Meeting March 21, 7 am -11 am at Hodel’s Restaurant in Bakersfield
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Jesse Rojas, the founder, and CEO of The Redd Group; Michael Saqui from the Saqui Law Group; and Raul Calvo from Employer Services are the presenters of an upcoming important seminar. It will specifically focus on agriculture and farm labor contractors, growers, packers, and shippers, regarding ALRB and UFW access. Attendees will learn what to do when the United Farm Workers union is wanting to take access and speak with farm employees to try to unionize them.
“The reason why we wanted to do this now before the season started is that the UFW has been very active this year, said Rojas. “The union is trying to get out of the hole that they’ve been in after so many losses. They pulled a big PR stunt earlier this year at Wonderful in Delano, and we also heard that they’re continuing to hire multiple organizers, which indicates that they’re trying to get more active in our industry this year.”
The dos and don’ts will be discussed when it comes to the union trying to take access to your employees or trying to gain access in your fields. Saqui will be presenting his hot topics in labor and employment. He will also delve into the overtime pay in agriculture, which is confusing and ever-changing.
“Raul Calvo will speak about how to improve employee relations and communications with your employees out in the field and avoid having a third party attempt to step in and become the medium of communication between you and your employees,” Rojas said.
State Senator Shannon Grove will also be speaking at the event at 8:30 in the morning, and she will be focusing on some of the legislation—the good and bad law that’s currently happening at the capital that’s going to affect agriculture.
“She will also speak about the general overreach of state agencies such as the ALRB,” Rojas said.
The location of the meeting is Hodel’s Country Dining at 5917 Knudsen Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93308.
For more information and to register, RSVP at Jesse@reddgroup.org or call 844-946-7333. Seating is limited.
Patterson: “They Never Had the Land, They Never Had the Money”
News Release from Assembly Member Jim Patterson
Governor Newsom put the final nail in the coffin of high speed rail recently. His admission that this project will never go from Los Angeles to San Francisco as voters intended echoes what I have been warning about for years. The results of the audit I requested provided indisputable proof that there is no way forward. They never had the land, they never had the money, and now we know that it will never be a reality.
Governor Newsom also confirmed today that if California doesn’t finish the Bakersfield to Madera portion of the track, we will be forced to repay $3.5 billion in federal funds.
With this stunning turn of events, Central Valley rail supporters and skeptics, must band together to make sure we are left with a functional track. After tearing up prime Ag land and ripping up the heart of our cities, we must ensure that we aren’t left with the unfinished scraps of a failed project.
“The only way this bureaucracy works is by keeping the pressure on. Today’s turn of events is proof of that.
Pick Justice’s Jesse Rojas and Gerawan Employees Will Never Give Up
By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor
For nearly five full years, Gerawan Farming Inc. employees have fought a legal battle for the State of California to count their votes cast in the November 2013 election to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) as their bargaining representative. According to Jesse Rojas, a farm worker rights activist and spokesperson for Pick Justice, “Anything the UFW does, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is right next to them; and anything the ALRB does, the UFW is right next to them. They are one single entity for the most part; they are a partnership.”
Rojas said the ALRB and UFW filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court this week of the Fifth District Court of Appeal decision to count the votes. “We would not be surprised if the state Supreme Court accepts the appeal because Governor Brown appointees and friendly judges would always be likely to take the case,” said Rojas.
“This is where the UFW and the ALRB have failed to mention to the public the fact that we are just asking for the votes to be counted,” Rojas explained. “We are not saying, ‘Certify the results.’ We are not saying, ‘Once you open them and count them, let that be the final choice.’”
“We are saying, ‘You can still litigate it,’” Rojas continued. “‘You can still appeal it. You can still destroy [the ballots] if you want but count them. So why are you so afraid to simply count them?’”
‘This is the perfect question for the UFW, the ALRB, and our California legislators: Why are you so afraid? Employees deserve to know what the choice was, even if you choose to destroy [the ballots] afterward,” Rojas said.
Rojas explained how Governor Brown appointed people to the ALRB who are UFW sympathizers or people who have worked for the UFW.
