Published in the Kern County Valley Ag Voice – November 2014 Issue
I believe in the right of farmworkers to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union or not. But when some 3,000 employees of a Valley farm voted one year ago this month to cut their ties with a union, the union-owned California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) refused to count their ballots and unfairly went after their employer. That’s unacceptable.
In a union-boss power grab, Senate Bill 25 was introduced in an attempt to “unlevel” the playing field against farm workers and their employers by making it even easier for unions to force collective bargaining agreements on employers and workers. SB 25 would have made it even more difficult for agricultural employers to stand up for their employees who do not want or see the need for union representation.
Additionally, SB 25 was one-sided. Collective bargaining is supposed to result in a contract that represents mutual agreement between parties. This bill moved further away from that objective by proposing to impose “mandatory mediation” for collective bargaining agreements between agricultural employers and unions.
SB 25 would have also forced union membership. Under the process of mandatory mediation, employees are deprived of a right to vote on ratification of a proposed contract. The purpose of this bill was to make it easier to force employees into an unwanted association with a labor union.
And finally, SB 25 would have denied due process. According to the coalition of agricultural employers who were opposed to the measure, “SB 25 denies due process to agricultural employers under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act by severely limiting an employer’s ability to get a court to stay the Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s order implementing a Board imposed union contract.”
Although the Legislature passed this unfair measure along mostly party lines, Governor Brown thankfully vetoed it.
In his veto message, Governor Brown wrote, “Both contract enforcement and election disputes should be dealt with so the process is balanced and fair. This bill only addresses contract enforcement. We should look at the entire process before making further changes.”
It’s been a year since the ALRB impounded the ballots that farmworkers cast in a union decertification election. It’s disgraceful that state bureaucrats have the power to suppress the voice of farmworkers, who should have the ultimate right to decide on their representation.
The irony here is that the late Cesar Chavez fought to get farmworkers the right to vote. In fact, one of his famous quotes aptly fits the battle against today’s dictatorial ALRB: “We are tired of words, of betrayal, of indifference… The years are gone when the farmworker said nothing and did nothing to help himself… Now we have new faith. Through our strong will, our movement is changing these conditions… We shall be heard.”
It’s time to count those 3,000 votes.