Note: This statement was prepared by a group of Gerawan farm workers who seek anonymity for fear of retaliation by the ALRB and/or UFW.
After disappearing, the UFW never communicated with us.
They never came out to the fields to talk with us.
And they never negotiated a contract for us.
One of the UFW’s vice presidents, Irv Hershenbaum, recently told councilmembers in Long Beach that the union is like “being married until you’re divorced.”
We can’t think of a better metaphor. The UFW is like a deadbeat spouse. If the UFW had been a person, it would have been declared legally dead years ago, ending that marriage.
Unfortunately, just like the deadbeat spouse Hershenbaum described, the UFW came back.
After 20 years of being a deadbeat, in November 2012, the union resurfaced. By that time, working cooperatively with our employers, we had gained the highest wages in the industry.
Even so, UFW demanded that we either pay them 3% of our wages or be fired.
Demanding money to pay us less than we were already earning
In 2012, the California minimum wage was $8.00 an hour. The UFW bragged about its contracts that gave employees $8.25 an hour.
But we already made more with Gerawan at $9.00 per hour. Not only did we make a dollar more than minimum, we made $.75 more per hour than the UFW’s unionized workers made on paper. In reality, those workers who were represented by the UFW weren’t receiving more than $8.00 per hour anyway. They had to pay the 3% UFW fee on all of their wages. UFW effectively its members’ pay from $8.25 to $8.00 an hour.
Since returning to us after 20 years, the UFW has been working with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to impose a contract on us. The ALRB says it is imposing this contract to protect us.
But what are they trying to “protect” us from? We already make the highest wages in stone fruit and grape fieldwork. We’ve been making the highest wages in the industry since well before the UFW came back looking for money after being a deadbeat for twenty years.
2015: We make $11 an hour – way above minimum wage
Right now the current California minimum wage is $9.00 an hour. Our base pay – without a UFW contract – is $11.00 an hour. We know of three companies with UFW contracts that call for wages of $9.00 an hour:
- San Joaquin Tomato pays $9.02 an hour,
- Pacific Triple-E pays $9.02 an hour, and
- Papagni pays $9.00 an hour.
The workers at all three companies are forced to pay the UFW’s 3% fee of $.27 per hour, dropping all of their wages below the California minimum wage! After the fee is taken, San Joaquin Tomato and Pacific Triple-E workers actually get $8.75 an hour and Papagni workers get $8.73 an hour. All of these workers would actually be making more money if they had never joined UFW in the first place.
That $.27 per hour is still paid by the company. But instead of going to the farmworkers in the fields, the UFW takes the workers’ money and uses it to pay the union’s many vice presidents in their air conditioned offices. Maybe these are the workers that the ALRB is actually “protecting.”
Forcing a contract on us will bring the UFW the money it needs to keep all those vice presidents happy in their air-conditioned offices. It will protect them from having to really work. It will keep them in permanent jobs, like Irv Hershenbaum, who has been collecting his salary from farm workers since becoming a UFW employee 40 years ago.