Who Safeguards Farm Worker Rights? – Part 8

Pick Justice, Gerawan Farm Workers Protest Forced Unionization

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Jesse Rojas, spokesperson for Pick Justice, a farm worker rights group (not a union) organized a rally of farm workers last week at the California Supreme Court building in San Francisco to bring attention to the court hearing on the UFW’s effort to force unionization on farm workers at Gerawan Farming, Inc.—despite having abandoned the workers for nearly 20 years. Over 150 Gerawan workers traveled from the Central Valley to protest the UFW/ALRB team that is pushing for forced unionization of these farm workers via the justice system through Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC).

Jesse Rojas, spokesperson for Pick Justice (PickJustice.com)

Gerawan workers, dressed in blue Pick Justice t-shirts and armed with company ID cards and pay stubs to demonstrate authenticity, chanted at the UFW protesters who wore red UFW t-shirts. Rojas said the UFW individuals were apparently not Gerawan farm workers and were paid to be there. “All attending [in our group] are employees of Gerawan Farming,” he stated.

“I wish all 3,000 Gerawan workers could have come today like they’ve done in the past,” Rojas said. “But they actually have to work because they are real workers and they don’t get paid to come here. They miss days of work. A lot of them are going to get written up. They are going to get into trouble. They have had to find babysitters to take care of their kids; they are real workers.”

Rojas explained the focus of the demonstration is the need for these employees to choose their own future. “At this point, what is really important for them—not just them, but for all farm workers in the state—is simply to have the freedom to choosefreedom to vote.”

“Why would they have to be forced into a contract without reading it, without negotiating it, without approving it?” Rojas asked. “It’s not the American way. That’s not a democracy. The most fundamental civil right that all employees have is the right to vote if they want a union or not or if they want a contract or not.”

“But they are not getting those rights. Why not them? It is their right to vote and have their votes counted,” Rojas said.

If the Court imposes mandatory mediation, Rojas said the outcome “would affect about every farm worker in the state, almost 800,000 of them. The rights of the workers would be taken away.”

“The way mandatory mediation and conciliation works is the ALRB, the state government, has the right to write and impose a contract on employees without their approval,” Rojas explained. “In the Gerawan case, they will not have the right to strike or protest like they are doing today.”

“On top of that, this so-called contract will actually lower their take-home pay,” said Rojas, because mandatory UFW union dues totaling three percent of their paychecks would be imposed on the workers. If any of them refuse to pay the union as a condition of employment, they will be fired.

The justices of the California Supreme Court have until December 5th to make a ruling.

To see a video of Jesse Rojas speaking to California Ag Today, click here.


PickJustice.com celebrates freedom of choice for farm workers. As posted on their website:

We are concerned citizens who support the rights of workers to choose whether or not they want to have a union represent them. We are standing up for workers who are victimized by a politicized government agency.

Freedom of choice is a human right. People who are not educated are deprived of their freedom by those who are educated.

PickJustice.com exists to educate the public about the corrupt relationship between a once-noble union and the dishonest attorneys at the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). We want to help social change to show that, once a union has violated the trust of those it purports to represent, that union no longer votes for the workers.

As César Chávez himself said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

A generation ago, many farm workers were afraid of their employers. That isn’t the case anymore.

Thanks to organization against social injustice and a greater consciousness of producers and consumers alike, the plight of thousands of farm workers in America is over.

In César’s words more than three decades ago: “The very fact of our existence forces an entire industry – unionized and non-unionized – to spend millions of dollars year after year on improved wages, on improved working conditions, on benefits for workers.”

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Who Safeguards California Farm Workers’ Rights? Part 3 – Bargaining in Bad Faith

What Does “Bad Faith” Mean?

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), Gerawan Farming, Inc. and California farm workers chronicles the continuing, increasingly complex quagmire that masquerades as protecting California farm workers’ rights.

As previously published, ALRB Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt issued a decision on April 14 in favor of the UFW, finding Gerawan violated labor law by negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement with UFW “in bad faith—commonly called “surface bargaining”—in the eight-month period from January 2013 through August 2013.

“Candidly,” said Anthony Raimondo, president and owner of Raimondo & Associates and attorney for Silvia Lopez, the Gerawan Farming employee and petitioner to decertify the UFW from representing Gerawan farm workers, “it is not surprising to me at all that this type of decision went against the company, because this ALRB has been in the pocket of the [UFW] … this whole time.”

“This is very much what happened to the workers in the [decertification] election case,” Raimondo said, “when the ALRB refused to count the ballots. They slammed the workers for exercising their right to free speech—to protest. They attacked the workers for engaging in actions of civil disobedience, and they denied the workers the right to vote, essentially, by refusing to count the ballots.”

On March 20, the UFW filed a claim alleging that Gerawan violated the ALRA by “proposing and insisting on” the exclusion of the farm labor contractor (FLC) employees from the terms of any collective bargaining agreement the parties might conclude.

