Farmworker demands probe of UFW unfair labor practices

Silvia Lopez (right) wants the UFW investigated for unfair practices. She is seen here with UFW figure Dolores Huerta (left) and Governor Jerry Brown.

Silvia Lopez (right) wants the UFW investigated for unfair practices. She is seen here with UFW figure Dolores Huerta (left) and Governor Jerry Brown.

The farmworker who has led the fight for her fellow laborers to have the right to vote on union representation is calling for a probe of the UFW’s unfair labor practices.

Seldom is a union accused of unfair labor practices, but farmworker Silvia Lopez isn’t taking it any more.

The San Joaquin Valley fruit farm laborer also alleges that the ALRB has silenced workers who oppose the UFW in order to protect the politically-connected union.

“Part of the challenge for Ms. Lopez and her co-workers is that a union that once gave a voice to the powerless has become an instrument of political power, closely connected to Governor Brown and his political cronies,” said Silvia’s attorney, Anthony Raimondo, in a March 21 news release.

“These political connections have enabled the UFW to manipulate the ALRB to their favor, and tilt the process against the workers’ right to vote and be heard. At every turn, the ALRB has silenced Silvia and her fellow workers,” Raimondo said.

“Silvia Lopez filed charges with the ALRB” for several documented “violations of farmworker rights, abuses that occurred in full view of the members of the Board. Yet these charges have not been investigated, and the UFW has been let off scot-free,” Raimondo said.

The full text of Raimondo’s March 21 press release follows. Download: ULP Investigation Press Release (00046500xD848D)

Text of news release

“FRESNO, California – Farm worker Silvia Lopez has been fighting for almost three years for her fellow farm workers to have the right to vote on whether they will be represented by the United Farm Workers (UFW), an union that abandoned their workplace in the late 1990s.

“Part of the challenge for Ms. Lopez and her co-workers is that a union that once gave a voice to the powerless has become an instrument of political power, closely connected to Governor Brown and his political cronies. These political connections have enabled the UFW to manipulate the ALRB to their favor, and tilt the process against the workers’ right to vote and be heard. At every turn, the ALRB has silenced Silvia and her fellow workers.

“Last summer, Silvia and a group of Gerawan workers went to Sacramento for a party celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ALRB, where they protested outside in the heat, demanding that their votes be counted. Dolores Huerta, the UFW’s greatest living icon, confronted the workers, trying to convince them of the good that the union had done.

“Later, after listening to a speech from the Governor, Silvia tried to approach Governor Brown to discuss the workers’ plight. But Dolores Huerta was not going to allow Silvia Lopez to speak to her friend and ally, and physically pushed Silvia away from Governor Brown, blocking her from speaking to him. The event was captured on video despite the Governor’s staff trying to prevent filming.

“A few months later, the Gerawan workers appeared at an ALRB public hearing to testify about their experiences being mistreated by ALRB staff. A UFW employee told security forces that she was from the ALRB, and that the protesting workers were not to be allowed inside the hearing. Silvia and her co-workers found the door blocked by armed security who only allowed the workers inside when Silvia’s attorneys intervened. Again, most of the incident was captured on video.

“Silvia Lopez filed charges with the ALRB for these violations of farmworker rights, abuses that occurred in full view of the members of the Board. Yet these charges have not been investigated, and the UFW has been let off scot-free. Attached is a letter from Silvia’s counsel demanding that these charges be transferred to an investigative and prosecuting agency separate from the ALRB, where these violations of worker rights can be taken seriously.”

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