“It is not only corrupt, it is also very sad and unfair to see over the last years how many companies and jobs have been lost. How many employees and families have been affected? I am not talking just about Gerawan Farming Inc. workers. We can go on and on in McFarland, Delano, Bakersfield, Salinas and Santa Maria for similar examples of how the ALRB has failed to protect farm workers.”
“Launching Pick Justice was great because it started with thousands of Gerawan farm employees who have been very courageous and have not given up,” Rojas explained. “Pick Justice expanded when other workers started reaching out to us from different companies, perhaps dealing with different issues. For example, we have a lot of workers from the Monterey and Salinas area that have been under a UFW contract for decades, but the UFW fails to protect them.”
“The UFW neglects its members by not reporting certain things to them, by segregating those employees who are unhappy with [the UFW] as well as keeping them away from information or meetings,” Rojas said. “Also, by being on the side of the employer—whatever the employer wants to force upon the workers, even if it’s not in their best interests—and forcing it down their throats.”
“After I reached out to Silvia Lopez, we started to meet over the following months. Many of the workers reached out to me. I have spoken to them on my phone. I’ve gone to their houses. I know their spouses. I know their children. I’ve eaten with them, and that’s where I became even more passionate. I said, ‘Look, you guys are the face of this. Your courage is what makes this effort great over so many years; you just don’t give up. You know what you want, and you know what is right.’ ”
“All I have to do,” Rojas continued, “is help you with communication media using techniques that I know, which is so simple. Social media, digital marketing, things that I grew up with and that I’m very good at. Pick Justice is not about me; it’s about them. If they weren’t still fighting, if they weren’t as strong and courageous as they are, we would not have Pick Justice today.”
“In this fight, we’ve gone up against almost all odds. We are going against the state government. We are going against a three- to four-decade-old system, with views, opinions, and decades-long teachings of the UFW and its leaders—its idols, per se—who have parks, schools, and streets named after them.”
“We’ve been attacked, and we continue to be attacked. But we know what we’re doing is right, and we have the numbers. If I didn’t have thousands of workers standing behind me, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Rojas said the Gerawan farm workers absolutely knew if they kept fighting, they would be vindicated.
“They did not give up; they are so motivated. And now, we’re in a waiting game for the most of accounting, but the stakes are high.”
“Think about Silvia Lopez,” he said. “You don’t think she’s going to be attacked by the UFW after attending Ivanka Trump’s recent Central Valley event? You don’t think I’m going to be attacked? I’ll give you an example. When Silvia met Tim Donnelly, a 2014 gubernatorial candidate who cared about her story, the UFW circulated a flyer of that picture and called her a racist towards all employees. Why? Because she’s searching for help for farm workers.”
“The UFW is weak; they represent less than one percent of the farm workers. California has an estimated average of 800,000 farm workers in the state—could be more, could be less,” Rojas said. “Current UFW membership fluctuates around 5,000 active members—less than one percent of farm workers. So for them to continue to be quoted as ‘the champions for farm workers and for Latino workers’ is absolutely wrong.”
“Specifically, their words and their actions do not go with one another,” he continued, “including their stance on immigration. If people simply looked up some of the legislation opposed by the UFW, they would see that the UFW is actually not for immigration. It is ironic and hypocritical to keep quoting and portraying the current UFW leadership as pro-employee and pro-Latino.”
“I know I will never give up and I know that thousands of workers behind me will never give up.”
Building Above Ground Water Storage Enables Groundwater Recharge
By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor
Dramatically helping to recharge groundwater storage is one of the major benefits of the proposal to build Temperance Flat Dam behind Friant Dam, located to the north and east of Fresno. The new dam would triple the storage that is currently available with Friant Dam. Mario Santoyo, the executive director of the San Joaquin Water Authority, is helping the organization prepare the package to submit to the Water Commission by the August 14 deadline.
“We will be making timed releases to various water districts and amenities that will have groundwater recharging basins,” Santoyo said. “First, we need storage and then some time to move above ground water to underground storage. This is a physics necessity and directly counters those who argue we should not build above ground infrastructure if we need only underground storage. Well, if you don’t have above ground water storage, you ain’t putting any below. It is as simple as that.”
