The ALRB has gone to extremes to prevent farm workers from voting in ways that ALRB lawyers don’t want them to.
ALRB General Counsel Sylvia Torres Guillen’s view seems to be: If the workers don’t vote the way she wants, then their ballots shouldn’t be counted.
César Chávez championed worker choice. He supported a foundational collective bargaining law that allows workers to choose whether or not they want to join a union.
The ARLB is bound by law to protect the workers’ choice on whether or not they wish to be unionized. And the ALRB is bound to ensure that farm workers can decertify a union that they no longer wish to represent them.
But the ALRB – under lawyers Sylvia Torres Guillen and Silas Shawver – are preventing the workers from expressing their will. First they tried to prevent the workers from voting. Then they succeeded in not counting the ballots. Now they are trying to get the ballots destroyed before they can be counted.
- August 21, 2013: California Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton says ARLB appears in “cahoots” with special interests against the farm workers, and that “ALRB seems to be pre-deciding” the farm workers’ election. The judge says the Court is “very suspect” of the ALRB’s position.
- September 18, 2013: Farm worker Silvia Lopez collects 2,500 signatures to de-certify union representation, and turns the petitions into the ALRB. ALRB Regional Director Silas Shawver rejects them, saying that 100 signatures are invalid. Shawver uses his rejection to circumvent the legal requirement to hold a vote for the workers within 7 days.
- October 25, 2013: Silvia Lopez returns to ALRB with nearly 3,000 more signatures from Gerawan farm workers.
- October 28, 2013: ALRB’s Shawver dismisses the 3,000 signatures, saying the worker representative handed them in too late for them to be valid.
- October 30, 2013: ALRB in Sacramento overrules Shawver, and says the Gerawan farm workers can have a vote on unionization within 7 days, under ALRB supervision. Shawver then issues a “consolidated complaint” to stop the election.
- October 31, 2013: ALRB’s Shawver announces he is blocking the election for a third time, based on his “consolidated complaint” from the day before.
- November 1, 2013: 1,000 Gerawan farm workers demand the right to vote, in rally at ALRB’s regional office in Visalia.
- November 1, 2013: From Sacramento, ALRB overrules Shawver again. ALRB orders the workers have the ALRB-supervised vote on November 5, but instructs that “the ballots be impounded pending resolution of any election objections and related unfair practice complaints.”
- November 4, 2013: Shortly before midnight of November 4-5, ALRB’s Shawver switches the farm worker name roster to be used in the decertification election the next day.
- November 5, 2013: Gerawan farm workers vote under ALRB-supervised balloting on whether or not they want to be unionized.
- Employees are not allowed to see the new employee list until just before the voting opens.
- The ARLB uses a challenge list to target and segregate employees during the voting.
- Employees on the challenge list are pulled aside, interrogated, and belittled in front of their peers. The questions appeared designed to intimidate critics of ALRB and to prejudice the voting.
- ALRB stores the ballots in a safe in its Visalia office, but will not count the votes.
- ALRB takes no known measures to resolve “any election objections and related unfair practice complaints.”
- February, 21, 2014: Farm worker Silvia Lopez files suit against ALRB in federal court, alleging that the ALRB is violating the farm workers’ Constitutional rights by not counting the workers’ ballots, and calls for the votes to be counted by a “neutral, objective third party, and the results made public.”
- ALRB General Counsel Sylvia Torres Guillen files suit to quash the workers‘ federal appeal for their votes to be counted.
- ALRB tries to have the 2013 ballots destroyed.
- May 8, 2014: Farm workers protest outside ALRB’s Visalia office to ask that their November 2013 votes be counted.
- May, 2014: ALRB’s Shawver admits on video that the ballots still have not been counted, and that he has no “timetable” to resolve issues and count the votes.
- July, 2014: A federal court denies Shawver’s request for immunity from the farm worker lawsuit.
- July, 2014: A federal court agrees that Shawver conducted “en masse segregation of voters and delayed completion of his investigation.”
- August, 2014: A federal court rules that Silvia Lopez’s suit against ALRB may proceed, based on her claim that ARLB deprived her of her First Amendment rights by impounding the workers’ ballots.
- August, 2014: Hundreds of farm workers stage another protest in front of ALRB Visalia office, asking again that their November 2013 votes be counted.
As of César Chávez Day, 2015, the ALRB still has not counted the farm workers’ votes from 2013.