“If César were here today, he certainly wouldn’t be supporting what’s being done now, which is a union trying to impose itself on employees,” says Dan Gerawan, one of the largest employers of California farm workers. Gerawan Farming is known for paying the highest wages in the industry.
The state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is ganging up on Gerawan – both the company and the workers – to force the workers to be bound to a United Farm Workers (UFW) contract that would effectively cut their take-home pay and give the difference to the union, or be fired.
The UFW is using the theatrical release of César Chávez: An American Hero, to push a “fundraising screening” in Hollywood to praise the ALRB.
So much has changed in the California agriculture industry and labor politics since Chávez’s time, that the UFW’s membership has plunged 90 percent while workers’ wages, benefits and conditions have risen sharply.
As Reason TV producer Zach Weissmueller notes from his program from March 2014,
The UFW, which once boasted more than 50,000 dues-paying members, now claims fewer than 5,000. Yet with unionization in the industry on the decline, real wages have steadily increased. This might explain why many workers at Gerawan Farms have begun to protest—not against their employer, but against the union.
The workers voted, under ALRB supervision, in November 2013 on whether or not to certify the UFW as their representative. But the ALRB has refused to count the votes.
“What does that mean, to have an election and not count the votes?” asks Silvia Lopez, an organizer for the farm laborers. “Where is the right of the farm worker? Where is it?”
Along with co-workers, Lopez has filed a class-action lawsuit against ALRB for violating their Constitutional rights in not counting their ballots.
But the main problem isn’t the UFW.
“The main problem is in the ALRB office,” says Lopez. “They are supposed to be neutral with us. But they are not. We can see that they are favoring the UFW organization.”