“There are two water conveyances from Friant and [the proposed] Temperance Flat Dams: the Friant-Kern Canal – the longest of the two primary canals – and the Madera Canal. Friant moves water south to Bakersfield, and Madera conveys it north to Chowchilla.”
“We will have one of the strongest applications to receive monies,” said Santoyo, assuring that the water authority will receive the package on time.
Now this is important,” Santoyo stressed. “A new video, ‘Build Temperance Flat,’ is now on YouTube. The video aims to educate Californians on the importance of building Temperance Flat Dam.” Santoyo urges those who are on social media to send the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f30o_dQNmn8 “to as many people as you can!”
With severe shortages of surface water affecting key Central Valley production regions, melon growers say both water supply and quality will affect their final crop yields this year. As they ship cantaloupes, watermelons and other melons to supermarkets around the country, every grower in the Central Valley is talking about the water shortage.
There have been some acreage reductions because of lack of surface water, particularly on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, but most melon growers have wells on their farms to irrigate their fields. Because of the salinity of much of that groundwater, however, melon growers report lower yields in many fields.
In addition, growers said they have found it necessary to sink their wells deeper as underground aquifers decline, and farmers report that some wells have run dry.
The annual melon harvest begins in the Imperial Valley and the neighboring Yuma Valley in Arizona in early to mid-May, then progresses north through the San Joaquin Valley.
Melon yields in Imperial and Yuma were lower than normal this year, growers said, because many of the fields were hit with mosaic viruses.
“We fought mosaic in the melons this year that was aggravated by the strong winds that came in later than normal throughout April and much of May,” Imperial County farmer Joe Colace Jr. said. “The size early on was about a half to full size smaller than what we are accustomed to getting from our early crop, but after about the second week, our sizes improved and we were fine for the balance of the season.”
Due to the lack of water in the Bakersfield area, Colace said his farm decided not to plant melons there as it typically does, choosing instead to extend the season in the Imperial Valley, where water was more available.
Sal Alaniz, director of harvest and quality control for Westside Produce in Firebaugh, said they have about 2,500 acres of melons that will be harvested through October. Their plantings are down about 300 acres this year due to water shortages and quality, he said. The farm is using only groundwater this year and its quality has affected some fields.
“We’re using groundwater that is lower in quality and higher in salts, and that affects the quantity,” Alaniz said, adding that melon quality is good, but yields are expected to be only average.
Westside Produce started its melon harvest on June 27, about eight to 10 days earlier than normal due to warm spring weather, Alaniz said. Harvest crews will go through the fields several times, choosing the ripe melons and leaving the immature ones to be harvested later.
Alaniz said the farm uses drip irrigation, which allows for water to be applied when the plants need it while still providing the ability to move harvest equipment through the field. He noted that drip irrigation does bring extra expenses, “due to the labor and need for filters.”
So far, Alaniz said he has had no problem filling harvest crews. About 80 percent of the workers return each year for the melon harvest, he said, while noting that labor could get tighter as other melon growers begin their harvests. Each machine moving through the field employs a crew of 21 plus a foreman.
For cantaloupes, newly adopted mandatory food safety and trace-back requirements took effect last year, following a vote by melon growers.
“The new food safety and trace-back rules are working fine,” Colace said. “Anytime there is something new or a new application, there is always that learning curve. We are through that learning curve, and we are very consistent and satisfied with all of the food safety requirements. The rules are specific to the cantaloupes, but if we have customers who request this on other melons, we are in a position to do that as well.”
The program operates with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and utilizes auditors trained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We are very pleased that all handlers achieved certification last year,” said Garrett Patricio, vice president of operations at Westside Produce and chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board marketing committee. He said this season’s audits are currently ongoing and that any new handlers will be added to the certified list as soon as their audits are complete.
In 2013, California growers produced cantaloupes on about 36,000 acres. Farmers also grew 10,500 acres of honeydew melons and 10,000 acres of watermelons last year, along with smaller plantings of a variety of other melons.