A major constitutional issue is at stake at the September 5 hearing. The state and the UFW seek to force farmworkers to submit to a UFW contract that would cut their take-home pay and deny them the right to have a say in the contract.
“The UFW vehemently opposes Lopez’s request” to be given time to state her case before the court, a UFW lawyer wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on August 17.
State enforcer made UFW a rep in name only
“[T]he UFW is the exclusive certified bargaining representative of Gerawan’s agricultural employees, not Silvia Lopez,” the lawyer claimed.
That statement is technically so, because when Gerawan workers voted in 2013 to de-certify the UFW, the state government refused to count the ballots. That action ensured that the UFW would remain “certified,” even though the workers rejected it.
Lopez led the 2013 worker revolt against the UFW she organized the decertification vote.
A generation earlier, Gerawan workers had voted to certify the UFW, but the UFW never signed a contract and abandoned them for 20 years. In 2012, with the UFW losing members so rapidly that its existence seemed in doubt, the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) came to the rescue to bail out the union by forcing Gerawan’s thousands of workers to pay 3% of their wages as dues.
Silvia Lopez has led worker resistance to UFW
Lopez organized a resistance to force the ALRB to supervise a vote among Gerawan workers over whether to accept or reject the UFW. The ALRB relented and allowed the vote in November, 2013, but refused to count the ballots. Many ALRB employees are the entire board are UFW supporters.
Now, the ALRB and UFW are trying to force a UFW contract on Gerawan farmworkers, and deny them the right to vote to accept or reject it. The UFW is also trying to prevent the workers ever from voting to reject the imposed contract.
The case is upturning traditional adversarial relations between California farmers and farmworkers, by uniting employer Gerawan and its employees.
Forcing a contract on the workers could be the UFW’s last stand. Its membership has dwindled so much under the current aging leadership that compelling Gerawan workers to join would more than double the size of the entire union.