Agriculture Labor Relations Board Carries Strong Bias, Expert Says

Michael Saqui: UFW and ALRB Are In Bed Together

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

The Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB), initially created by the Agricultural Relations Act, is a group designed to adhere to the well-being of farm workers. However, Michael Saqui, principal at the Saqui Law Group, carries a strong opinion in regards to this group. Saqui is an employer’s attorney on wage and hour, wrongful termination, labor relations, and employment litigation, just to name a few.

According to Saqui, “The ALRB has been set up for and by the United Farm Workers since its inception, and it continues more open today. In fact, they do less hiding of their bias than they have ever before … They’re emboldened by the fact that they are so unfair, and they almost dare you like most in the agricultural industry.”

Initially, the history of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act involved a great amount of grower input. When the UFW or any other farm union files a petition for representation, the election used to occur within seven days; however, producers pushed that it be changed to 48 hours.

“That was something proposed by the growers because they didn’t want crops rotting in the fields,” Saqui said.

“I practice before [ALRB] every week, and it’s surprising that farmers don’t sit on the board as they should.”

Is the UFW a Union?

Attorney Michael Saqui Says UFW is Social Reform Movement

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Michael Saqui, is a principal with the Saqui Law Group, based in Roseville and Salinas, and he recently shared some opinions about the UFW with California Ag Today.

“They’re not a union, in my opinion. I have been fighting the UFW my whole career,” he said.

Saqui Law Group handles wage an hour, labor relations, employment litigation, and other disciplines for the agricultural industry. He said UFW is far from being a union.

“They are not an organized union; they’re a social reform movement, plain and simple,” Saqui said.

“They’re a political action committee that raises money from the limousine liberals,” he said.

Saqui said that the millions that are contributed to the organization do not get back to the workers.

“They run very much like a criminal organization. The way they funnel and shield money and not much gets back to the farm worker.”

The UFW thinks they have been successful at what is called the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), where they have gotten retail companies to sign onto a code of conduct.

“These metrics that they have put together for compliance in all areas, including wage an hour, treatment, and respect are already codified in California state law to make large companies and other folks feel good,” he said.

Saqui has had no input on the EFI which they point to as a success.

“They can’t organize workers and when they do organize workers, history has shown that they have been absolutely inept at getting contracts,” Saqui said.

Farmers Leave California Due to Regs

Nassif Warns that More Farmers Will Leave Highly Regulated California

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

Earlier this summer, the California legislature voted down Assembly Bill 2757 which would have ended the 10-hour workday for farmworkers and eliminated their opportunity for overtime pay. Now, the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, is trying again with Assembly Bill 1066.

Tom Nassif, who has presided as president and CEO of Western Growers for the past 14 years, described this bill as a major cause for concern for farmers. “That’s very top-of-mind,” said Nassif. “Many of our members tell us the increase in minimum wage is onerous and the overtime bill is even worse; it will be more expensive and all it’s going to do is drive more producers out of production or into foreign countries,” he said.
Western Growers logoFrom his many years as a labor attorney working with multiple growers and shippers throughout the state, Nassif has a clear understanding of how this type of bill would adversely affect the farmworkers it’s being touted as helping. “When you think about the fact that you’re going to be taking ground out of production or moving production somewhere else, eventually you’re not going to have enough jobs. Additionally, people are starting to move into crops that don’t require so much labor, like tree nuts, which are mechanized,” noted Nassif.

Nassif explained that over the past few years, the overall cost of farming in California has risen more than 30 percent resulting from the climbing cost of water, various types of government regulation, and increased wages. “If AB 1066 were passed and put into effect, farmers will do what they need to do in order to survive, including limiting worker hours and hiring additional workers to make up the difference, or simply moving the entire farming operation to another state that’s more cost-effective.”

Nassif noted he has already heard of some farmers who are not waiting for costs to become more expensive and have already left California. “No question; it has been happening for a number of years,” said Nassif, adding the number of departures is growing all the time.

“You cannot put up with the high cost of production and micromanagement by the government, whether it’s the state government or the federal government or even regional governments, and have an effective economic model for farming,” Nassif stated. “Pretty soon that is just going to drive everybody away. They can produce much more cheaply in foreign countries.”