“What the union was claiming here,” Raimondo explained, “is that Gerawan had made a contract proposal, as I understand it, that said that the employees that it receives from farm labor contractors would be excluded from the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. According to both the UFW and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, making such a proposal alone represents “bad faith bargaining.”

Raimondo Bad Faith“Bad faith bargaining is when you bargain without the intention to make an agreement,” Raimondo said. “In this case, for example, I don’t see how that could be possible in the Gerawan case because I’ve seen UFW contracts from the past that did exactly that—they agreed to exclude labor contract farm employees.”

“It is very common,” Raimondo explained. “I negotiate collective bargaining agreements all the time. It’s very common when you’re negotiating a collective bargaining agreement to look at other contracts in the same industry, with the same union, to get an idea of what they’ve agreed to in the past. I do not know how recently they’ve done it, but in past years, I have certainly seen contracts that the union has agreed to, where labor contractor employees were excluded.”

Among the mandates issued by ALRB Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt in his April 14 decision on Case 2013-CE-010-VIS is a requirement that Gerawan Farming cease and desist from persisting in its refusal to bargain with the UFW about the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for those members of the above bargaining unit who are employed by farm labor contractors.

“I personally am very skeptical of this decision,” Raimondo commented. “It seems to me to be a stretch of the whole idea of bad faith bargaining, which is bargaining without the intention to reach an agreement, especially since what we’re talking about here is a proposal. But the fact that an administrative law judge of the ALRB made a decision in favor of the UFW does not shock me at all.”

“It’s difficult for me to see how proposing something that a union had agreed to in another contract, with another employer, would trigger an accusation of ‘bad faith bargaining.’ I would be surprised if this stands up an appeal, but to me, it’s most indicative of what we’ve seen from the ALRB over the last few years, and it’s likely to continue. The ALRB is no longer an objective, independent state agency that enforces the law. This is an arm of the United Farm Workers Union, whose mission is to save this obsolete union from the consequences of its own failures.”

“Biased as the original election decision was against the farm workers, the one thing that really stood out to me, even for this biased judge,” Raimondo said, “is even the ALRB admitted that the movement in favor of decertification of the UFW was not started by Dan Gerawan. It was a movement that started organically among the workers; they organized themselves to take the action that they wanted to take.”

“The fact is,” Raimondo continued, “these workers had their minds made up. They were disgusted by the UFW’s absence, they were disgusted by the union trying to force a contract on them, without even talking to them about it first. When they found out that this contract was going be shoved down their throats, they organized themselves and they fought back. The ALRB wants to discredit the entire movement that exists amongst the Gerawan workers.”

ALRB Notice to Gerawan Employees

ALRB Notice to Gerawan Employees

“When you have a law that is designed to grant farm workers their voice, and their right to self-determination, as we have with this agricultural labor relations act, it seems to me to be an abomination, when you can acknowledge that workers organize themselves to be heard, and then you deny them that voice because of something that their employer did. What control do the workers have over their employer? The workers are now responsible for things that the employer does, that cost them their right to vote?”

“There is no basis in the law for this idea that the entire process is somehow tainted in a way that invalidates the election,” Raimondo said. “If you read the Agricultural Labor Relations Act and the case law, the law is very clear that when an election is held, the only time that we reverse the outcome of an election, or ignore the outcome of the ballots, is when there has been misconduct by a party that actually affected the outcome of the election.

“You can go back to cases from the ’70s and ’80s,” Raimondo continued, “where the UFW had protestors out there at the polls, and employers complained that that affected or influenced the workers, or intimidated them in some way. Unless the employer could show that there was some actual effect on how the workers voted—that affected the outcome of the election—the election would be upheld.”

“No one in this case has ever produced the slightest shred of evidence that anything that Gerawan did or said ever affected how these workers voted, or how they felt about the union. This idea of a so-called ‘tainted election,’ is something that was invented in the last few years by ALRB judges. It doesn’t appear in the law. This whole process has been biased.”

“In fact, more than anything else, the thing that shaped how the farm workers felt about the union was the 17 years when the union wasn’t there. The union has never had to defend their absence from Gerawan employees because the ALRB never forces them to answer for it. The ALRB considers that to be irrelevant.”

“Yet, they slander Gerawan. They discredit the workers’ efforts to organize themselves. They want to discredit the entire movement that exists amongst the Gerawan workers. They deny the workers the right to vote, but they completely ignore the fact that the union failed in its most fundamental purpose, which is to represent workers.”

Featured Photo: Attorney Anthony Raimondo

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Updates on California Farm Workers’ Rights 

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Our ongoing coverage of developments among United Farm Workers (UFW), Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), Gerawan Farming, Inc. and California farm workers chronicles the continuing, increasingly complex quagmire that masquerades as protecting California farm workers’ rights.

