The United Farm Workers removed a fake petition against Gerawan and its employees after Pick Justice exposed the petition as phony.
UFW circulated the false story of someone claiming to be a Gerawan worker, to fool people into signing an online petition. The fake UFW petition went out on Twitter and by email on Wednesday, August 23.
No such person
The story, supposedly by a worker named Guadalupe Martinez, struck us as false. It said things that we knew weren’t true.
We asked every worker we could find if they knew of a “Guadalupe Martinez” on the farm.
The UFW petition said Martinez had worked at Gerawan “since 2012.”
Some remembered Martinez’s name and her face on the UFW petition, but hadn’t seen her in years. A few remembered she had quit at about the time of the workers’ vote to decertify the UFW, which was in 2013.
Since the UFW said Martinez was at Gerawan only in 2012, and workers said she quit in 2013, she was probably only there for a year. We thought she might have been a UFW or ALRB plant.
So on August 25, we tweeted, “This whole UFW petition is a lie. Guadalupe Martinez hasn’t worked at Gerawan for 4 years. #UFW knows it.”
We linked to UFW’s official Twitter page (@UFWupdates) and to the UFW’s specific tweet promoting the fake petition, and tagged it to California Labor Secretary David Lanier and to the Fresno Bee.
By August 26, UFW had pulled down the tweet.
The link to the tweet is dead. Twitter posted a notice, shown at right, saying that the page doesn’t exist.
The link was here: https://twitter.com/UFWupdates/status/900392118954237953.
UFW also deleted Guadalupe Martinez’s fake story from its website some time between the evening of August 25 and the afternoon of August 26. The fake story was originally posted in 2014, and was published again in March 2017, pulled down on August 25 or 26.
The UFW never explained to its followers why it deleted the information, and never issued a clarification or apology for misleading the public.
What UFW’s fake petition story said
“My name is Guadalupe Martinez,” the false petition story said on the UFW’s website and in its August 23 email, “and I’ve worked at Gerawan Farming since 2012. In my time picking peaches, plums, and nectarines at the farm, workers have been exposed to dangerous pesticides. The company has tried to intimidate workers out of standing up for their rights. My coworkers and I have been denied negotiated wage increases, holiday pay, and benefits that we would be enjoying. Instead Gerawan chose to break the law and refused to implement our union contract. Gerawan doesn’t want the union. If workers have a union, they’d have power, get better wages and be able to speak up about the working conditions.”
“It isn’t fair that Gerawan won’t let us have the contract we voted for,” the Martinez story continued. “It isn’t fair that they use their money and influence to drag their feet and hope that we give up. Those delays make some workers lose hope. But my coworkers and I are going to keep on fighting for our rights. And we think that with your support, we can win and get benefits for our contract.”
The story rambled on and asked readers to sign an online petition to “major supermarkets” to help Gerawan workers “achieve the justice we deserve.”
As of August 26, the UFW petition to pressure supermarkets makes no mention of Guadalupe Martinez, but only gives a vague narrative.
Why we suspected the story was fake
The Guadalupe Martinez story contains several giveaways that told real workers and their friends that the character was either fake, or the story was simply made up. The falsehoods were so obvious that we asked around in our worker communities to see if someone named Guadalupe Martinez, who looked like the person in the picture on the UFW page, was actually working there.
Here are the giveaways:
- Lie #1: “The company has tried to intimidate workers out of standing up for their rights.” All along, it’s been the UFW and state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) that has tried to bully and intimidate workers out of standing up for their rights when workers voted in 2013 to de-certify the UFW.
- Lie #2: “My coworkers and I have been denied negotiated wage increases, holiday pay, and benefits that we would be enjoying.” All of us know that this is a lie because Gerawan workers are paid the highest wages in the industry, and receive other benefits that are better than any other farm in the Central Valley.
- Lie #3: “Gerawan chose to break the law and refused to implement our union contract.” We NEVER had a union contract. UFW never, ever signed a contract with Gerawan workers, and as far as we know, it never signed a contract with Gerawan farming. If we had a union contract, we would be paying union dues, and we have never paid dues to any union. UFW never did anything for us. In fact, UFW abandoned us for 20 years.
- Lie # 4: “If workers have a union, they’d have power, get better wages and be able to speak up about the working conditions.” That’s certainly true on farms where workers are paid poorly or work under bad conditions. Let’s forget for a moment that a court found that the UFW cheated their own workers when they tried to unionize. Gerawan pays the highest wages with the best conditions around, which is why there are about 5,000 workers who flock to work among us for jobs. Many of our fellow farmworkers aren’t so lucky.
- The UFW just negotiated a huge pay CUT for workers at Monterey Mushrooms.
- At least 167 UFW workers are losing their jobs completely at the Dole berry farm in Oxnard, and UFW did nothing to help its own members stay employed.
- At Gerawan, UFW forced 2,400 grape workers to lose their jobs in 2015 because of costly UFW litigation that forced the grape operation out of business. A top UFW official even admitted the union knew almost a year in advance that the jobs would disappear, but the UFW said and did nothing.
Knowing that the UFW petition story was a pack of lies, we looked for Guadalupe Martinez and found that, according to those who remembered her and recognized her face, she quit about 4 years ago during the worker effort to de-certify the UFW.
That is when we posted the tweet on August 25. As if admitting that it had been caught spreading deliberate fabrications, the UFW pulled down its Guadalupe Martinez feature and petition story on the 25th or 26th.