Gavin Newsom Eliminates Vote-by-Mail — for Farmworker Union Elections

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law Monday that will eliminate vote-by-mail in elections for union certification by farm workers, under a deal that will allow organizers to use a “card check” system instead.

Newsom, who owns a winery himself, signed the law, AB 113, under a deal he struck with unions last year under pressure from labor organizers and Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Originally, Newsom sounded almost like Donald Trump as he objected to the vulnerability of vote-by-mail to fraud. He vetoed a bill last year to allow vote-by-mail in union elections because he said that he could not “support an untested mail-election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election.”

Farmworkers led a series of protests in response, including a march to the infamous French Laundry restaurant in Napa, where Newsom dined maskless with lobbyists right after issuing pandemic guidelines telling other Californians not to to to restaurants. Newsom relented and signed a bill allowing vote-by-mail and other provisions, under the understanding that the vote-by-mail provision would be repealed the following year.

One of those provisions is “card check,” which allows labor organizers to approach workers personally to sign a card or cast a ballot for union certification. It is a system that critics — including some liberal Democrats, like the late left-wing presidential nominee George McGovern — denounced as a violation of the secret ballot.

The bill limits the number of “card check” elections to 75, and gives the unions a Jan. 1, 2028 deadline to hold them.

California adopted automatic vote-by-mail in its regular elections in 2020, over the objections of Republicans.

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