UFW Underpaid Employees – UPDATE

As previously reported, on March 26, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills ruled that the UFW underpaid their own employees and mandated the UFW to pay a $1.2 million award that covers former employees, organizers, and other members of the class action suit, as well as penalties for California Labor Code Violations.

On April 27, Judge Wills added $772,000 to UFW’s court expenses for attorney fees incurred by Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss (NHEH), the law firm that represented former UFW employee Francisco Cerritos in the class action and Private Attorney General Act lawsuit on behalf of himself and other current and former UFW employees.

In issuing the additional costs to the UFW, according to a May 3 NHEH press release, Judge Wills stated that, “The Court has not placed an amount to destroy someone, and the union does serve a socially laudable purpose, but (the union) has to follow the law; and when it doesn’t do so at the expense of others and that results in drawn out, protracted and complex litigation, it cannot expect the Court to turn a blind eye to what the consequences of what that conduct are.”

Gerawan Violated Labor Law by Negotiating “in bad faith”— UPDATE

As previously published, ALRB Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt issued a decision on April 14 in favor of the UFW, finding Gerawan violated labor law by negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement with UFW “in bad faith—commonly called “surface bargaining”—in the eight-month period from January 2013 through August 2013.

In an April 17 news release, Gerawan Farming called the April 14 decision of the Administrative Law Judge “erroneous” in that Gerawan did bargain in good faith. Further, Gerawan maintains that imposed mandatory mediation and conciliation does not constitute volitional negotiations. Gerawan will appeal this decision. The following are excerpts from this press release:

This unprecedented ruling would punish an employer for failing to “negotiate” the terms of a “contract” dictated and imposed by the ALRB. This is an in-house judge who is not independent; he is an employee of the ALRB. He criticizes Gerawan’s positions and second-guesses how it participated in what was supposed to be a confidential mediation and trial-like arbitration, but he never asked the only relevant question: How does this forced contracting process resemble a “negotiation”?

The so-called “mandatory mediation and conciliation” procedures (MMC) are neither consensual nor voluntary. It is forced contracting. The ALRB tells the employer what wages to pay, what employees to hire or fire or promote, and what portion of the employees’ salary will be turned over to the union. The employer may not opt out, and the employees are not given the choice to ratify or reject the so-called contract that will be forced on them, even if there are provisions detrimental to them.

Gerawan had no choice but to submit to this coercive process.

…The UFW did not bargain; it asked the ALRB to impose terms, based on a forced contracting process the California Court of Appeal has since ruled to be unconstitutional (and is now under review before the California Supreme Court).

To date, UFW’s unexplained 17-year disappearance from the Gerawan farm workers remains unexplained. During its absence, the UFW never negotiated a single wage increase for any Gerawan employee, nor did it attempt to bargain for a contract, collect dues, or file a single grievance on behalf of the employees. Meanwhile, Gerawan claims its workers are among the highest paid in the industry.

Yet, the ALRB’s controversial 2002 MMC provision appears to allow this AWOL union to force current Gerawan farm workers to choose between paying union dues or losing their jobs. The majority of Gerawan employees twice asked ALRB for an election to decertify the UFW. At the ALRB’s request, the Fresno Superior Court intervened and supervised the decertification petition and election process. This was the first time in the history of the ALRB that a court oversaw an ALRB election.

As yet, ballots cast by Gerawan farm workers in the sanctioned November 2013 election to decertify the UFW have never been counted, are being stored in an undisclosed and possibly an insecure location, and are the target of legal attempts by the ALRB and UFW to be destroyed.

The Court of Appeal is preparing to decide whether the ALRB may deny employees the right to choose who will represent them at the bargaining table—a seemingly basic American democratic right. The California Supreme Court is preparing to decide whether the UFW’s longstanding abandonment of Gerawan’s employees justifies this forced contracting process. California farm workers deserve a full and fair hearing on these issues.

Resources:

Gerawan February 27, 2017 press release, Gerawan Farming Asks Court to Order Disclosure of Information Related to ALRB ‘Whistleblower’ Allegations: A 30-year ALRB Employee Alleges Corruption Inside ALRB.”

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Conflict of Interest Between ALRB and UFW

ALRB and UFW Conflicts Concern Industry

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

Governor Jerry Brown’s appointments to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is causing quite a bit of concern for farmworkers and ag employers alike.

George Radanovich is the President of the California Fresh Fruit Association and a former California congressman who served from 1995 until 2011, representing California’s 19th District. He expressed his disappointment in so many United Farm Workers of America advocates being appointed to the ALRB.

“The board is there to protect the interests of the farmworker. What they’re doing is trying to protect the interests of the United Farm Workers, and that goes completely against what they were created by law to do,” Radanovich said.

