Sen. Brent Jackson, North Carolina

Sen. Brent Jackson, North Carolina

Last year, union members who previously worked at North Carolina state Sen. Brent Jackson’s vegetable farm sued him for back wages and other damages. In settlement negotiations, the workers initially tried to get the farm to hire only union members, but Jackson refused.

This year, the Republican helped shepherd a wide-ranging farm law that ultimately contained two anti-union measures, including one invalidating any legal settlement that requires a farm to enter an agreement with a union. National Farm Worker Ministry Executive Director Julie Taylor filed an ethics complaint with the state, saying Jackson had a conflict of interest.

But under the law, it isn’t one, according to the state’s Legislative Ethics Committee. The committee, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members, emphasized that the union restrictions applied to agreements or settlements in the future, not current ones that Jackson may be under. Jackson said he’s a strong believer in right-to-work laws because many constituents believe unionization is the biggest threat to the state’s agricultural industry.

Reporting by the Center for Public Integrity’s Liz Essley Whyte and David Jordan; The Associated Press’ Summer Ballentine, Ryan J. Foley, Michelle Price, Holly Ramer, Gary Robertson, Mark Scolforo, Brian Slodysko.

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