ALRB/UFW Access Update Meeting March 21 in Bakersfield

Meeting March 21, 7 am -11 am at Hodel’s Restaurant in Bakersfield

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Jesse Rojas, the founder, and CEO of The Redd Group; Michael Saqui from the Saqui Law Group; and Raul Calvo from Employer Services are the presenters of an upcoming important seminar. It will specifically focus on agriculture and farm labor contractors,  growers, packers, and shippers, regarding ALRB and UFW access. Attendees will learn what to do when the United Farm Workers union is wanting to take access and speak with farm employees to try to unionize them.

Jesse Rojas, The Redd Group

“The reason why we wanted to do this now before the season started is that the UFW has been very active this year, said Rojas. “The union is trying to get out of the hole that they’ve been in after so many losses. They pulled a big PR stunt earlier this year at Wonderful in Delano, and we also heard that they’re continuing to hire multiple organizers, which indicates that they’re trying to get more active in our industry this year.”

The dos and don’ts will be discussed when it comes to the union trying to take access to your employees or trying to gain access in your fields. Saqui will be presenting his hot topics in labor and employment. He will also delve into the overtime pay in agriculture, which is confusing and ever-changing.

“Raul Calvo will speak about how to improve employee relations and communications with your employees out in the field and avoid having a third party attempt to step in and become the medium of communication between you and your employees,” Rojas said.

State Senator Shannon Grove will also be speaking at the event at 8:30 in the morning, and she will be focusing on some of the legislation—the good and bad law that’s currently happening at the capital that’s going to affect agriculture.

“She will also speak about the general overreach of state agencies such as the ALRB,” Rojas said.

The location of the meeting is Hodel’s Country Dining at 5917 Knudsen Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93308.

For more information and to register, RSVP at Jesse@reddgroup.org or call 844-946-7333. Seating is limited.

 

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Labor Unions Could Be Cause of Farm Closings

Major Farm Operations With UFW Contracts Have Shut Down

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Farms operations shutting down due to labor unions and UFW contracts is something that is suspected, but businesses do not outright admit it, said Robert Roy, President/General Counsel at the Ventura County Agricultural Association based out of Camarillo.

“Last year, you had the closure of all of the strawberry operations for Dole,” Roy said. “They shut down all of the strawberry operations in Ventura and Santa Maria and Watsonville, so that was at one time very large UFW-contracted operations. They had over 1,500 workers since the mid-1990s.”

Roy explained that workers see no reason to pay three percent of their wages for many of the things that farmers are now providing that maybe they didn’t previously when UFW was around.

“Farmers have basically caught up with many of these UFW contracts, and selling the union to the workers is a much more difficult proposition, especially when they have to pay three percent of their wages,” he said.

Roy says that most Supreme Court decisions have been pro-worker as of recently, including a recent case involving a Starbucks employee.

“We have been watching some of their decisions over the last 12 months, and they’re very nuanced decisions dealing with wage and hour issues and rounding practices,” Roy said. “They recently issued a decision on a class action case where a Starbucks employee was owed $112 because after he clocked out, he would lock the door, and do other tasks. The California Supreme Court came back and said, ‘well, you know, $112 to some people is a week of groceries. He’s owed it.’ So the California Supreme Court is very pro-worker.”

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ALRB Officially Certifies Gerawan Workers’ “No Union” Vote

“No Union” is Official Result

News Release Edited by Laurie Greene

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.”

Count our votes Farm workers' rights UFW Endorsement "No Union"
Count the Votes

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.