William Gould, who was appointed by Governor Brown to chair the ALRB in 2014, announced his resignation recently.  In his resignation letter, he noted that during his tenure, only one petition for unionization had come before the board.  Gould also previously noted that the board spent more of its time on petitions from workers trying to kick out the UFW, rather than petitions seeking to join the union.  That seems pretty telling as to how desirable the UFW is to farm workers.

“The UFW only represents about 2 precent of farmworkers in the state,” Radanovich said. “And the reason is, is because farmworkers are happy with the growers. I mean, there’s a very good relationship there, and they view the UFW as intrusive.”

Radanovich referenced what happened with Gerawan Farms as an illustration of the already problematic relationship between ALRB and the UFW.  “Way back in the ’90s, there was a union vote to unionize, and the UFW just sat back and didn’t mobilize. They didn’t unionize the farmworkers. Twenty years later, they walk back into the operation and say, ‘Okay, it takes effect now.’ Where would that happen anywhere else?” Radanovich said.

The Gerawan workers decided to have a new election, with a majority of workers expressing their disinterest in joining the UFW.  However, those votes were never officially counted.

“They refused to count the votes because it’s real obvious that they’re going to lose, the union would. So the ALRB says, ‘Well, we just won’t count the votes,’ ” Radanovich explained.

According to him, the employment landscape has changed dramatically since the establishment of the UFW in 1962, essentially making the UFW obsolete.  “The reason UFW is so weak and they can’t get membership is because the farmworker is pretty well off today having a good relationship with their employer, and that’s better than union status. The farmworker really is in a better position if he’s got a good relationship with the grower, which accounts for about 90 percent of what’s out there in ag labor today,” Radanovich said.

Radanovich is also a wine grape grower in Mariposa and has a first-hand understanding of just how hardworking and appreciated farmworkers are.  “Growers know that if they don’t take care of their farmworkers, there’s going to be nobody there to pick the fruit. So there’s a natural inclination for the farmer to want to take care of the farmworker. And none of that is accounted for in the way that the ALRB implements these rules.”

The ALRB is designed to be a neutral organization, but filling it with so many UFW sympathizers appears to be a significant conflict of interest.  “It’s really unjust. The ALRB is not there to promote union membership; they’re there to protect the farmworker and I think they’ve lost their focus. … I mean, you only need a union in there if the grower has failed the farmworker and that’s not happening,” Radanovich said. “They’re taking good care of their farmworkers and giving them opportunity and providing them a living at the prevailing wage.”

 

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Clinton’s Backdoor UFW Endorsement Deal Trumps Farmworkers’ Rights

Assemblyman Patterson Comments on Clinton’s UFW Endorsement vs. Farmworkers’ Rights

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

As reported in, “Leaked Clinton emails include pledge to help UFW in fight with Gerawan Farming,” published by the Fresno Bee last Friday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, traded support for the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) endorsement and then conspired to undermine Fresno County-based Gerawan Farming and its farmworkers’ rights.

Jim Patterson
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno)


Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) has been supportive of the constitutional rights of farmworkers at Gerawan Farming whose votes cast in a sanctioned 2013 election to decertify UFW representation have never been counted. Under the jurisdiction of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), the ballots were collected, sealed, and locked away. To date, election results and the location of the ballots are unknown.

 

In an exclusive interview, Assemblyman Patterson stated:

I think it’s the height of hypocrisy when a candidate for president of the United States goes behind closed doors and makes a backroom deal with an institution that is trying to deny the very privilege of having a free election to decide whether or not [farmworkers] want to be a part of the UFW.

Not supporting or recognizing the Gerawan workers’ right to an election to determine their own future—how they wish to organize, how they wish to value their labor and how they wish to conduct the relationship with their employer through elections—is to me, a slap in the face of the electoral process, of the fundamental constitutional right of everyone to be able to vote and to have a say in their labor and in their future.

alrb_ufw_fwr_logo_frIt also demonstrates just how deep and wide this intertwining web of deceitfulness really is. Of all things, for the democratic nominee for President of the United States to make a deal over something that is happening in Central California, with 3,000 workers who decided that they wanted to have elections?”

After the election, the ALRB took and hid the ballots. The ballots were never counted. Election results were never announced. The election was not the expression of individual farmworkers exercising their right to vote, but considered [by the ALRB] an unfair labor practice.

 [The Democratic nominee] decided to make a deal with the UFW over this. It tells me in no uncertain terms that the revolution that is happening with Silvia Lopez and the Gerawan workers—the independence, the thinking for themselves, the willingness to chart their own course with their employer—is frightening the UFW and the ALRB to its foundations.

To the degree that [the UFW] would literally go into a back room and get a pledge from the democratic nominee. . . Notwithstanding the facts—information about the election, the efforts of the ALRB and UFW to suppress [decertification] elections, and their choices for making decisions themselves. . . but to just simply decide to go low . . . and in this instance, go so low that she would be making a deal to abridgedestroythe fundamental right of an election. That is just unconscionable.

