ALRB Discharges Farmworker Vote, Part 2 Exclusive Interview with Attorney Raimondo

Anthony Raimondo, “Let the People Vote!”

 

In an exclusive interview with Fresno attorney Anthony Raimondo, California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh discussed the significance to farmworkers of yesterday’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decision to “set aside” Gerawan farmworker votes from the ALRB-sanctioned November 2013 election to decertify the UFW. Raimondo is the attorney for the UFW union decertification petitioner, Silvia Lopez, an employee of Gerawan Farming, a Fresno County diversified tree fruit operation.

California Ag Today: The central California agricultural industry is flabbergasted this week following the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s decision to set asideand not countthe ballots of 2,600 Gerawan farmworkers cast in 2013. What is your take on this decision?

Anthony Raimondo, Fresno County-based attorney
Anthony Raimondo, Fresno County-based attorney

Raimondo: It is unfair because from the outset, we have argued all along that this entire process has been unfair and has denied the workers their “day in court” and their due process. From the first day that Silvia Lopez walked into the ALRB office in Visalia, the greatest opposition to her filing for an election has been the ALRB itself.

We had a judge who couldn’t stay awake for the hearing. We have board members who are—shall we say at the least—biased. In the case of ALRB board member, Genevieve Shiroma, we have a person whose entire career is intertwined with the UFW’s primary paid lobbyist. There’s no way these folks can be objective in a case that has this kind of stakes in the UFW.

And this case is all about money. If they can get a contract with Gerawan, the UFW will essentially double its revenue and double its membership overnight.

California Ag Today: What is at stake for the UFW?

Raimondo: There is a clear reason why the State would end up spending $10 million on this case: They want to silence these workers and save the UFW. There is no union organizing in the field; the UFW has abandoned organizing. They’re not out there getting the workers to support and join the union.

They’re in the courtroom and in the back halls of Sacramento, making deals to take control of these workers’ future, whether the workers want it or not.

Ag LawCalifornia Ag Today: In denying the ballot votes to be counted, the ALRB said it was unfair that the employer—Gerawan in this case—gave the workers a pay raise without permission of the state government or the UFW.

Raimondo: But even with this illegitimate process, the only thing that the Board actually found was that the employer violated the law—not the workers.

So the Board is going to punish the employees by destroying their ballots, like some sort of third-world dictator. What control does the farmworker have over what the company does? What can the workers do to protect their right to vote if their right to vote can be thwarted by what a third party—the company—does?

The workers’ right to vote shouldn’t be in the hands of the company, or of the union, or of anybody else. The California Constitution says that when people cast votes in our state, those votes must be counted. That’s apparently true, unless you’re a farmworker.

California Ag Today: And the agricultural industry is asking, “How can the State of California and the state ALRB get away with this?”

Raimondo: It’s appalling what they’ve done here. It really is appalling. They’ve decided that the best way to control the behavior of an employer is to punish the workers who have no control over that employer.

You know there’s no reason that, if they believe that that election was tainted, they can’t run another election. I’ve spoken to Silvia, and Silvia’s not afraid of letting the people vote. I wonder if the UFW is as brave.

Let the people vote.

California Ag Today: Is the ALRB and the UFW requesting a new vote?

Raimondo: No, they want the farmworkers to stand off to the side and be quiet while the UFW makes the deal through political moves to take their money.

California Ag Today: What’s next?

Raimondo: We are planning, on Silvia’s behalf, to file briefs in the ongoing mandatory arbitration case that is sitting before the California Supreme Court. The UFW has a brief due and the Court has not yet set a hearing date.

We’re hoping that the Supreme Court will be kind enough to give us the opportunity to speak in that case, as the Court of Appeal did. So that case still provides us with a very real chance to vindicate the workers’ rights.

In the election case that was just decided, we are planning on filing a petition for reconsideration with the Board. We think that they need to think twice before they destroy people’s ballots.

California Ag Today: The ballots have not been destroyed at this point, right?

Raimondo: We don’t know. That’s a question only the ALRB can answer.

From my view, I would hope that they were not rushing to have a bonfire today.

I would think that because these votes are precious and irreplaceable, the Board would show the restraint to withhold taking any action on the ballots until the parties have had the opportunity to pursue the various legal options that we have to challenge this decision and make sure they are doing the right thing.

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Resources:

ALRB Decision and Order Case No. 2013-RD-003-VIS, 39 ALRB No. 20, April 15, 2016)

Agricultural Labor Relations Act Employee Questions & Answers ELECTIONS

Petitioner Silvia Lopez’s Petition to Disqualify Board Member Shiroma, ALRB Case No. 2013-RD-003-VIS (39 ALRB No. 20)

California LABOR CODE SECTION 1140-1140.4

Pick Justice

UPDATE: ACP Quarantine and Advocacy for Unimpeded Eradication

by Laurie Greene, Editor

CDFA filed a proposed emergency amendment TODAY to expand the ACP quarantine area in response to an “infestation” of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, detected in the Farmersville/Visalia area (June 4, 2014), Tulare County. One adult female was found in the area. The proposed 14-mile expansion will include the Visalia area, and the state’s vast ACP quarantine will cover 46,544 sq. miles.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

The regulation defines emergency as” a situation that calls for immediate action to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare.” The government code provides,”if the emergency situation clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to allow public comment would be inconsistent with the public interest, an agency is not required to provide notice.”

