As Silas Shawver leaves the ALRB under a cloud – following the sacking of his boss, Sylvia Torres-Guillen – continued allegations of bias continue to mount.
An exchange of correspondence between labor attorney Paul J. Bauer and Shawver show a hailstorm of acrimony – and a pile of carefully organized evidence that remove all doubt about Shawver’s potentially illegal bias in favor of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.
The original correspondence takes up six pages (available here Bauer letter to Shawver about conflict of interest – 081215). Here are some highlights from Bauer’s first letter and Shawver’s response.
Bauer letter to Shawver, July 23, 2015
- “Since the November 5, 2013 decertification election [by Gerawan farmworkers to de-certify the UFW], much information has surfaced about the strong ties you and other Agricultural Labor Relations Board attorneys have to the United Farm Workers union.”
- “As you know, attorneys are held to higher standards and are to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest. With all that has surfaced, it now appears that the conflicts are far from perceived.”
- “Public information has revealed that you worked as a union organizer for Unite Here, which assisted UFW when it tried to organize Giumarra.”
- “You partnered with UFW Vice President Armando Elenes when you were CLRA immediately before you began working at ALRB.”
- “And, you maintain friendships through Facebook with UFW VP Armando Elenes and several UFW organizers such as Lupe Martinez, Eri Fernandez, Diana Tellefson, Maria Gallegos Martinez, Jennifer Hernandez, Yolanda Chacon, Reyna Madrigal Castellanos, current UFW writer and former UFW organizer David Bacon and other UFW-related people.”
- “There are also photos of you wearing a UFW T-shirt.”
- “Net, there is Jessica Arciniega, who was a lead organizer for the United Farm Workers before working for ALRB. She was also mentored for several years by UFW veteran Barbara Macri-Ortiz. Ms. Arciniega went through the UFW program that allows perspective attorneys to skip law school and earn the right to practice by serving apprenticeships. The program purports to allow union members to train under UFW attorneys and eventually take the bar exam, which I understand she successfully did in 2008. ‘That is exactly what UFW founder Cesar Chavez had in mind when he decided to start growing his own lawyers,’ like Ms. Arciniega, according to an October 10, 2004 LA Times article about her.”
- “Potential conflicts are further rooted in allegiances solidified under the program as ‘the UFW requires a two year commitment from attorneys after they pass the bar.’ Ms. Arciniega spent substantial time at UFW headquarters in the Central Valley and decided to join the Union as an organizer. As a Facebook friend of UFW VP Elenes and such intimate connection and allegiance owed to the UFW given its sponsorship of Ms. Arciniega and tutelage to train her to be an attorney, it is shocking that she had anything to do with the employees’ effort to decertify UFW.”
- “And then there is Algeria de la Cruz, a well-entrenched third-generation UFW supporter. She is the granddaughter of the late Jesse de la Cruz who was one of the original UFW organizers, and both her parents were organizers. As a child, she was a union activist and says that Cesar Chavez told her she would grow up to organize using the law.”
- “Ms. De la Cruz has been pictured at UFW events wearing the UFW logo and embracing UFW attorney Mario Martinez. She is Facebook friends with UFW President Arturo Rodriguez (and his wife), UFW VPs Armando Elenes and Irv Hershenbaum, UFW Spokesman Marc Grossman, UFW General Counsel Marcos Camacho, David Bacon, and many other UFW-related people.”
- Obviously tight-knit relationship with the UFW and ALRB pose conflicts of interest and represent an extreme divergence to your agency’s mission to protect farmworkers’ interests without bias.”
- “It seems impossible for any of you to be objective during the election process and subsequent proceedings in fulfillment of an unbiased mission. The farmworkers have fought hard for the right to choose, and would appreciate knowing about how ALRB avoided or negated these conflicts of interest among its staff from 2013 to the present.”
Shawver’s response, August 4, 2015
- “I am responding as a courtesy to deny the allegations that you set forth in your July 23rd letter. Your letter fails to identify or allege any facts that would amount to a conflict of interest under State law (Cal Govt. Code § 81000 et seq.) or the regulations of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Tit. 8 Cal Code Regs. § 21200).”
- “None of the alleged facts (many of which are false or misleading) would constitute a conflict of interest under the California Rules of Professional Conduct.” [Note: Shawver does not say what is false or misleading.]
- “I categorically deny that any past involvement with a labor organization from me or any of our employees has impeded our staff’s proper exercise of their duties as employees of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The Act requires that we preform our duties in an objective and impartial manner without prejudice toward any party. Lab. Code § 1149. We take this requirement seriously and have always performed our duties in good faith and in accordance with the law.”
- “Our staff works hard to uphold the law in an impartial and objective manner. I believe that our record shows this to be the case.”