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Gerawan Votes Were Counted in a Professional Way

Votes Were Announced, Union or No Union

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Following Election Protocols, below is a rundown of what happened at 2550 Mariposa Street, Fresno, California. The Gerawan ballots arrived by with ALRB officials carrying them in a black container with red handles. They arrived at the building at approximately 10:15 AM. Watch video here: https://youtu.be/dttdNbUQbG4

Number counted

ON STAGE

1 Veronica Cervantes ALRB Board Agent is running the election
1 UFW voter observer On stage, seated for observation and simultaneous tallying
1 Gerawan farm employee, Angel Lopez. On stage, seated for observation and simultaneous tallying
2 ALRB voter observers On stage, standing for observation
1 Gerawan farm employee On stage, standing for observation
2 ALRB employees On stage, standing for observation in Black Vests with ALRB patches
8 TOTAL ON STAGE

AUDIENCE

100 Silvia Lopez, Jessie Rojas (Pick Justice), Gerawan employees, people in red UFW t-shirts,; media.
2 Lawyers: Tony Raimondo, Ron Barsamian
1 Eduardo Blanco, ALRB
2 Assmb. Jim Patterson, Shannon Dee Grove (Kern County)

Observation Notes

Black cooler with red handles contains ballots.

Cervantes showed 21 large yellow Legal-sized? Envelope packets, each containing blue ballots and yellow #10 envelopes of challenged ballots

  1. Challenged ballots
    1. Cervantes removed ballots in yellow envelopes designating them as “challenged ballots.”
    2. Silvia said even if there are 300 Challenged ballots, “We’ll be OK.”
  2. Challenged ballots were identified during the Nov. 2013 election under the following circumstances:
  3. Farm employees were told to bring a paystub.
  4. Upon arrival, voters picked at random, were asked to show a California ID as well.
  5. If they lacked a second ID, CA ID, their votes were sealed in yellow envelopes designated as challenged ballots.
  6. Many voters told Silvia their vote was challenged. They were upset, angry and intimidated.
  7. TOTAL Contested ballots 634
  8. These contested ballots will be counted today only if necessary after the blue ballots are counted.
  • #10 Yellow envelopes identify and contain one challenged ballot each.
  • Placed in separate gray tote box to isolate them from the blue [non-challenged] ballots
  • See Silvia Lopez’s comments
  1. Blue Ballots
    1. Blue Ballot Rules. If voter:
      • used a check mark instead of an X OK
      • marked in the outer box instead of inner box OK
      • Marked “No” for unwanted option OK
      • Ballot with marking indicated the ID of the voter UNACCEPTABLE
    2. Counted in bunches of 50 2
    3. Read “No Union” in Spanish
    4. Cervantes made announcements in English, then Spanish
    5. 2:36

 

Union

No Union

Invalid

Challenged ballots

Ballots

197

1098

18

Total

635

 

 

7

No markings Unsufficient to affect outcome of ballot count

 

6

Markings on both boxes

2

Signature reveals ID (separated out)

1

Marked in the middle

1

Contains statement, sticker

1

?

1930 Ballots

Expected from 11/ 2013/

677

1948 Total voters

2645 # Names on list

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Does UFW Cause Farm Closures?

Legal Explanation of Anecdotal Farm Closure Reports

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Scores of farms in California have gone out of businesses over the last four decades, and many suspect that UFW pressure was to blame for farm closures. But there is no definitive reported evidence that this has happened.

“There are no specific facts that you can cite or any empirical evidence you will find that growers who closed down their businesses did so because of the UFW,” responded Robert Roy, president/general counsel for the Camarillo-based Ventura County Agricultural Association, when asked about such verbal reports.

Roy explained that it is not illegal for a business to claim it shut down, such as a farm closure, due to a union, according to a recent Supreme Court of the United States decision.

“But people just don’t talk about that in general,” he clarified.

“Generally, if someone’s been under a UFW or other union contract for a number of years, you see the cost of that contract makes them very noncompetitive with other non-union employers, both in-state and in other states,” Roy said. “In the past, UFW contracts had considerably more costly items in their employment packages, usually starting with higher wages, plus [non-wage] costs such as paid vacation, paid holidays, a union pension plan, and a union medical plan. So cumulatively, as the years go by, these costs are a pretty heavy hit for a lot of these employers.”