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross believes that this emergency clearly poses such an immediate, serious harm that delaying action to give the notice would be inconsistent with the public interest. Therefore, Ross proposed that the CDFA Director may adopt reasonably necessary measures such as bypassing the mandatory notice five working days prior to emergency action in order to carry out emergency provisions. Additionally, she requested that the Director be permitted to establish, maintain, and enforce quarantine, eradication, and such other regulations necessary to circumscribe and exterminate or prevent the spread of any pest which is described in the code.

This comes after the California Citrus Industry’s recent backlash against the Executive Committee of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee’s proposed easing of the state’s ACP quarantine and eradication efforts.

Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President
Joel Nelsen, CA Citrus Mutual President

And, while CDFA uses the word, “infestation”, Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual, commented at the recent United Fresh Convention in Chicago, “There were two more ACP finds found in the northeast part of Tulare County. They were individual finds. Intensive trapping and tapping on the trees, looking for the ACP, hasn’t found any more. So one would argue that we’ve got a population—given the finds in the last year—but we’re still talking single digits.” Nelsen believes this demonstrates the eradication programs are working. “We’re supposed to find the ACP before finds a commercial citrus industry, and we’re doing that.”

Nelsen said the Executive Committee’s recent proposal to significantly modify the program was, “based upon some subjective analysis by a team of scientists who in fact believe that there’s more out there than what we can find.”

“So,” he continued, “we’re obligated to prove a negative; and as long as we do the intensive trapping program, as long as we continue the mandated treatment program, as long as we’re aggressively looking for the Asian citrus psyllid—I don’t see how, and industry doesn’t buy into the fact, you have an endemic population. We’re not finding them in volume; everything is isolated.”

“So, when the industry first became aware of this possible change in the treatment zones of the quarantine mandates, the industry challenged CDFA.”

Now, not only does the ACP program remain intact, but TODAY, CDFA Secretary Ross proposed measures for an unhindered and  immediate eradication response by CDFA to ACP discoveries.

Featured Photo Credit: Ted Batkin, Citrus Research Board, “Invasive Pests in California” 1/10.

JUDGE ISSUES DECISION IN TRI-FANUCCHI FARMS, INC.

Tri-Fanucchi Farms to Accommodate UFW Requests
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas Sobel, issued his 23-page decision TODAY in the Tri-Fanucchi Farms, Inc., Case heard in Visalia on October 21, 2013.
After a long hiatus in bargaining, the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO requested information from and a meeting with Tri-Fanucchi, a farm near Bakersfield.
Tri-Fanucchi refused to provide information to the Union, to recognize the Union as the collective bargaining representative of its employees, and to bargain with the Union on the grounds that UFW had abandoned the farmworkers for 24 years.
ALJ Sobel ruled that the Tri-Fanucchi’s claim of Union abandonment is not available under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) and that, in view of the company’s admissions, the allegations in the Union’s Complaint must be taken as true.
Tri-Fanucchi was ordered, among other things, to provide information to, and to recognize and meet and bargain with the Union as the collective bargaining representative of its employees.
Tri-Fanucchi was also mandated to post the following:
NOTICE TO AGRICULTURAL EMPLOYEES
After investigating charges that were filed by the United Farm Workers of America, in the Visalia Office of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), the General Counsel of the ALRB issued a complaint that we had violated the law. After a hearing at which all parties had an opportunity to present evidence, the ALRB found that we had violated the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (Act) by failing to supply the Union with information to which it was entitled under the Act.
The ALRB has told us to post and publish this Notice.
The Agricultural Labor Relations Act is a law that gives you and all other farm workers in California these rights:
1. To organize yourselves;
2. To form, join or help a labor organization or bargaining representative;
3. To vote in a secret ballot election to decide whether you want a union to represent you;
4. To bargain with your employer about your wages and working conditions through a union chosen by a majority of the employees and certified by the Board;
5. To act together with other workers to help and protect one another; and
6. To decide not to do any of these things.
Because you have these rights, we promise that:
WE WILL NOT refuse to provide the Union with information necessary to foster informed collective bargaining.
WE WILL NOT refuse to meet and to bargain collectively and in good faith with the Union as the representative of our employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.
WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner, refuse to bargain with the Union over wages, hours or conditions of employment, or interfere with, restrain or coerce employees from exercising their right under the Act
DATED:
If you have any questions about your rights as farm workers or about this Notice, you may contact any office of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.