AFL-CIO of Idaho President Rian Van Leuven in a press release. 

According to the law, any unauthorized documentation of farm, dairy or ranch practices is a criminal offense, punished with a misdemeanor charge of obstructing agricultural production, a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a year in prison. Those who plead guilty to the charge must pay twice damages in restitution. That doesn't sit well with Idaho unions seeking to ensure that tens of thousands of agricultural, construction and engineering workers have the right to inspect real and potential workplace hazards.

According to Marty Durand of the Idaho Building Trades Council, the protection afforded to the agricultural industry by the new law also creates an imbalance in workplace safety between agriculture and other Idaho industries.

"If you're an electrician and you're looking at a box full of wires, you'd take a picture of it and send it to an engineer and say, 'What's going on?' That's a crime," she said.

Durand said that her beef with the bill is its breadth.

"Construction workers aren't there to photograph cows, but this law is so broad that it captures way more than I think even those who drafted it intended to capture. It's prohibiting helpful conduct," she said.

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