TODAY, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) officially certified that a majority of the valid ballots from the November 5, 2013, election that were counted five years later in Fresno on September 18 were cast as “No Union.” In addition, the ALRB concluded that “the United Farm Workers of America thereby lost its prior status as the exclusive representative of the employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.”
Silvia Lopez, a Gerawan employee at the time, filed the petition on October 25, 2013, to decertify the UFW as the bargaining representative of the agricultural employees of Gerawan Farming, Inc., which led to the sanctioned decertification election a few weeks later. Today, Lopez commented, “I cannot believe what just happened today. The ALRB certified our votes and results. I am speechless and beyond excited and happy because justice was finally done.”
Said attorney Anthony Raimondo, “This is a great day for farm workers all across the state of California who can finally celebrate the fact that they wll be the ones who decide their future, not a government agency or a politically connected union. The workers will rest easy tonight knowing that their wages belong to them and will not be taken from them by the United Farm Workers union.”
“We are grateful that the ALRB has recognized the undeniable truth of the workers’ will as expressed in the vote,” Raimondo continued, “and relieved that the agency has decided to abandon its alliance with the UFW and work for the rights of California farmworkers rather than the financial health of a failing union.”
Jesse Rojas, spokesperson for Pick Justice, stated, “Pick Justice was started because of the courage, strength and determination of thousands of farmworkers who simply wanted the right to choose and to be treated equally like every other worker in the state and country. We are thankful that the ALRB finally did the right thing after 5 years of suppressing workers’ rights. Today is a historic and huge victory for the Gerawan farmworkers. Pick Justice is just getting started and will continue to advocate for what is right.”
Link: To review the ALRB Certification of the November 2013 Election to Decertify UFW issued TODAY, September 27, 2109, click on 44 ALRB No. 10.
When Will the Court Ordered Gerawan Votes Be Counted? Part 1
By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor
Jesse Rojas, a farm worker rights activist and spokesperson for Pick Justice, (PickJustice.com) expects the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and United Farm Workers union (UFW) will appeal the recent ruling by Fifth District Court of Appeals in Fresno, which ordered the ALRB to count Gerawan Farming, Inc. employees’ votes cast nearly five years ago.
Specifically, on May 30, 2018, the Court ordered the ALRB to count Gerawan farm employees’ votes cast in a November 2013 government-sanctioned election to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) as their collective bargaining representative, a union that abandoned the workers for over two decades.
The ALRB held the decertification election in response to petitions filed by Gerawan employees following notification that the UFW moved to impose both UFW bargaining representation and union dues (three percent of salary) on Gerawan employees under the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Regulation created in 2002 but then amended in 2011 to allow ALRB to reverse election wins.
Historically, the ALRB certified the UFW as the bargaining representative of Gerawan employees in 1992; however, the UFW never attempted to negotiate in good faith with Gerawan Farming, Inc. on behalf of the employees, nor did the UFW collect dues. The UFW then abandoned the Gerawan employees for nearly a quarter of a century.
Rojas explained, “Our state government continues to refuse to count the votes. That is un-American. These thousands of workers, Hispanic workers who are Americans, came to this country for freedom and the ability to choose what is best for them and their families. They have been waiting for nearly five years for the government to count these votes. Where are the votes? We don’t even have confirmation of the safety and status of those ballot boxes.”
“When the Fifth District Court of Appeals made this announcement, Silvia Lopez was absolutely stunned by it,” said Rojas. “She feels like we haven’t really won a lot in the last few years. At one time, Silvia said, ‘I escaped the corruption from my government in Mexico and I get to California and I’m starting to experience the same and feel the same way,” Rojas said.
“Ninety-nine percent of my family still lives in Mexico, so I know what we ran away from, what makes this country great, and why we are here. So it’s really sad for us to see in this particular state, with Jerry Brown and the majority of the legislators in Sacramento, they are breaking away families because of economic suppression and government corruption,” he said. “They are destroying jobs or they are complicit in the destruction of thousands of jobs, not just at Gerawan Farms, the biggest example. There are multiple companies where the UFW and the ALRB, both, and our government, have failed to protect worker rights and their jobs.”
“I’ll tell you, ” Rojas continued, “from reading most of the decision, which was over 130 pages, it was historic—not just because they said, ‘Count the votes,’ but because of specific legal arguments they used. They went as far as putting a footnote that told the legislature they should amend or change the law, so this does not happen again. They really went above and beyond to explain why this has been really wrong and why it needs a big remedy.”
“I’m not only biased,” Rojas said, “I am 100 percent pro-agriculture and pro-farm workers because I grew up in farming. You know, the moment my parents and I arrived from Mexico, we encountered the history of the grape strikes and UFW beginnings. I grew up hearing their stories and ideology.”
Seeing how their current actions and results differ from the original movement told throughout history, this drove Rojas to step out and publicly speak about it.
Pick Justice advocates freedom of choice for farm workers. They are concerned citizens who support the rights of workers to choose whether or not they want to have a union represent them. They are standing up for workers who are victimized by a politicized government agency. They believe that freedom of choice is a human right. From their “About Us” page: “People who are not educated are deprived of their freedom by those who are educated.
Pick Justice exists to educate the public about the corrupt relationship between a once-noble union and the dishonest government employees 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.” Pick Justice encompasses the vibrant website www.PickJustice.com, plus YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat social media outlets.
Rojas is also founder and CEO of The Redd Group, LLC based out in Bakersfield. “At The Redd Group, we provide all aspects of labor relations and human resources consulting,” he explained. “This year, we started doing more political consulting and public relations, helping campaigns and companies understand data blind spots that may keep them from maximizing their potential and coach them to adopt winning strategies by focusing on the simple 3 M’s of marketing: identify the specific Market, then craft the exact Message, then finally choose the best Medium to deliver the message. Wherever and however we can, we try to contribute our views and beliefs, as well as whatever we can do to change a little bit of the government for the better and create awareness where needed.”