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CA FARM WORKERS TO HOLD ELECTION NIGHT VIGIL TO PROTEST LABOR BOARD VOTER SUPPRESSION

Let’s All Show Support for These Valiant Farm Workers, Who are Striving to Get their VOICES Heard

 

By: Laurie Greene; Cal Ag Today Editor/Reporter

Hundreds of farm workers will gather outside a California election office on election night to protest a state labor board suppressing their votes from a union decertification election.  The workers, from Fresno-based grape and fruit grower, Gerawan Farming Inc., voted to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) last November, but the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) locked up the ballots and is refusing to count them.

“It’s an outrageous attempt to help the UFW impose a contract on these workers that will take 3 percent of their pay against their will,” said Center for Worker Freedom executive director Matt Patterson.

So on Tuesday November 4, Gerawan workers, their families and supporters will hold a silent candlelight vigil at an elections office at 2221 Kern Street in Fresno, CA from 8:00 pm-9:30 pm.    The silence will represent their voices being stolen by the ALRB; the candles will represent their hope for freedom from the UFW.

“Everyone’s vote will be counted that night.  We want to remind people that we are still waiting for ours to be counted a year after our election” says Areli Sanchez, one of the thousands of workers denied their constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly by the ALRB. “We have been screaming for Governor Brown to help us for a year.  Maybe now he will hear our silence,” said Sanchez, a 14-year Gerawan employee.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council publicly supported a group of Gerawan farm workers seeking the union contract, as Gerawan sells its produce in Los Angeles stores under the Prima label.

In a letter to the LA Times editor on October 27, 2014, Kenneth Cleveland, Malibu, a management consultant who has worked with Gerawan Farming on and off for almost 30 years, said:

 

 

I know [Gerawan’s] operations well, and I know many of the company’s employees. The Gerawans are an immigrant family from Lebanon who many years ago started by farming several acres of peaches in Reedley, Calif. Today they are one of the county’s leading growers and processors of stone fruit and table grapes.

 

The working conditions at Gerawan Farming are excellent, and its wage scales exceed those of the United Farm Workers. It has provided many jobs for other immigrant families.

 

The Los Angeles City Council has no business interfering with an enterprise in Fresno County. The council’s motive is obviously to gain favor with the UFW, a big campaign contributor.

 

The council members should spend their efforts and their constituent’s resources on Los Angeles.

 

 

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board was created in 1975 to ensure peace in the fields of California by guaranteeing justice for all agricultural workers and stability in agricultural labor relations, according to their website. The Board seeks to achieve these ends by providing orderly processes for protecting, implementing, and enforcing the respective rights and responsibilities of employees, employers and labor organizations in their relations with each other.

Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation’s first successful and largest farm workers union currently active in 10 states, according to their website. The UFW continues to organize in major agricultural industries across the nation to provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty.
The Center for Worker Freedom (CWF), a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to warning the public about the causes and consequences of unionization, is helping to coordinate the vigil. CWF supports freedom of association and believes every worker should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they belong to a labor organization, according to their website.
CWF is a special project of Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit taxpayer advocacy research and educational organization.

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Farmers Demand Special Master Preserve Uncounted Ballots

Farmworkers at Gerawan Farms have requested the United States District Court (USDC) assign a special master to take possession of their uncounted decertification election ballots.

The uncounted ballots have been in the possession of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), which has been accused by both farmworkers and Fresno Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton of being “in cahoots” with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union to suppress the farmworkers’ votes.

“We don’t trust the ALRB,” said Gerawan farmworker Silvia Lopez, who filed the motion yesterday in federal court. “They have been working against us from day one and we don’t believe they are fair or have our best interests in mind. We don’t believe that the ballots are safe with them. A special master will guarantee that the ballots remain safe.”

Ms. Lopez has also requested in the motion that if the USDC appoints a special master, the neutral third party should count the ballots. “There are strong judicial economy reasons to count the ballots, as well as elementary notions of fairness and justice that would support this decision,” said Paul Bauer, attorney for Ms. Lopez.

The ALRB has engaged in a number of activities that proves it is neither impartial nor protecting the rights of the farmworkers, including:

  • ALRB mediators refused to allow farmworkers to attend public Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) hearings and contract negotiations.
  • Of the nearly 2,500 signatures originally submitted for the decertification petition, the regional director claimed only 100 were invalid, meaning there were still enough valid signatures to require an election.
  • Despite having 2,500 signatures—enough to trigger the decertification election—the regional director claimed there was not a sufficient showing of interest.
  • Farmworkers then submitted 3,000 signatures in a fraction of the time taken to collect the first set. Three days later, the regional director used another excuse to deny the farmworkers’ vote. This time he incorrectly stated that the union contract had been approved and the farmworkers were prohibited from holding a decertification election. The ALRB members in Sacramento overturned this action.
  • For a third time, the regional director tried to stop the vote by engaging in a sham investigation. The ALRB office in Sacramento again overturned his ruling and instructed him that no other blocks to the decertification election were permitted.
  • A legal decertification election was held on November 5, 2013, but the governor’s ALRB has refused to count the ballots. The ballots are currently in possession of the same regional director who attempted to stop the election from happening three times.
  • Despite a legal challenge to the MMC proceedings and the uncounted decertification ballots, the ALRB General Counsel attempted to impose the new UFW contract on the farmworkers by filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in state court. The judge refused to grant the TRO.

