ALRB Abolishes Gerawan Farmworker Vote
By Laurie Greene, Editor
The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States pays tribute to “unenumerated” rights of citizens—rights not specified—such as the right to travel, to vote, to keep personal matters private and to make important decisions about one’s health care or body, as upheld by the Supreme Court over the years. Likewise, the cherished American legal notion of “No taxation without representation,” generally attributed to James Otis embraces “actual representation” over “virtual representation.”
Yet, Court documents issued on Friday, April 15, 2016, by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) upheld the September 17, 2015 decision by Mark R. Soble, Administrative Law Judge, ALRB, to set aside farmworkers’ ballots in a 2013 election to decertify mandated representation by the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).
The following paraphrased issues were among ALRB findings:
–Gerawan Farming committed unfair labor practices under California Labor Code section 1153 by providing unlawful assistance to the decertification effort against the UFW, directly soliciting grievances and granting employees a wage increase.
-Petitioner Silvia Lopez, a Gerawan farmworker, solicited and received an unlawful donation from an association of which Gerawan was a member.
The ALRB concluded these unlawful actions (a) make it impossible to know if the signatures collected represent the workers’ true sentiments and (b) created an environment, which would have made it impossible for true employee free choice when it came time to vote.
“As a result of the employer’s unlawful support and assistance,” Judge Soble, in September 2015, called for “setting aside the decertification election and dismissing the decertification petition. Given that the unlawful conduct tainted the entire decertification process, any election results would not sufficiently reflect the unrestrained free expression of the bargaining unit members.”
Thus, the UFW, voted in by Gerawan farmworkers in a runoff election in 1990, certified by the ALRB in 1992, never reached a contract to represent the farmworkers in wage negotiations with their employer, and did not collect dues from or provide services for the farmworkers, reportedly among the highest paid in the industry, effectively abandoned the Gerawan farmworkers.
When the California State Legislature amended the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 2002 and 2011 to allow and to accelerate the process for imposed mandatory mediation and conciliation for a union contract, UFW offered a new contract proposal—after having abandoned the Gerawan farmworkers from 1995 and 2012.
Despite a lower court’s rejection of the so-called mandatory mediation and conciliation provision, the ALRB appears to have been successful in forcing UFW representation and mandatory dues collection on current Gerawan employees, after 25 years of ineffective UFW involvement that encompassed about 18 years of no involvement whatsoever—and certainly without counting their votes.
Click here to read, “ALRB DISCHARGES FARMWORKER VOTE, PART 2 – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ATTORNEY RAIMONDO: LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!”