“Such costs are probably the only thing you can look to determine whether a farm went out of business because of the union,” he explained. “Of course, this is anecdotal evidence because you are not going to find people out there who will tell you directly they went out of work specifically to avoid the union.”

food safetyRoy said the public would not encounter those types of situations in which a business owner will assert the UFW caused their farm closure.

“I would think if a business had to stop operating,” Roy said, “maybe the owner of the business might put out a statement that explains what caused the farm closure. But we did not see that either.”

“When I first came here to Ventura County as a young attorney back in 1977,” Roy recalled, “there were somewhere between 30 to 40 UFW contracts in this area. Now there is only one—Muranaka Farms,” the largest U.S. grower and shipper of bunched green onions, according to their website. I think they have a very small workforce of perhaps 50 people here in Moorpark, California. I believe the rest of their operation is in Mexico, but I do not know if that operation is covered under the UFW contract.”

Roy continued, “Then last year, you had the closure of all of the strawberry operations for Dole Food Co. They shut down all of their strawberry operations in Ventura, Santa Maria and Watsonville. At one time, they had a very large UFW contract with over 1500 workers since the mid-1990s.”

“It is a tough deal for a union to convince workers to pay three percent of their wages in dues,” Roy said, “for many of the benefits that farmers now provide. I think farmers have basically caught up with many of the provisions covered in these UFW contracts. So, selling the union to the workers is a much more difficult proposition, especially when they have to pay three percent of their wages.”



Ventura County Agricultural Association is a business trade association that concentrates on providing services to agricultural employers, packing sheds, and labor contractors in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties since 1970. The organization’s services include training, dealing with union matters such as grievances and arbitrations,  representing members in administrative and court proceedings, and creating handbooks and policies. The Association keeps its members up-to-date on any federal, state or local laws that affect their operations.


Resources

Guild, Todd. (Updated 2017, July). Dole Berry Co. to close doors,” Register Pajaronian.

Mohan, Geoffrey, (2017, Sept. 3). Pulling back from strawberry market, Dole Food Co. to lay off 402 workers in Northern California,” Los Angeles Times.

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Motion Filed in Fifth District Court to Count the Votes!

Editor’s Note: Anthony Raimondo with Raimondo & Associates filed a motion with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno to count Gerawan ballots .

 

SILVIA LOPEZ AND GERAWAN FARMING, INC V. AGRICULTURAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA IN AND FOR THE FIFTH APPELLATE DISTRICT (FRESNO)

No. F073730

To Whom It May Concern:

On May 30, 2018, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno issued a unanimous decision that the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) violated farmworkers’ Constitutional and statutory rights by refusing to count their ballots, essentially stripping them of their right to decide for themselves whether to be represented by a union.

Silvia Lopez and her co-workers from Gerawan Farms organized themselves in opposition to the state’s effort to force the United Farm Workers Union, a dying union looking to save itself with money from their paychecks, and through determination, organization, and civil disobedience forced the ALRB to hold what was the largest farmworker vote in history. From the dawn hours to late in the evening, thousands of farmworkers voted on whether to be represented by the union. Sadly, the ALRB, in cahoots with the union, refused to count the votes, suppressing the workers’ vote in order to protect the UFW.

Anthony Raimondo
Anthony Raimondo, of Fresno-based Raimondo & Associates, attorney for Gerawan employee spokesperson, Silvia Lopez

Since that time, the workers have been fighting to expose ALRB corruption and get their ballots counted. While they believed that day had finally come, the ALRB has chosen to defy the court and continues to refuse to count the ballots. In fact, the ALRB refuses to confirm where the ballots are stored, or whether it has them at all.

On behalf of the Gerawan workers, Silvia Lopez has filed a motion with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, respectfully requesting that the Court order the state to immediately open the ballots, complete the election process, and preserve the record of the election as appeals wind their way through the Court.

The workers believe, as the Court ruled, that to suppress worker votes violates not only principles of democracy, but principles of government transparency as well. In the view of the workers, there is simply no justification to refuse to count the ballots, except for a desire to avoid exposing the overwhelming worker opposition to UFW representation.

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