Even Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton, who presided over the TRO hearing, told the ALRB General Counsel, “In other words, it’s a little bit disingenuous to say you’re protecting these workers’ rights; yet you’re blocking their election at every turn.”

“We hope the federal courts allow a special master take possession of our ballots,” Lopez continued. “It’s clear to everyone, even the court, that the ALRB doesn’t work for us. Why should someone working for the people we’re trying to fire get to keep control over our ballots? It’s not fair and must be stopped.”

To learn more about the farmworkers fight and to view this press release, please visit www.farmworkerrights.com.

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INTERVIEW WITH DAN GERAWAN

UFW and ALRB Want to Impose Contract on Gerawan Employees

“The UFW won an election to represent Gerawan workers 23 years ago; but then, after only one bargaining session, the union disappeared and hasn’t been heard from in 20 years,” Gerawan Farming said in a recent statement. “Last October, the union reappeared and is using decade-old legislation to now impose a contract on the employer and the employees without a vote.”
California Ag Today associate editor Laurie Greene interviewed Dan Gerawan this week on what he is going through regarding the UFW and ALRB. 
Greene: Please introduce your company’s products, # employees, etc.
Dan Gerawan: Gerawan Farming Inc., which grows and ships under the Prima label, is the world’s largest peach grower and employs about 3,000 workers. The company also farms table grapes, nectarines, and plums. We are a family-owned and operated company. Despite our size, I farm with my father, Ray, my brother, Mike, and my wife, Norma. We are very hands-on; this is what we do.
Greene: There are press reports that Gerawan is having a dispute with the UFW. What is that dispute?
Gerawan: We are not having a dispute with the UFW. Our employees are having a dispute. As a company, our dispute is with the state government that is trying to force a contract on us without giving the workers an opportunity to vote. People need to understand that this is not a normal union situation; it has to do with a law being used for something it was never meant for.
Greene: What is your stance on employees having a vote?
Gerawan: We believe the employees should have a vote, and they have made it known they want a vote. They are not saying how they will vote; they just want a vote. When they often express their opinions to us, we stop them and say, “Don’t tell us your preference; we support your right to vote, that’s enough. Everything else is your choice.”
Greene: Can you describe the chronology of your circumstances with the UFW and ALRB?
Gerawan: We lost an election with the UFW in 1990. We had our only bargaining session in 1995. There was never a contract, and the union failed to continue bargaining. The union disappeared; they abandoned our workers.
To this day, we don’t know why. They have told us, “We have no legal obligation to tell you.” We responded, “But you do have a moral obligation. How can you come back after 20 years and tell our workers that you want 3% of their money or you are going to fire them?”
The UFW wrote us a letter in October 2012 saying, “We’re ready to negotiate.” At the time, we couldn’t believe it since the employees didn’t even know they were represented by the union and had been working quite happily earning the industry’s highest wages. But then attorneys explained to us that the UFW would force us into a mandatory process where the state would actually impose the contract on us and our employees, and we would have no right to opt out.
So, the UFW pretended to negotiate for a while. After just eight brief bargaining sessions over a three-month period, during which the UFW never made an economic proposal, the UFW suddenly asked the government to step in to write and impose a contract us.
Greene: Can you explain the Mandatory Mediation Law?
Gerawan: In 2002, the state legislature passed an amendment to 1975’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act. That amendment allowed for mandatory mediation to be imposed in ag labor situations. However, ‘mediation’ is a misnomer; it is really mandatory arbitration. The legislature passed the law in response to a few employers, including one employer (not us) who supposedly dragged out negotiations for many years, 20 years in that particular case.
