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.”
California Assembly Sends AB 1066 Overtime Bill to Governor
By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director
The California Assembly voted 44 to 32, yesterday, August 29, in favor of a bill that would make California the first in the country to give farmworkers overtime pay after working 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week instead of current law that mandates agriculture workers earn overtime after 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week.
Because farmworkers are unable to work some days due to weather or harvest schedules, they have historically preferred to work as many hours as possible on any given day. Now farmers may be forced to restrict employees from working more than 8 hours per day to avoid the costly overtime payroll, which would severely hurt their financial bottom line.
The bill, which has already cleared the State Senate, now moves on to Governor Jerry Brown, who has until September 31st to sign or veto the bill.
George Radanovich, president of the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) that represents many farmers who rely on hand labor, stated, “It’s a clear example of people who live on black top and cement and who never talk to people in the vineyards or in the fields. They think they are helping the farmworker, and they are not. They’re making it harder for the farmworker and for the farmer,” said Radanovich.
Roger Isom, president of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA), said AB 1066 just places additional burdens on the farmer. “When you combine this Ag overtime legislation with the minimum wage increase and all of the other labor issues—the workers comp costs that are imposed on growers—it makes us noncompetitive,” Isom said. “On top of that you add the regulatory costs from the different issues like the truck rule; we can’t compete.”
“There isn’t anybody out there who wouldn’t want to pay the workers more than what they’re getting today, or even that overtime,” said Isom. “But consider that California is one of only 5 states that even pays overtime, and none of them pay it after only 10 hours. We already had the most stringent overtime regulations for farmworkers in the country before it was ever adopted. Now, we’ve made it worse; we are going to have the highest minimum wage of any farm state out there, so how do we compete?”
Isom commented, “This last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was actually calling Assembly members in the State, urging them to support this bill. We were outraged,” Isom said. “When he was Governor of the State of Iowa, his own state had the lowest Ag wages and has no Ag overtime. The majority of our states, 45 states, have no overtime. You could work 16 hours, 20 hours, and not be paid any overtime.”
Isom noted that supporters of AB 1066 are very shortsighted. He predicts the law will only reduce the number of available working hours available for farm employees and thus decrease their earnings. Isom hopes Governor Brown will see this bill as an added negative impact tied to the recently passed increases to California’s minimum wage.
Agriculture leaders are calling for all concerned to put pressure on Governor Brown to veto AB 1066 by Emailing or phoning constantly.
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
(Featured photo: Roger Isom, president of Western Ag Processors Association and the California Cotton Ginners Association)
Paul Martin, a Petaluma rancher and agricultural leader who has dedicated his life to building bridges between farmers and regulatory agencies, will be honored at Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s “Love of the Land” celebration on July 16 at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor, Calif.
Martin’s remarkable agricultural legacy has earned him a prominent place in Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Fame. The annual award recognizes agricultural leaders who are a guiding force in preserving, protecting and propelling Sonoma County’s $4 billion farming industry. Martin joins legendary leaders in the Hall of Fame, like the late Saralee McClelland Kunde, who was the Saralee of Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard; Gene Benedetti, who was founder of Clover Stornetta Farms; and Larry Bertolini, who was founder and president of Western Farm Center.
Martin is a former dairy rancher who had a second career as a representative for the dairy and agriculture industries. After selling his cows in the late 1990’s, Martin started working as field representative for Western United Dairymen, utilizing his knowledge of the dairy industry and his excellent communication skills to represent milk producers. After retiring from Western United Dairymen in 2012, he served a two-year stint as Gov. Jerry Brown’s Deputy Director in the Office of Business and Economic Development. Martin and his wife Jill have retired to their ranch in Two Rock.
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau will also honor the Sangiacomo Family, a multi-generational Sonoma Valley family respected for their land stewardship, agriculture leadership and dedication to growing world-class grapes, as “Farm Family of the Year”. In addition, the Bureau will present the “Luther Burbank Conservation Award” to Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery in Sebastopol. The Farm Bureau refers to Harmony as, “It could easily be called the Institution of Organic & Sustainable Farming & Gardening, a revered center of learning that upholds an environmental ethic while helping growers produce crops the natural way.”
Love of the Land honors the stewards of the land and Sonoma County’s agricultural bounty. The event starts at 5 p.m. with a tasting of Sonoma County wine and food. A dinner featuring an array of Sonoma County grown products is at 7 p.m. The dinner will be followed by the awards presentation and live auction. The event is open to the public and anyone who wants to join in recognizing the stewards of Sonoma County’s working landscape.
Individual tickets are $65. Corporate sponsor tables for eight people are $1,250. General seating tables of eight are $700.
To make reservations, visit Sonoma County Farm Bureau or call 707-544-5575. Tickets are available until July 2 or until sold out.
Western Growers has praised a deal struck by California lawmakers that would see a US $7.5 billion package to bolster the state’s water supply and infrastructure.
California residents will now vote on the matter in November.
In a statement, Western Growers president and CEO Tom Nassif said he was delighted with the passage of legislation by the California Assembly and Senate, which includes US$2.7 billion for water storage.
“We are especially pleased that the storage portion of this legislation is a continuous appropriation preventing the legislature from withholding funding. Passage of this legislation is an essential first step in adding capacity to our state’s existing storage infrastructure,” Nassif said.
“This legislation replaces the existing bond slated for this November’s statewide ballot. Our Association will work diligently with Governor Jerry Brown to garner support for the initiative.”
California is currently facing one of the worst droughts in decades, and many in the industry have raised serious concerns over the unsustainable rate at which the water supplies are being depleted.
Nassif also commended members of both parties who came together to support compromise legislation he described as ‘critical’ not only for growers but for all of the state’s residents and water users.
“Western Growers particularly appreciates Governor Brown’s leadership on this issue. We look forward to his support of this measure as we work together to gain voter approval for the initiative this November,” he said.
California Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen added his praise to the legislation that he said met the needs of all the state’s regions.
“I believe we have turned a corner in our State in which we quit destroying the land and the people that provide the world food and fiber,” he said in a press release.
“I applaud the hard work and dedication of Assembly Members Connie Conway and Henry Perea and Senator Andy Vidak in leading the legislature in an effort to strengthen a bond proposal that we feel was previously incomplete.
“To the Governor’s credit he and his team listened to stakeholders and came a long way from the $2 Billion for storage that was included in his original proposal to a more comprehensive package that addresses our Valley and the state’s needs for a real solution.”
He added the state now had more money for storage, a path towards cross valley connectors, and funding for ground water cleanup in disadvantaged communities.
“The previous proposals contained less money, no pathway for the connector, and in reality made too few happy,” Nelsen said.
“This is a positive step forward and I believe the Speaker and the Governor when they say we will work together to achieve all our goals.”