A lawmaker from California’s #WeFeedYou belt has called on the state Supreme Court to overturn an illegal law that allows unelected bureaucrats to force a #UFW contract on farmworkers.
The law denies workers the right to bargain on their own behalf, and denies them the right to vote whether to accept the contract. It forces workers to fork over a chunk of their income to the union that the state forced on them, and forces employers to fire workers who refuse to submit.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno wrote a thoughtful defense of farmworkers in Fox & Hounds Daily, a California business newsletter.
“We expect our courts to call foul when legislators pass laws that cross the constitutional line,” Patterson said. “Thousands of farmworkers are hoping that our highest court will allow them to have the same rights that all other workers in our state and country have, and strike down California’s misguided experiment in forced contracting.”
‘Experiment in forced agricultural labor contracts’
“The California Supreme Court is set to decide whether the state’s experiment in forced agricultural labor contracts violates the constitutional safeguard of equal protection,” the assemblyman wrote. “That case, heard in September, was brought by Fresno-based peach grower Gerawan Farming, one of the largest employers in my district. In 2012, the United Farm Workers invoked a 2002 law that empowers the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to draft and impose a ‘contract’ governing virtually every aspect of the working lives of thousands of Gerawan employees. That non-negotiated ‘contract’ would be forced on employees without their consent, and Gerawan would be required to fire workers who refuse to give up three percent of their pay to the UFW.”
Workers have been asking for the right to choose for 5 years
“Gerawan’s workers say this legislative experiment to foster labor ‘stability’ and ‘peace in the fields’ does not work. For five years they have been asking the ALRB for the right to decide for themselves whether the UFW will speak for them at the bargaining table. The UFW last stood for election at Gerawan in 1990. Many of the company’s workers were not born at that time. None of them had any reason to believe that the UFW represented their interests since the union abandoned them for over two decades,” Patterson argued.
“When the UFW resurfaced in 2012 to demand that the ALRB write and impose a contract on Gerawan and its employees, the workers organized one of the largest strikes in California agricultural history. They weren’t protesting Gerawan,” he said. “They were standing up to the union and the labor agency created to protect worker rights”
ALRB treated farmworkers like trash
“What did the ALRB do in response to this worker-led revolt? When hundreds of Gerawan farmworkers traveled to Sacramento to plead their case, the ALRB Chairman thanked them for coming, handed them a generic informational pamphlet, and showed them the door. When Gerawan workers and the company’s owner visited the State Capitol to petition against a UFW-sponsored bill that would accelerate forced contracting, the ALRB charged Gerawan with attempting to undermine the union. When a majority of Gerawan’s workers asked for the right to vote, the ALRB conducted an election, impounded the ballots, and imposed a contract that would bar pickets, protests, and boycotts,” said Patterson. “Four years after that election, the ballots remain uncounted.”