When the legislature passed that 2002 law, their thought was that that if an employee votes for a union, they are voting for a contract. However, in most industries, employees vote for representation and negotiation for a contract. This is not a normal situation where the union comes in to negotiate, with power, backing up the workers, and then the two parties negotiate a mutual agreement. This is the union invoking a law that allows the state to literally force a contract on the employer and employees.
Keep in mind that the law was meant to remedy dragged-out negotiations. There were no negotiations here to drag out; the union had disappeared. There is nothing in the legislative history that shows the law was to be used in these situations. The UFW’s and ALRB’s stance is basically, “The letter of the law… says if you failed to reach an ‘agreement,’ we can invoke this.” We responded, “That implies that you tried to reach an agreement. You guys never tried. You went away.” Their response, “Well the law doesn’t say we had to try, so we are using that law now to impose a contract.”
Greene: How do you respond to ALRB’s accusations of coercion and forgeries?
Gerawan:  The Company has done nothing to coerce any signatures. We do not know anything about forgeries. We don’t know how many there supposedly are. We don’t know who caused those forgeries, and by that I mean I don’t know if they are saying we caused them or the union caused them.
It doesn’t take any coercion for the highest paid employees in the industry to realize that it is wrong for a union to come back after a twenty-year absence and tell them they will take 3% of their pay or fire them—without a vote. Not even a vote to ratify any contract that might happen.
After hearing this for a few months and being harassed at their homes multiple times by UFW people, the employees, on their own, began a decertification effort. They started a petition and turned it in to the ALRB. Immediately, the UFW started filing unfair labor practice charges against us saying that we were coercing our employees. That is silly.
We did not coerce, and in fact we invited ALRB to go out to our fields to make sure the workers understood they have the right to vote however they want. The ALRB did that.
We also did that. My wife, Norma, and I met with all the employees and told them, “Do whatever you want, choose however you want to choose. But congratulations on having achieved that right through your petition. We are not asking how you will vote.”
Greene: Could the signatures have been forged after you submitted them?
Gerawan: I really don’t know. All I know is thousands of signatures apparently were delivered.
Keep in mind, the union does not want the employees to have a choice, and they are fighting hard to stop the employees from having a choice, especially when the adjudicating agency has shown overwhelming bias against the employer and the employees.
The ALRB’s role, under the Agriculture Labor Relations Act, is to protect employees’ rights as a whole and to cause peace in the fields (which we had before the UFW and ALRB came into the situation). So why is the ALRB stopping the employees from having their vote just because of a relatively few questionable signatures from an unknown source?
After all, this is merely a vote.
We need to keep in mind that this is a declining union that has been gone for twenty years, has done nothing for these workers, and has returned only to pick the pockets of the industry’s highest paid workers and not even allow them to have a vote. I think it is unconscionable that the ALRB has done nothing to stop it, but in fact has taken every opportunity to accommodate this travesty.
Greene: Gerawan Farming has claimed that the ruling by Silas Shawver, regional director of ALRB, failed to provide a count of signatures filed, the number needed for a vote, and the number judged invalid.
Gerawan: This is correct. The ALRB blocked the election citing forgeries and coercion. Mr. Shawver is refusing to give out any information.
My wife and I informed our employees that the ALRB regional director in Visalia canceled their vote because supposedly we and the management of our company coerced our workers’ signatures. Our employees told me flat out that the only coercion has come from UFW and ALRB themselves.”
To continue this interview, please press “more” below!  


