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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California Supplies Thanksgiving

California Feeds the Nation on Thanksgiving!

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California ranks #8 in turkey production in the United States (2016), and we supply most of the western states from our poultry farms located in several areas in the state.

The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing or “Dressing” originated from a ç, born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. In short, Cubbison graduated from California Polytechnical University in May 1920 with a degree in Home Economics having paid her way through school with the money she earned feeding the farm workers.

Cubbison created her popular stuffing in 1948 using broken pieces of the popular Melba toast and various seasonings. The factory in Commerce, California churns it out in mass quantities this time of year.

California farmers produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates, right on up the food line.

These are all celebrated Thanksgiving foods.

Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area completes the stuffing mix. Nutrient-dense carrots, lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas now arrive, pre-washed and bagged, in your local produce department. Your Thanksgiving traditional green beans come from California growers.

An ample supply of freshly harvested oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, and raspberries are shipped from many areas in the state. Seasonal features include sweet potatoes from the Merced, about an hour north of Fresno, plus all kinds and colors of potatoes and tomatoes, parsley, onions, and garlic—all crops are raised in California.

Nearly all the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are part of America’s Thanksgiving are sourced from California.

Don’t forget about the great varieties of wine grapes grown in the No. 1 agricultural state that are deftly crafted into delectable California wines.

Or the thirst-quenching Martinelli sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville California, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company that is still family-owned after almost 150 years and is managed by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson. Here’s something to discuss at your Thanksgiving meal:  the company won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair in  Sacramento.

How about those heirloom and new apple varieties, plus those small round watermelons that we snack on or toss into a dessert fruit salad, topped with California pomegranate arils?

Of course, we raise poultry, and even California lamb, if you want to go that way. Here is a Did-you-know? challenge for your holiday meal:  What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents? (Answers are below.)

And by the way, you know that food-safety pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Public relations genius Leo Pearlstein and a turkey producer in Turlock, a small town north of Fresno in Stanislaus County, invented this Thanksgiving fixture.

Back in the 1960s, they were sitting in a room trying to solve the undercooked poultry challenge, when they looked up and noticed ceiling fire sprinklers. The sprinklers sprayed water when the room temperature became hot enough to melt a tiny piece of metal alloy in the mechanism. This innovative team of two applied the same concept to the pop-up timer!

With the exception of cranberries, our national day of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest is really a California Thanksgiving.


Here are some friendly topics for discussion at your Thanksgiving Table:

  • What is the name of the famous Thanksgiving stuffing that originated in California?
  • What beverage company that is still operating won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair?
  • How was the pop-up timer invented and by whom?
  • How does high does California rank in U.S. turkey production?
  • What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents?

In 2010, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey from Modesto, California-based Foster Farms; and alternate bird Cider. 

In 2015, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey and an alternate 43-pound bird named Honest, again from Foster Farms.

The Presidential Turkey flock are Nicholas White turkeys, which originated in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1957. Today, the Nicholas White is the industry standard. (Foster Farms)

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California Proudly Provides Most of Thanksgiving Feast to America

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Feast

From California’s Farms to Your Table

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Turkeys come from several areas of the state, and while California is ranked No. 7 in turkey production, we do supply most of the western United States.

The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s dressing comes from Sophie Cubbison, a California entrepreneur who was born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. A longer fascinating story made short: In May 1920, she graduated from California Polytechnical University with a degree in Home Economics. In 1948, she added seasoning to broken pieces of the popular Melba toast to make stuffing. A factory in Commerce, California churns it out this time of year.

Farmers and farmworkers in California produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, pistachios, figs and dates, apricots, pumpkins, pecans and pomegranates. . . right on up the food line.

These are all part of the American Thanksgiving feast.

Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area, and the rest of the ingredients for the stuffing mix, plus carrots, lots of crisp lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas — all these greens waiting for you, already washed and bagged in the produce department. The green beans in your casserole come from California growers.

You’ve got oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, raspberries freshly harvested from the Salinas and the San Joaquin Valleys. You’ve got sweet potatoes from Merced County — this is their pinnacle season. You’ve got all kinds, colors and sizes of potatoes and tomatoes, plus parsley, onions and garlic. . .  all grown in California.

Practically all the fruits, vegetables and nuts make America’s Thanksgiving celebrations festive, and nearly all of them come from California.

And don’t forget about the great variety of California winegrapes cultivated by California growers and then crafted with great care into great California vintage.

Wait! We grow firm, juicy apples and those small round watermelons that are a great snack or accent to a flavorful dessert fruit salad. And besides poultry, we even have California lamb, beef, rice or pasta—if you want to go that way.

Of course, you’ve got Martinelli’s sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company, which is still family-owned and is run by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson.

At more than 140 years old, Martinelli’s is merely one century younger than our nation. In fact, the company received a first place award at the California State Fair in 1890.

By the way, do you know that little pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Food public relations genius Leo Pearlstein¹, along with a turkey producer from Turlock, invented that gizmo. Pearlstein, who handled the promotions for the California Turkey Advisory Board, was contemplating the enduring Thanksgiving conundrum—how long to cook the turkey and how to figure out when it is done?

Pearlstein said he and the turkey rancher were sitting in Pearlstein’s test kitchen mulling over ways consumers could determine when the turkey was done. They noticed the fire sprinkler system overhead. When the kitchen gets too hot, the fire sprinkler turns on. A metal alloy in the sprinkler is activated or melted when subjected to the high temperature of a fire in the room (185 degrees Fahrenheit). They applied that concept to the pop-up timer.

Officially, the National Turkey Federation advises consumers also use a conventional meat thermometer to verify that the cooked turkey’s internal temperature reaches:

165 degrees F to 170 degrees F in the breast or
175 degrees F to 180 degrees F in the thigh and
165 degrees F in the center of the stuffing
.

Except for cranberries, it is really a California Thanksgiving.


¹Leo Pearlstein is founder and president of Lee & Associates, Inc., a full-service public relations and advertising firm, which he opened in 1950. According to the company website, he currently runs the company with his partners, two of his sons, Howard and Frank Pearlstein. He is also founder and director of Western Research Kitchens, the food and beverage division of his agencyHe is considered a pioneer food consultant and his agency was recently named as one of the top agencies in the country that specializes in food and beverage clients.

For more food safety guidelines, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provides this portal.

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