Preventing Workplace Conflict in Ag

There Are Down To Earth Tools To Lower Stress

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

It’s essential to learn how to navigate agricultural workplace conflict to help keep the workplace safe for all employees.

Dr. Linda Thomas is vice-chancellor of Educational Services and Workforce Development at West Hills Community College District. She’s also a senior consultant at Linda Thomas Consulting.

She said that anytime you deal with people where you potentially have conflict, some people will get angry and try to power up and deal with it that way, whereas other people try to shy away from it, but neither one of those is the way to handle it.

“There are some down-to-earth tools that you can use to calm yourself and to work through the process. And when you do that, we call it conflict transformation, and you can get to a better place than you were before,” Thomas said.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of it; they should just understand that there’s a way to move through it and they can get to the other side.”

She noted that it’s essential to avoid high-stress situations in the workplace.

“That’s the key, because when the stress gets high, you have a lot of negative effects. There is an increase in insurance costs and high absenteeism and people quit, and you have low productivity and low morale, so you can’t just let conflict simmer,” Thomas said.

“You can’t pretend that it’s going to go away and you can’t, make it go away,” Thomas continued. “You have to work through it. And a lot of people are concerned about working through it. But I think the number one takeaway about working through it is to examine yourself. You need to know what your hot buttons are. You have to know what makes you mad or what makes you stressed out. And you have to understand that.”

Thomas recommended that when you’re engaging constructive discussion about the conflict itself, you have to say, “okay, I’m starting to feel angry now,” and take a step back, timeout, whatever it needs to be.

Thomas said we need to come at it with a logical point of view. Because if you do that, whether you’re a business owner or a manager or a leader, you can have a reasonable point of view on it.

“Ask yourself, ‘what do I need to get out of it?’ You can see your way through it a lot better than you can if you don’t know what to do or how to do it, and your emotions have overwhelmed you,” she explained

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Raul Calvo: Good Employee Communication Shows Respect

Organizations Must Improve Their Culture

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Communicating with employees on the farm is essential. Furthermore, according to Raul Calvo, owner of Employer Services, the manner in which an employer communicates is critical in terms of making employees feel respected.

“The services I provide to employers, including those in agriculture,” Calvo explained, “are typically designed to improve the culture of their organizations by helping them better manage their employees.”

Calvo described himself as “nonstop-busy because as long as companies have employees, there will always be some sort of conflict. And there are certain skills that foremen and supervisors should have to be able to better manage their employees. Unfortunately, the majority of foremen and supervisors are not very adept in those skills, so we work on helping them with those skills.”

“One such skill is conflict resolution—their ability to resolve conflict among themselves, with their employees, and among the employees,” Calvo said.

“Another skill is their ability to manage and minimize favoritism, probably one of the most difficult things to manage. Favoritism causes employees to come to work with this sour taste in their mouths. You know, they’re constantly thinking, ‘Why me?’ ‘Why not me?’ or ‘Why do they only do this?’ So, favoritism makes any little issue or small problem become much bigger because the employees are already carrying this baggage.”

“Third, we evaluate their ability to communicate with employees, which is very difficult.”

Moreover, Calvo believes communicating technical information is exceptionally difficult, “so we work on programs to help supervisors develop that skill. For instance, I’ll see a supervisor talking with an employee about a movie, a TV show, or a sports game they saw, and they’re communicating this vivid information so clearly. But as soon as the supervisor needs to communicate technical information that is required for the employee to be able to do the job, the supervisor stumbles and often says the wrong thing to the employee.”

“Finally,” Calvo said, “supervisors need to meet with their employees on a regular basis—two or three times per week sometimes. Meetings that should take three to five minutes to end up taking 20 to 25 minutes. A meeting that should take 10 minutes takes 40 to 45 minutes because the supervisor does not have the skills to run an effective meeting. So, we put them through the process of running effective meetings and to be quicker and more to the point.”

These are four essential skills that supervisors and foremen need to develop, according to Calvo.

Honor Cesar Chavez’s Legacy by Confronting UFW Corruption

Chavez Spent His life Trying to Improve Farm Worker’s Lives, Instead of Threatening Their Lives

By Jesse Rojas, Spokesperson for Pick Justice

Cesar Chavez spent his life trying to improve life for farmworkers, fighting for changes he felt would bring about civil rights and justice for workers. At the end of this month, California state legislators plan to honor Cesar Chavez’s birthday as a day of public service.

The work Cesar Chavez did organizing farmworkers is credited with spurring better working conditions and increased wages, putting people who perform difficult work but still struggle to provide for their families a step closer to achieving the American Dream in California.