Greene: What is behind the ALRB’s finding that Gerawan directly assisted the petitioner and others in the decertification effort?
Gerawan: We have not directly assisted the petitioner. So, what the ALRB is saying is not true. It is simply did not happen.  
When the employees turned in their petition, the ALRB did not announce an election. The employees got very upset and demonstrated at the ALRB office in Visalia to demand their right to vote.
ALRB did not respond, but subsequently cancelled the vote, citing forgeries and coercion. The regional director is refusing to give out any information.
So, on September 30,over 1,500 of our employees reacted by going on strike to protest the ALRB’s and UFW’s cancellation of the vote. We thought we’d be harvesting peaches and grapes that day, but we didn’t.
Greene: Did Gerawan support the stoppage?
Gerawan: Oh no, we did not support the stoppage. We support the workers’ right to choose. But we did not want to see work stopped because we had fruit to harvest that day. But because the workers did stop, the cost for us was significant.
Greene: In a statement you said, “It is unfortunate that our employees felt they needed to take such a drastic action to have their voices heard. We are still hopeful that [the board] will protect the workers’ right to choose.” Are employees grateful for your company’s advocacy or opposed?
Gerawan: The employees have told us that they are grateful that we support their right to choose. At no time have we ever expressed a preference to them one way or the other. We want them to choose.
Greene: What rights do the UFW and ALRB have?
Gerawan: The UFW itself doesn’t have much power because they have such a small membership and are declining, but they have been handed an inordinate amount of power by the legislature. With such power, the UFW no longer needs workers’ support. They no longer need to organize the way a normal union organizes. Their members are created by legislation, not a vote.
We are about to have a contract literally written for us by a state agency and imposed on us. No one signs anything. Neither we nor our employees can opt out.
This type of ag labor unrest hasn’t happened since the 60’s and 70’s, and back then it was completely the opposite of what’s happening now. Back then, the workers wanted union and government protections. Now, the workers are fighting to be free from union coercion and government imposition. It’s hard to believe that the very law that was created to protect farm worker rights is now being used to rob those workers of their rights.
Greene: Why do you think the UFW is targeting Gerawan Farms?
Gerawan: I think they are going after the old abandoned elections.
We have the highest paid employees in the table grapes and tree fruit industry. No one disputes that, not even the union.
By the way, the union has no contracts with table grapes or stone fruit farm employees, and they have not been able to secure any. The last contract they had was with a Hanford farmer, and after a few years, those workers voted to throw the union out.
Clearly we are the biggest target, especially for a union that now is barely 3,000 members. If they prevail against our employees, this would double their size. Overnight, the majority of UFW members will be co-opted members created by legislative fiat, not by worker choice. The UFW needs this badly because their expenses exceed their income, and this is all public knowledge.
Greene:  What is the employer mandated to do?
Gerawan: To live within the terms of the contract. There will be no other option. As an example of what the imposed contract will do, it will throw out our meritocracy, which has been an important part of our success, and replace it with seniority. That’s something we specifically told the ALRB arbitrator would harm us.
We made it clear to the ALRB, “Do not mess with that. We have been a shining example of success in creating high wages in an industry that has had a lot of failures. Don’t mess with our formula for success, please.” They completely ignored our plea.
Imagine any business having a contract written by the state and imposed on them–wages, working conditions and everything else. It’s hard to believe that it is actually happening, especially when we’re already paying the highest wages and benefits.
Greene:  Did they have to prove any wrongdoing to do this?
Gerawan: To invoke mandatory mediation there has to be an unfair labor practice. We were found guilty of an unfair labor practice in the 1990s after the election. I think it was for laying off a crew at the end of the season.
Now that the union has come back, we have more unfair labor practice allegations. For example, for the buses to Sacramento, that we had nothing to do with, we have an unfair labor practice charge against us. For the employee walk out, that we had nothing to do with and which cost us a huge amount of money, we have an unfair labor charge against us.
Who adjudicates them? The ALRB. A charge does not mean you are truly guilty of doing something; it only means that the union has accused you of something.
Greene: What are your other unfair labor practice charges?
Gerawan: There have been many. It seems to be part of the game. For example, last October, when the union came in, we felt compelled to let our employees know about this. With our lawyers’ review, we sent our employees a letter with the facts only, but we received an unfair labor practice charge just for that.
So, because the UFW suddenly decides to reappear after being gone twenty years, we can no longer communicate with our employees?
Once the union files an unfair labor practice charge, the ALRB investigates, which takes months. Then, they will often side with the union against the employer and file official changes, which will eventually be heard by an administrative law judge. It could be a year or more before the facts come out. Meanwhile, the ALRB and UFW use those charges to damage your reputation, even though there has been no proper discovery or hearing.
Plus, if the unfair labor charge is used to block an election, and the investigation takes months, then the available time window for the election will probably lapse, and the employees’ right to a vote will be taken away from them. The system actually seems designed for that to happen.
Greene: Is there a pattern of unfair labor practices against you?
Gerawan: They come in batches. We got seven a few days ago for the bus trip, the strike, for whatever they conjure up. The unfair labor practice charges are just one or two sentences. From the union standpoint, they fill out a form, and then ALRB does the rest. ALRB sends their team of investigators out to “prove or disprove the unfair labor practice,” but I do not think they want to disprove anything. The ALRB has shown a clear pattern of wanting to rob our employees of their right to choose.
Greene: Gerawan is well known in taking good care of their employees. With this in mind, what could the UFW offer that is missing?
Gerawan: First of all, wage-wise, we are far above the rest of the industry. In fact, many in the industry have told me that they cannot believe that this is happening to the company that pays the highest wages and offers the best working conditions.
So what could the UFW possibly offer? Whatever it is that the state feels it can force the grower to pay whether or not it makes sense or is viable for the business. Again, this is not a normal situation where union organizers represent workers at the bargaining table.
Greene: What is it like for your employees?
Gerawan: The employees have told me that they cannot believe this is happening to them. They say they left Mexico because of things like this. They said, “You wait Dan, we’re going to have a vote.” I said, guys, I hope you do, but you may not have the chance. The employees said, “What do you mean? This is America! When the state hears that all we want is to vote, then they will understand.”
I had to tell them that I was sorry that this it is such a tragedy. We all assume that we will have the simple basic right to vote, but apparently that’s not how it is anymore.
Greene: You have met with Sylvia Torres-Guillén, the general counsel with the California ALRB. How did your conversation go with her?
Gerawan: Yes, my wife and I met her during one of our hearings. She was very cordial. We both had just heard my attorney tell the Judge that ALRB was so biased that it would never let our workers have a vote. We told her that we hoped that she would prove my attorney wrong because our employees need her help to protect their right to vote.
She said she would let them vote if… at which point I politely interrupted and pleaded to her that it was her responsibility to get rid of the “if,” and to make sure the rights of the workers were protected so that peace would be restored to our fields.

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