Thousands of farm workers in California must now abide by an unwanted unionization deal struck decades ago and never enforced.
That’s because a California judge with the state’s agricultural labor relations agency on Friday ordered the ballots destroyed from a labor union decertification election, rather than have them counted.
The vote was expected to overwhelmingly support decertification, which would have removed the workers from the union’s undesired purview.
Workers’ pleas to the Democratic governor, the Democrat-controlled legislature, and the Latino Legislative Caucus have fallen on deaf ears.
Thousands of workers at Gerawan Farming, one of the nation’s largest family-owned fruit producers, have been trying since October 2012 to decertify the United Farm Workers labor union. The workers are not only being fought by the UFW but by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Workers’ pleas to the Democratic governor, the Democrat-controlled legislature, and the Latino Legislative Caucus have fallen on deaf ears, despite Democrats’ claims to care for farm workers. What they really seem to care about is their union allies and in forcing workers to do whatever the liberal California government leviathan decides is good for them.
California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board
The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is mandated to protect the rights of California farm workers. Instead, the ALRB has waged a systematic campaign against the thousands of farm workers to prevent them from voting to decertify the United Farm Workers union at Gerawan Farming.
The UFW, down to about 3,300 members from a high of 50,000 in the 1970s, narrowly won an election to represent the company’s workers 24 years ago. But after just one bargaining session and with no contract in place, the union disappeared and wasn’t heard from in more than two decades.
In October 2012, the feeble union reappeared and insisted that a collective-bargaining agreement covering Gerawan workers be reactivated. The workers organized themselves and began the process to vote to decertify the labor union.
“We can think for ourselves; we don’t want your union,” said Silvia Lopez, the leader of the workers. “We had an election on Nov. 5, 2013 — we fought a lot to have the election. We voted, but the votes haven’t been counted.”
Lopez and the workers gathered signatures two times to petition the ALRB for an election to vote to decertify the UFW. But both times the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board sided with the UFW against the workers to disqualify the petition drives, dubiously claiming many of the signatures were forged and that workers turned them in late. But under pressure, the ALRB eventually reversed its decision. The workers voted in the election to decertify the UFW in November 2013.
Brown’s Early Labor Union Concessions
During Brown’s two previous terms as governor, 1975 to 1983, he established collective bargaining in California’s public schools, community colleges and for state government employees, as well as extending collective bargaining to the state university system. Brown has shown himself to be quite a champion of the labor unions.
Yet the political left always talks about the importance of counting every vote, right up until it doesn’t want the result of that vote, as in the case of the workers at Gerawan Farming.
Silvia Lopez and her co-workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the ALRB for refusing to count the ballots.
After all of the ballots were in, the ALRB impounded them, refused to count them, and initiated legal proceedings against Gerawan Farming. Then, less than two weeks later, the ALRB adopted the unwanted collective-bargaining agreement and mandatory mediation, and the UFW filed an enforcement action to force Gerawan to comply.
Lopez and her co-workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the ALRB for refusing to count the ballots. Gerawan filed a lawsuit against the ALRB, alleging that mandatory mediation was unconstitutional. The UFW continues to call for a contract to be imposed. And both the ALRB and the UFW allege that Gerawan Farming has engaged in unfair labor practices, despite winning in court.
The agricultural board’s general counsel delayed the hearing for close to a year. It took the ALRB staff 21 months to decide not to count the ballots.
“It should take the board less time to see that this is an undemocratic result,” said Ron Barsamian, Gerawan’s attorney.
Gerawan intends to file exceptions to the rulings of the ALJ, and to ask for a reversal by the board. The employees want the ballots counted. So does Gerawan. The UFW wants the ballots destroyed.
As far back as August 2013, California Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton, Jr., took one of the ALRB attorneys to task for working overtime to stop farm workers from voting on whether to decertify the UFW as their collective bargaining representative.
Hamilton accused the ALRB lawyer of “overreach” in his legal authority in trying to stop the vote.
“So the court is very suspect of the ALRB’s position here,” Hamilton said. “It almost seems like it’s in cahoots” with the UFW.
Gerawan Farming plans to appeal the judge’s order to destroy the ballots.