“For anybody with the integrity to view the circumstances honestly the status of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is truly astounding in its embrace of dishonesty, partiality and cheating,” Don Curlee wrote in the Agricultural Action Committee’s newsletter, Ag Accent.
“The prevailing status at the ALRB level has exceeded intellectual and political favoritism, and descended to a level that approaches criminal misrepresentation,” Curlee wrote in the May 15 edition.
“The absolute breaking point was the board’s decision to disallow the expression of as many as 4,000 farm workers at Gerawan Farming in Reedley” when the workers voted on an ALRB-supervised procedure to de-certify the United Farm Workers union from representing them, after the UFW neglected them for two decades, Curlee said.
“Findings were so flimsy and insignificant” after more than two years of “investigation” that “the board could only disallow the election and recommend destruction of the ballots. Last minute legal action by Gerawan preserved the ballots, impounded in ALRB possession, and countered the board’s decision,” said Curlee. The fight continues.
The venerable agricultural newsletter blasted ALRB for “glaring favoritism at the board and general counsel levels for the union agenda” – favoritism that forced “major personnel changes at the agency,” Curlee wrote.
“Perhaps the most noteworthy was replacement of the general counsel, the person at the agency responsible for conducting elections,” the Ag Accent article continued. The disgraced general counsel was Sylvia Torres-Guillen, who hopes to be appointed a state judge.
“However, the firings only focused attention on the blatant partiality of the board in support of a union position. It exposed that all the three board members are committed to unionism, and are blindsided to any contrary claims by workers or assertions by employers,” Curlee wrote. Those three board members are William B. Gould IV, Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, and the controversial Genevieve Shiroma, who is now under a cloud for paying a UFW lobbyist $120,000.
ALRB was designed to be balanced
Created more than 40 years ago during the first Jerry Brown administration, the ALRB was “to be structured with two agriculturally oriented members, two union-leaning members and a supposed neutral fifth member,” but instead, with just 3 members who are all pro-UFW, “was exposed as devoid of any agricultural employer understanding or input,” Curlee said.
Governor Brown must act “to cleanse the soiled character of the board by appointments of fair minded members,” the writer continued. “But he refused to do so, and the board continues to languish in its cesspool of biased thinking and distorted vision about the welfare and fair treatment of the state’s farm workers.”