Controversial ALRB board member Genevieve Shiroma cannot be accused of bias because of her long political and financial relationship with former UFW strike organizer and current UFW lobbyist Richie Ross.
That’s according to ALRB “judge” Mark R. Soble, in his ruling and order that the Gerawan workers ballots to de-certify the UFW must be destroyed.
Central Valley labor leader Silvia Lopez, who has been leading the fight to decertify the UFW at Gerawan Farming, filed a petition to disqualify Shiroma because of her close ties to Ross. State law requires ALRB board members to be unbiased between employers and unions as the board advocates for farmworkers.
Shiroma’s bias is so overwhelming that a state lawmaker called for Shiroma to step down for “unethical behavior.” But to Soble, that bias isn’t a problem.
Soble acknowledged Lopez’s petition. He said in a footnote, “The Board has considered the various bases cited by Petitioner in support of her disqualification motion and finds them to be without merit. Petitioner’s claim that Member Shiroma is disqualified . . . is unsupported by any evidence demonstrating any actual bias by Member Shiroma for or against a party in this case.”
Referring to Shiroma’s $120,000 payments to UFW lobbyist Richie Ross – but not repeating the allegation specifically – Soble said, “Finally, there is no merit in Petitioner’s claim that Member Shiroma must be disqualified in this matter based on a financial or personal conflict of interest stemming from her past political contributions or industry contacts.”
“Allegations concerning Member Shiroma’s prior professional relationships and political contacts are not sufficient to show personal bias requiring recusal,” Soble said.
Digging in even further, Soble concluded, “In sum, neither the past political affiliations, contributions, or professional relationships identified by Petitioner [Lopez] nor the insinuations she draws from them constitute evidence of actual bias to mandate Member Shiroma’s recusal in this case.”
It is important to remember that Soble is not a real judge. He is a lawyer who was hired by political appointees of the governor and on the ALRB payroll. Looks like this issue may have to be settled by a real judge in a real court.
Read Soble’s full ruling here: Lupe Garcia Lawsuit 2016-04-15 Gerawan Farming Decision and Order 42 ALRB 1