UPDATE: GERAWAN FARM EMPLOYEES TO VOTE ON THEIR ECONOMIC DESTINY
November 4, 2013
Gerawan Employees Will Vote Tomorrow On UFW Representation
By Laurie Greene, Associate Editor
Dan Gerawantold California Ag Today that Gerawan farm employees would be given the chance on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, to exercise their right to decide their own economic destiny.
The state's Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB), in a reversal of its earlier decision, is allowing workers, or “petitioners”, at Gerawan Farming to hold an election tomorrow, on whether they want to decertify UFW, in other words, to determine if they want to be represented by the United Farm Workers union.
This new development follows a very fast roller coaster of events last week.
Led by longtime Gerawan employee, Silvia López, the workers gathered thousands of signatures calling for a new election. The first attempt failed after many of the signatures were found to be invalid. However, a second attempt, which gathered 3,000 signatures, satisfied the number of valid signatures necessary.
Silas Shawver, regional director of ALRB, overturned the employees’ right for an election citing that the petition and signatures in too late to be valid.
On Thursday morning, October 31, 2013, the ALRB in Sacramento issued a “Showing of Interest” whereby Shawver confirmed there were enough qualifying signatures on the employee’s petition to warrant a vote.
Later that morning, the petitioners’ attorneyannounced in a press release the election would move forward.
By Thursday evening, Shawver again blocked the election, saying there were pending unfair labor practice complaints.
On Friday, Gerawan employees did not show up for work. Instead they traveled to the ALRB office (for the second time) and demanded the right to vote. After hours of protesting, an ALRB representative came out and announced by bullhorn that the most recent decision was overturned and the election would, indeed, occur.
In this latest decision, The Board made it clear that the Regional Director’s “last minute,” “eleventh-hour charges” in a “late filed complaint” left the Board “with serious doubts as to the propriety of using that complaint to block the election.” The Board rebuked the Regional Director for failing to mention statements he made in Fresno Superior Court, where he told Judge Jeffrey Hamilton that Gerawan and the Board remedied some of the alleged unfair labor practice charges he now claims justify blocking the election.
So, ALRB decided to allow the election while also impounding the ballots pending the resolution of any election objections and unfair labor practice complaints.
The ALRB issued a Notice and Direction of Election on November 3, 2013 included the following text:
This election is being held to determine whether a majority of the employees in this unit wish to continue to be represented by the United Farm Workers of America for collective bargaining with Gerawan on wages, hours, and working conditions.
It is a secret ballot election, which will be supervised by an agent of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
You are eligible to vote if you worked for Gerawan during the week of October 14, 2013 to October 20,2013, if you are not a supervisor, if you are not directly related to the employer, if you are not a confidential employee, and if you are not a guard.
If there are any questions, feel free to contact the ALRB office (listed below). If you wish to vote, you will be asked for identification such as a photo ID (such as a driver's license), a Gerawan paystub, or any other identification as required by the Board Agent in charge.
ALRB has determined when and where elections will be held on various Gerawan sites on the Eastside in Reedley and on the Westside in the Kerman area. ALRB will also conduct the elections.
Observers will include employees chosen by the UFW and employees chosen among the petitioners. Attorneys and management will not be present.
TODAY, ALRB will instruct Gerawan employees on their rights and where voting will take place tomorrow.
Upon completion of the election tomorrow, the ballots will be impounded pending resolution of legal challenges.
“There’s no telling of when or if ballots will be counted,” said Gerawan. “ALRB will first investigate employer allegations, both existing and new.
In a related story, Gerawan filed a lawsuit on October 28, 2013 in Fresno County Superior Court against the ALRB alleging one of its employee's first amendment rights were violated after being denied access to a mediation session.
According to the lawsuit, the employee, Lupe Garcia, attempted to attend a mediation meeting between Gerawan and the United Farm Workers union in June, but was told by the state-appointed mediator that the proceedings were confidential.
Gerawan's lawyers argue Garcia's first amendment rights were violated by not being allowed in the session. They are asking the court to make the mediation meetings open to the public.
Additional Sources: CalWatchDog,Fresno Bee, ALRB