Ballots in UFW Decertification Vote Must be Counted
By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor
Two officials spoke out via press release following today’s ruling that the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) must count the ballots cast by Gerawan employees in the 2013 vote to decertify the United Farm Workers (UFW) as their union bargaining representative.
George Radanovich, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, applauded the decision by the 5th District Court of Appeal.
Radanovich stated, “This has been a long time coming. We are encouraged and pleased to see the Court account for the most important opinion in this entire matter, the prerogative of the employees.”
Gerawan employees voted in a sanctioned election in November 2013 to decertify the United Farm Workers as their bargaining representative. Despite having ordered, sanctioned and supervised the election, the ALRB impounded the ballots, withheld a final vote count, and thereby denied recognition and acceptance of the employees’ 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 employees’ right to choose. Finally, sunlight has been cast onto this injustice and the farmworkers’ voice will be heard.”
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) made the following statement regarding today’s ruling:
“This moment is the next step in the most important civil rights battle of our time. More than 2,600 immigrant farmworkers from the Central Valley cast their ballots to determine their own future. Those votes were locked up tight and stowed away by the ALRB—the same agency whose job it is to protect the rights of farmworkers.”
“These hard-working men and women know exactly why their ballots were taken, and they have spent countless hours fighting for the fundamental right to have their votes counted so their voices can be heard loud and clear. Today is victory for them.”
California Ag Today exclusively interviewed William B. Gould IV, member and chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), and previously chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. ALRB Chairman Bill Gould described his extensive experience in labor law, “I have been practicing in labor law both on the union and employer side. I’ve arbitrated labor disputes for 50 years as an impartial arbitrator, and I’ve been in academics, teaching law, and of course in government service as well.”
Chairman Gould defined the Board’s role, “The ALRB is a quasi-judicial neutral agency that was established to interpret and administer the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. It deals with the cases in front of it the best it can and tries to promote rulemaking to implement the objectives of the statute.
When pressed to address a widely held belief that the ALRB is biased in favor of the United Farm Workers (UFW), particularly against Gerawan Family Farms, a Fresno County tree fruit operation which for several years has witnessed a majority of its farmworkers attempt to fight mandatory-mediation-imposed UFW representation and fees, Chairman Gould replied, “The ALRB is a government agency that is concerned with enforcing and administering labor laws. I think when you get in the business of interpreting law and finding facts, sometimes people don’t always agree, and that has happened in a number of cases. A lot of people don’t understand that the statute is written fundamentally to protect the rights of workers to engage in freedom of association and in concert under conditions they consider unfair. The Act also protects employees from retaliation for these freedoms. We are an impartial agency that attempts to take into account the interests of all parties; but fundamentally, we have to find all the facts before us and make decisions and determinations.”
When asked if, in general, farmers were taking care of their workers, Gould answered, “I’m not in a position to say whether farmers are taking care of their farmworkers. That’s really a broader mission than the one that the legislation has given to us. We are concerned with whether, in particular cases, violations of the statute have occurred, and in remedying those violations.”
“And while farmers would agree that farmworkers should have the right to speak up when something is wrong without any retaliation,” Gould elaborated, “bosses are not forced to correct any wrong or to change things. And the boss is not obliged under our statute to do anything about wages, health or safety concerns. We are concerned with giving workers the ability to speak up and engage in concerted activity with protection against employer retaliation.”
On September 17, ALRB administrative judge Mark Soble ruled to prohibit Gerawan employees from learning the outcome of ballots cast in 2013 to decertify the UFW union, angering the agricultural industry and the Gerawan farmworkers, in particular. Gould said, “I can’t make any comments about that matter at all.”
Recently the ALRB hosted three hearings in the state to learn how to better educate farmworkers about their labor rights and to establish legal access to communicate directly with them during work hours at their work sites. Prompted to explain this ALRB request to access private farm property, during production hours, Gould replied, “The problem is the difficulty in reaching those with lack of legal status and who live in the shadow of the law and are afraid to protest. As the most recent witness testified, this population is sometimes cut off by language barriers and might not know the content of the law.”
“Putting aside language and documented status,” Gould continued, “many workers don’t know some very basic aspects of the National Labor Relations Act because of the inability of the Board under the Act to communicate with those workers. So what we are looking at is our ability to communicate the content of the law and the procedures we employ more effectively than in the past.”
When asked about other forms of outreach, such as hanging educational posters in different languages that workers understand, Gould said, “These indigenous languages are something that only academics read. I don’t think that many of the farmers are academics.”
Chairman Gould explained the ALRB could reach workers who speak these ancient languages by “having lawyers on private property describe the content of our statutes and our procedures and perhaps show videos that would explain the rules in their own language.”
Appointed in March 2014 as a member and chairman of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, William B. Gould IV has been Charles A. Beardsley professor of law, emeritus at Stanford Law School since 2002, where he has held multiple positions since 1972, including professor of law. He was chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994 to 1998. Mr. Gould was a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School from 1971 to 1972, professor of law at Wayne State University Law School from 1968 to 1972, and a lawyer at Battle Fowler Stokes and Kheel from 1965 to 1968. He was an attorney-advisor for the National Labor Relations Board from 1963 to 1965 and assistant general counsel for the United Automobile Workers from 1961 to 1962. Mr. Gould is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from Cornell Law School.
Mr. Gould’s term expires January 1, 2017 (Pursuant to Labor Code § 1141(b).)