Since Cesar Chavez died in 1993, the United Farm Workers (UFW) has built a track record of deliberate and willful deception to keep its credibility while its membership leaves in droves.
Instead of continuing the Chavez legacy of working hard for the farmworkers, it has practically ignored its members. It used lies – even orchestrated perjury – to stay relevant.
UFW lied to Gerawan farmworkers, and is now lying about them
A case in point is the work force at Gerawan Farming. In 1990, Gerawan workers voted to allow the UFW to represent them in collective bargaining.
The UFW broke its promises to Gerawan workers. It failed to provide the benefits and representation it had promised them. It never met with the workers, and never bothered to try to negotiate a contract for them.
More than twenty years went by. Then, in November, 2012, the UFW suddenly resurfaced. This time it made demands of the workers – few of whom had even been there in 1990. Among its demands: Pay the union 3% of their gross wages or lose their livelihoods.
Refusing to be intimidated, thousands of Gerawan employees mounted a grassroots pro-worker campaign. They gathered the signatures required to petition the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to hold a decertification election. This election would allow the workers to decide for themselves the status of their relationship with the union.
ALRB piles on more untruths in order to help UFW
The ALRB was created in 1975 “to ensure peace in the fields of California by guaranteeing justice for all agricultural workers and stability in agricultural labor relations.”
Yet ALRB Regional Director Silas Shawver three times attempted to dismiss the farmworkers’ petition on baseless grounds, seriously calling into question his adherence to the Board’s legal mission and purpose. Fortunately, the ALRB headquarters in Sacramento overturned Shawver’s attempts at dismissal and on November 5, 2013 the employees voted in the election they had fought for.
However, before the votes could be counted, the UFW filed new and questionable unfair labor practice claims against Gerawan, ensuring that the farmworkers’ votes would remain in ALRB custody, unknown and uncounted until each claim was investigated.
For more than 1-1/2 years – and at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars – an administrative law judge has heard testimony from both union supporters and detractors in what has become the longest labor hearing in California history.
Former UFW organizer testified he coached employees to lie
But given the UFW’s history of dishonest dealings with Gerawan workers, can the testimony of its supporters be trusted? At least one former UFW organizer, Horacio Rodriguez Reyes, has testified under oath that he actively coached Gerawan employees to lie in order to facilitate the creation of their unfair labor practice declarations. He stated, “I would tell [the workers] that they had to lie a little bit in order to have weight in their declarations.”
Reyes elaborated that he did so as a result of instructions given to him by UFW National Vice President Armando Elenes. Reyes explains that Elenes insinuated he “guide the worker as we were going through the talk with him in order to guide him so that he would say what we needed in order for us to have a charge with…enough evidence and in order to stop a decertification election.”
ALRB judge found 15 UFW witnesses lied during testimony
Lies, deception, and smear tactics are at the core of UFW’s operating strategy. The union does not hesitate to implement them to obtain what they’re after. This has increasingly become apparent even to the questionably neutral ALRB.
According to an article by Wendy Fink-Weber on the Western Growers website, in March of 2013 an ALRB administrative judge dismissed all of UFW’s objections related to a decertification election held at Corralitos Farms in Watsonville, Calif. Fink-Weber writes, “Particularly significant in the decision was the finding that 15 of the UFW witnesses lied in their testimony when they said workers were threatened at company meetings, including the day before the election, with job loss if the union won the election.”
The UFW’s target may be different but the narrative and methods remain the same.
The union lied to Gerawan employees before abandoning them twenty years ago. They lie to the public when they claim that Gerawan employees demand unionization and their employees teach workers to say what needs to be said in order to smear honest employers.
How many of the unfair practice claims that the UFW uses to hold hostage the decertification ballots are based on lies like these? Is this dishonesty and deception the best that the UFW has to offer? Are lies held in high regard by the union? Is this the essence of Cesar Chavez’s legacy?