UFW ACCUSED OF WAGE THEFT….AGAIN

UFW Employee  Claims Union is Keeping Phony Records To Cover Tracks

After having been found guilty of wage theft at trial once, the UFW has been accused once again of wage theft by one of its employees in a class action lawsuit. The UFW’s web site claims that the union is “Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking,” but the union apparently feels that doing the right thing does not include complying with their obligations to comply with California law.

UFW employee Gustavo Diaz claims that, even following the resolution of the first wage theft case against the UFW, the  farm worker union continued to violate its employees’ rights by systematically underpaying their wages. Mr. Diaz alleges that the union created phony records to cover its tracks and create the appearance of compliance while continuing to steal from its employees.

Mr. Diaz also claims to be the victim of a retaliatory termination, having been fired for blowing the whistle on the UFW keeping Dole Berry workers in the dark regarding impending layoffs that resulted from the closure of the Dole Berry farming operation. Mr. Diaz insisted that union leadership keep the workers informed, and when they silenced him and refused to do so, they fired him retaliation for objecting to the UFW’s illegal behavior.

For more information, please contact Mr. Diaz’s attorney, Gerardo Hernandez of Raimondo & Associates, ALC.

P: (559) 432-3000

Pick Justice Action Launches Sweepstakes with $5,000 Prize

Pick Justice Action Launches Sweepstakes with $5,000 Prize

Today, Pick Justice Action, an organization of concerned citizens who support the rights of farm workers, launched a sweepstakes to highlight the anti-farm worker record of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher. Participants will have the opportunity to answer questions about how Gonzalez-Fletcher failed immigrant farm workers at truthaboutlorena.com and, if they get every question right, will be entered into the running for a chance to win $5,000.

“The people of California, particularly farm workers across the state, have a right to know about the anti-farm worker votes that Gonzalez-Fletcher has taken,” said Pick Justice Spokesperson Jesse Rojas. “Despite her rhetoric, she has constantly stood against farm workers, and instead favored big labor union bosses. This sweepstakes is another way Pick Justice Action is aggressively informing the hard-working people of our state about the real record of Gonzalez-Fletcher.”

The entry period of the sweepstakes is open until February 27th. Learn more about the sweepstakes and eligibility requirements at https://www.truthaboutlorena.com/.

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Sponsored by Pick Justice Action, a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit organization with the mission of educating the public about the rights and interests of farm workers and general laborers, and to promote policies that protect these rights.

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.

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.”

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.

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

Gerawan Worker Votes to Be Counted in Fresno

Historic Day Following Five Years of Vote Count Suppression

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Today, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board announced that it will count the votes of Gerawan Farms workers after five years of illegally refusing to tally the ballots.

Supreme Court
Silvia Lopez, Gerawan farm worker spokesperson

Determined to avoid having union dues taken from their wages by a union that had abandoned the workers for almost two decades, Silvia Lopez and the Gerawan Farms employees courageously organized themselves in opposition to forced union membership. In November of 2013, thousands of Gerawan Farms employees voted on whether or not they would be represented by the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the largest worker election in ALRB history.

For five long years, the ALRB has suppressed the vote by refusing to count the ballots while the workers fought to vindicate their civil rights.   The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno ruled in May that the suppression of the vote violated the workers’ statutory and Constitutional rights, and ordered the votes counted. Only after a dismissal of all appeals by the California Supreme Court did the government finally agree to count the ballots.

At 8:30 am on September 18, 2018, the ballots will be removed from the ALRB safe for inspection by the parties, and transportation to Fresno.

The ballots will be counted at 2550 Mariposa Mall, Room 1036 in Fresno at approximately 10:00 am. This tally represents a victory for farmworker rights over a union and a government agency that has tried to silence them.

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.

UFW Breaks Law on Public Hearing But Will Appeal ALRB Ruling

Pick Justice Video Evidence Proves UFW Wrongdoing

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Jesse Rojas, the spokesperson for Pick Justice, summarized the July 24, ALRB decision in favor of the Gerawan farm workers as “amazing.” The ALRB ruled the UFW broke the law and violated the rights of Gerawan farm workers on September 9, 2015, at a public hearing conducted by the ALRB in a hotel in Fresno.

At the 2015 public hearing, Nancy Oropeza, a UFW organizer, instructed hotel security to ban Gerawan Pick Justice employees from attending—in violation of their protected concerted activity. ALRB Administrative Law Judge Mark R. Soble (ALJ) issued the decision that the UFW violated the Agriculture Labor Relations Act by temporarily excluding a group of pro-decertification, anti-UFW farm workers of Gerawan at the recent hearing based on witness interviews and, more importantly, a video that captured everything.

“As you know, with these legal matters,” Rojas explained, “the UFW unfortunately still has the right to appeal it, even though a remedy has been issued. The remedy includes posting notices, just like typical unfair labor practices, to let employees know the UFW broke the law and that it is not supposed to happen again.”

“Ultimately, the ALRB—an unelected, governor-appointed board—has the authority to make the ultimate decision to uphold the ALJ’s full decision, to change it, or to deny it,” Rojas remarked.

“What is a bit disturbing, especially if you compare other cases where the ALRB is very strong against a company or a grower for violating employees’ rights,” he continued, “is the three ALRB members in Sacramento did not want the UFW to advertise the Judge’s remedial message that the UFW broke the law on the UFW’s La Campesina Radio Network. Furthermore, the ALRB did not uphold the ALJ’s recommendation to retrain their organizers so this does not happen again.”

“But because Judge Sobel publicly claimed that the video was a very persuasive piece of evidence,” said Rojas, “the ALRB still upheld that the UFW violated the law. So, the ALRB toned down the severity of the issue and basically just gave [the UFW] a slap on the hand. But we are hopeful that eventually, even if the UFW appeals, this will get remedied and the employees at Gerawan will know that the UFW broke the law and that they have the right to attend a public government hearing.”

Pick Justice is an organization that advocates for 99 percent of the farm workers in the state of California to protect both their freedom to choose their own labor representation as well as their constitutional rights. Pick Justice has supported the Gerawan farm workers in their ongoing legal attempt to mandate the courts to force the ALRB to count their votes from a 2013 election to decertify the UFW as their labor representative.