Journalists must understand difference between ALRB’s ‘judge’ and a real judge

News reports about an ALRB administrative ruling show a misunderstanding about a big issue: The difference between ALRB’s enforcement for the UFW, and a real decision by a real judge in a real court of law.

Some of the reports confused the UFW, which represents less than 1% of farmworkers in California, with all or most farmworkers.

Some of the reporting was just sloppy reporting. Some of it was good reporting, with misleading headlines added by a lazy editor.

At issue is a ruling by an ALRB employee that Gerawan Farming engaged in “bad-faith” negotiations with the UFW. As expected, the ALRB employee made a decision in favor of the UFW. That isn’t news.

Although the matter was between ALRB and the company, it still deeply affects us farmworkers, who want nothing to do with the UFW.

There are two main issues: (1) The ALRB “judge” is not a real judge, and (2) the UFW represents almost no farmworkers in California any more, but everyone still pretends it does. Let’s take a look.

Problem 1: An ALRB ‘judge’ is not a real judge

All news reports, whether in the headline or the article itself – portrayed the pro-UFW decision as being issued by a real “judge,” leaving readers with the impression that this was a real decision by a real and impartial judge in a real and independent court.

Nearly all the coverage said the decision was made by ALRB “administrative law judge” William Schmidt. But we couldn’t find any report that explained what is an “administrative law judge” for the ALRB, and what this means.

A real judge is an independent and ideally impartial decider of law-based truth, based on careful examination of evidence and thorough cross-examination of all parties involved. A real judge works for the judicial branch of government.

An ALRB “administrative law judge” is not independent or impartial. He is a paid employee of the ALRB. The ALRB is not independent. The ALRB is a political instrument of the executive branch of government. The ALRB is prosecutor, judge, and jury all rolled into one. All of its major decisions are on behalf of the politically favored UFW.

By contrast, most of the independent courts of law that weighed evidence between the ALRB-UFW on the one hand, and Gerawan Farming or non-UFW farmworkers on the other hand, have reached decisions against the ALRB-UFW, and in favor of the growers, the farmworkers, or both.

Problem 2: ‘Farmworkers’

Many of the news reports said that the employer was found to be unjust to “farmworkers,” or dealt in bad faith with the farmworkers’ genuine representative.

Of course, none of the farmworkers themselves alleged injustice on the part of their employer in this case. But under the odd technicalities of state law, the UFW is still considered the farmworkers’ representative at Gerawan Farming, even though it had abandoned the farmworkers for 20 years, has not collected the 3% of their individual salaries as dues, and doesn’t even count them as members in its annual reports to the US Department of Labor.

Or does it?

Gerawan workers voted to join the UFW in 1992, but the UFW abandoned them. Almost no Gerawan worker from 1992 is an employee today. In 2013, after two decades of abandonment, Gerawan farmworkers voted to de-certify the UFW as its representative. But ALRB, which supervised the vote, still refuses to count the ballots.

The UFW claims only 7,000 members, according to the Los Angeles Times – a 90% drop from its peak of 70,000. Yet the same article says that Gerawan has 6,500 employees.

Therefore:

  • if the ALRB and UFW consider UFW to be the representative of those 6,500 farmworkers,
  • and the UFW claims only 7,000 farmworkers nationwide,
  • then UFW is either not in fact considering Gerawan workers to be real members as it claims to with ALRB,
  • or UFW has only 500 members nationwide who do not work for Gerawan, so as a union, the UFW is dead. This is raises lots of questions of the effectiveness and legitimacy of UFW’s entrenched leadership, in office for decades.

ALRB struggles to keep the unpopular UFW’s head above water

This helps explain why ALRB spent $10,000,000 to disenfranchise farmworkers’ 2013 votes that would have de-certified the UFW, and why the ALRB “judge” continues to rule 100% of the time in favor of the UFW.

Like a vanguard party, which pretends to speak for everyone but represents only a few, the UFW claims to represent farmworkers. There are more than 829,000 farmworkers in California. UFW represents fewer than 7,000 (considering it has members in other states), which shows that even by UFW’s own numbers, it represents far less than 1% of California farmworkers.

So the lie is in the ALRB’s enforcement actions on behalf of the UFW, which most news outlets reported as fact, either in their articles or headlines.

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