Gerawan Farming fights labor union all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court

Gerawan FarmingSurprising no one, on Nov. 27, the California Supreme Court upheld the dubious Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation law against Gerawan Farming. The California Supreme Court heard the Gerawan case last fall on whether the state’s attempting to force mandatory agricultural labor union contracts violates the constitutional safeguard of equal protection. Fresno-based peach grower Gerawan Farming is one of the largest agriculture employers in the state.

The serious wrangling with the United Farm Workers Labor Union and ALRB began again in October of 2012, when the union insisted that a multi-decades old collective bargaining agreement covering Gerawan workers be reactivated, and tried to invoke a 2002 law that empowers the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board to impose a union contract on the company’s farm workers, and to deduct three percent of the 5,000 Gerawan employees’ pay — without their consent.

The Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation law allows state mediators to force union contracts on workers through binding mediation. – in essence, it shoves a contract down the throats of workers, without their consent. In the 48-page decision, the California Supreme Court Justices said, “We conclude that the MMC statute neither violates equal protection nor unconstitutionally delegates legislative power.”

“California Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-supermajority State Legislature hold the state Supreme Court’s purse strings. Evidence of this can be found in the Monday California Supreme Court 7-0 decision in the Gerawan Farming case,” I wrote at the time of the decision.

“Today’s decision imposes the United Farm Workers on our employees, whether they want the UFW or not,” Gerawan Farming said in a statement. “In this case, since UFW had disappeared for almost two decades, 99% of the Gerawan employees never voted for UFW representation.” The California Supreme Court justices also notably did not place any value on Gerawan’s argument that the UFW labor union’s 22-year absence meant it forfeited its status as an employee representative.

Gerawan has since petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review of California’s Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation law, which appears to collide with the First Amendment and due process principles. …

Click here to read the full article from the Flash Report

Bitter Labor Fight Ends In Big Win For Farm Union

gerawan farming united farm workersAfter a long and bitter legal battle, California officials decided Thursday that the vote of thousands of Latino farm workers does not count, and they must stay in their union.

The case pitted farm workers of Gerawan Farming, union officials, advocates and government agents against each other. Accusations of union bias, employer abuse and even “Jim Crow” suppression tactics were detailed through countless pages of legal testimony. After nearly two years of uncertainty, the courts have sided with the United Farm Workers (UFW).

“As a result of the employer’s unlawful support and assistance, I am setting aside the decertification election and dismissing the decertification petition,” the arbitration judge decision declared. “Given that the unlawful conduct tainted the entire decertification process, any election results would not sufficiently reflect the unrestrained free expression of the bargaining unit members.”

Additionally, the decision accused Silvia Lopez, the main worker leading the effort to decertify the union, of being paid to do so. It noted she was given time off to lead the effort and actively blocked her colleagues from voting. It also cited her as being a “girlfriend” of one of the Gerawan Farming supervisors.

It all began in 2013 when Lopez and many of her fellow workers at the Fresno-based Gerawan Farming filed to decertify the UFW. After 20 years of absence, the union came back to demand dues, angering many of the nearly 5,000 workers at the farm. After an unfair labor practice charge against the farm employer, though, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decided to lock away the ballot vote.

The ALRB began investigating to determine if employer abuse actually occurred. Concerns that the board was biased in favor of the union, however, made critics skeptical they would make a fair decision. As the dispute developed, it quickly gain attention from local lawmakers like Republican state Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

“This unjust decision sends a clear message that the ALRB doesn’t think farmworkers are capable of deciding for themselves whether they want union representation,” Patterson said Friday in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If this ruling is not reversed by the Ag Labor Board, it will be a perpetual stain on their honor.”

Patterson even introduced legislation to rein in the ALRB in early 2015. With concerns the board was bias, the hope was to put power back in the hands of the workers, not the union or ALRB. The measure did not go forward.

“These workers deserve to have their votes counted and their voices heard,” Patterson continued. “I will continue to support them and Gerawan Farming as they continue to stand up for what’s right.”

The hearing process lasted six months — ending in March — and became the longest labor hearing in the history of the state. As both sides waited for a decision in the months to follow, concerns the ALRB was bias became worse.

Accusations of voter intimidation were first brought to light in a June article from Flash Report Senior Correspondent Katy Grimes. At least 19 separate workers alleged abuse from agency officials during the election.

“They call me ignorant. They said they’d call immigration to take me out of the country,” Lopez, who is an American citizen, told TheDCNF back in June.

According to legal testimony from the workers, officials told them their vote was likely to get thrown out, made them perform public verbal tests, segregated them and forced them to show identification after explicitly telling them it wasn’t necessary to bring.

Additionally, ALRB officials in charge of the vote were accused of openly supporting the union. This included Regional Director Silas Shawver who was shown wearing union gear.

The case attracted national attention as it developed. The Center for Worker Freedom, a worker choice advocacy group, led much of the effort to bring attention to the issue. This included rallies for the workers and media outreach campaigns.

One rally even got the attention of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who invited Lopez to talk with him about what was happening. Though part of his administration, there was no evidence he knew the extent of what the ALRB was being accused of doing.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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