Jesse Rojas, CEO, The Redd Group

Cesar Chavez has been portrayed as the founder of The United Farm Workers union to help struggling farm workers achieve a better life.
Growing up in the fields in the Central Valley town of Delano, this fight begun by Cesar Chavez is personal to me. I too come from an immigrant background, I’ve eaten with the farmworkers who fought alongside Cesar Chavez and heard their stories.

Today, however, Cesar Chavez would be saddened to see what the UFW has become.

After voting overwhelmingly to leave the UFW, Gerawan farmworkers spent five long years in court fighting the UFW and the ALRB, who refused to count their votes until they were ordered to by a judge.
The Gerawan workers, just like the farmworker activists before they were fighting for a better life – and against a UFW contract that would have lowered their pay.

While in Cesar Chavez’s time the UFW gave farmworkers a voice, today’s UFW instead seeks to silence the workers.

When Gerawan farmworker activist Silvia Lopez, one of the leaders of the fight to leave the UFW, tried to speak with former Governor Jerry Brown, a top UFW leader physically blocked her way. The whole incident was captured on video and reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Cesar Chavez spoke out against humiliation and oppression, such as the methods of today’s UFW bosses.

The Gerawan farmworkers are far from alone. Today, the UFW represents just 1 percent of farmworkers, and more petition the ALRB to leave all the time. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, former ALRB Chairman William B. Gould IV, who resigned from the agency in disgust, stated the ALRB now spends more time on petitions from workers trying to leave the union than those trying to join.

In fact, the UFW even abuses its own workers, who the Los Angeles Times reported had to take the union to court to force the union to pay almost $2 million in unpaid wages and penalties.

Cesar Chavez devoted his life to fighting for workers rights. He supported workers right to choose whether or not to join a union. Civil rights for farmworkers cannot be achieved when the government looks the other way when workers are abused, regardless of who is committing the acts of oppression.

That’s why we cannot honor Cesar Chavez’s legacy without speaking out against the abuses of today’s UFW.

Jesse Rojas is a farm worker rights activist, spokesperson for Pick Justice, and founder of California Farm Workers & Families PAC. Rojas is a tireless advocate for liberty and civil rights and often provides news commentary on issues such as entrepreneurship, labor relations, and politics. 

Rojas also launched Mi America En La Radio, the first conservative Spanish-language radio show in the Central Valley. As CEO of The Redd Group, LLC, his organization offers labor relations, human resources consulting, public relations and political consulting.

CA Supreme Court Rejects ALRB’s Effort to Avoid Counting Gerawan Farm Votes

California Fresh Fruit Association Applauds CA Supreme Court Order To Count Votes

George Radanovich, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, applauded the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, upholding the earlier decision by the 5th District Court of Appeals ordering the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to count the employee ballots cast in their 2013 decertification election.

George Radanovich

Radanovich stated, “Today we welcomed this long overdue decision. We are pleased and encouraged by the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, which affirms that the most important opinion in this entire matter, the prerogative of the employees will be heard.”

Gerawan employees voted in a decertification election in November of 2013 to decide whether or not to decertify from the United Farm Workers Union. Despite the fact the ALRB ordered and oversaw the decertification election, they impounded the ballots, denying recognition and acceptance of their decision.

Radanovich continued, “Today’s court action would not have occurred without the determined effort of Gerawan Farming, Inc., the Gerawan family, and in particular, company President Dan Gerawan for defending his company and his employee’s right to choose. This fight has been long and arduous, but

Heat Illness Prevention for Workers

Training is Key to Heat Illness Prevention

(Part One of a Series)

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Temperatures heating up throughout Central California are a reminder of the critical importance of heat illness prevention for farm employees working in the luminous fields.

Scott Peters farms peaches and nectarines in the Reedley and Dinuba areas of Fresno County. He carefully watches his workers. “During the high heat periods, we have to be very careful so the guys don’t get heat illness, heat stroke types of symptoms. So we have shade and cold water readily available. We’re working on portable toilets now that have covers over them so they’re not as warm, for summer use.”

Scott Peters

Peters maintains that prevention is always the best way to keep workers safe. “It comes down to regular training,” he said.

“We also conduct heat illness training with all the field workers. We go over proper clothing light-colored clothing, cool clothing, hats, bandanas and sunscreento help prevent issues,” Peters said. “If the field worker is safe and happy, he does a better job. It’s better performance and, all the way around, everybody benefits.”

And Cal/OSHA rules require certain provisions to ensure workers’ safety as the days warm up. “We have postings,” Peters said. “Our crew bosses have binders with all the heat illness information, emergency contact numbers – both company and medical – such as 911 and the local hospital. [These postings] are with them in their vans and [affixed] to our restroom units in the field.”