Card Check Bill Boosts Union Punch

MAY 17, 2011


California’s agriculture workers can expect to be unionized very soon. A bill that would allow labor unions to organize farm workers passed the Assembly Monday.

SB 104 is authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and is sponsored by the United Farm Workers union. It has been sold as a bill that would “allow” farm workers to decide on unionization, and as an option to the secret ballot, the current system of determining whether a workplace is unionized.

Steinberg is a Sacramento Democrat and a former union lawyer for the California State Employees Association. SB 104 is his third attempt at legalizing card-check elections for agriculture workers.

I recently described how card check works:

In card check elections, workers can be intimidated and coerced into signing a card saying that they want union representation. The election is not held using the secret ballot — workers must sign the cards publicly. After a majority of the cards are signed and the employee’s vote has been made known to the union, if more than 50 percent of the cards are signed, employees are then required to join the union.

What’s most egregious is that the union pushing the election does not have to disclose to the employees that the purpose of acquiring their signatures means a vote for unionization. And cards can be signed up to one year in advance of use. Many have questioned the real intent behind this provision.

Sob Stories

On Monday, one after another Democratic Assembly members touted “civil rights,” and told stories of exploited agriculture employees. But they failed to disclose that the bill would have no impact on abusive employers other than to impose union controls on workers.

Saying that he worked in the United Farm Worker legal department, Democratic Assemblyman Bill Monning of Carmel insisted that farm workers “are asking us to end exploitation by unscrupulous employers.”

Members of the gallery clapped and cheered at Monning’s statement. But they were admonished by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, who was presiding over the bill in the Assembly. It was unusual for him to perform this function, as he usually allows fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Fiona Ma of San Francisco to preside over the Assembly.

“The bill brings basic dignity to the fields of California,” said Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa.

Democrats insisted that the bill only adds card check as an “option” to collective bargaining. “SB 104 does not cost the state any money. It simply adds card check as another option to choose collective bargaining,” said Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

Democratic Assembly members Mariko Yamada of Davis and Mike Davis of Los Angeles cited civil rights, and even invoked Martin Luther King’s name.

Increasing Unemployment

But Republicans challenged Democrats’ playing down the impact and scope of the bill. “California unemployment is at 12.5 percent,” said Assemblyman Dan Logue of Chico. “This makes us less competitive in the global market.”

“All this bill would do is codify abuse, but won’t change their status,” said Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelley of Hesperia.

And Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Redlands, spoke of the amendments to the bill he requested. In his bills, malfeasance by the employer or unions would have allowed for the decertification of a union and penalties to the employer. But his amendments were refused by Steinberg.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, said that the amendments were defeated because the farm worker vote isn’t optional and is in direct conflict of the country’s founders and the constitutional promise of the secret ballot. “What’s fair is the pursuit of the secret ballot,” said Wagner.

Republican Assemblyman David Valadeo from the water-choked Central Valley city of Hanford is a dairy farmer. He spoke from personal experience about the difficulty farmers already have complying with the state’s many regulations on businesses. “This bill will lead to more equipment and less manual labor. It’s a bad idea and I strongly oppose,” Valadeo said.

SB 104 was passed the Assembly on a party vote of 51-26. The bill is headed to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. Most observers anticipate he will sign the bill.

Related Articles

Californians approve of Brown, Obama and CA — country, not so much

A majority of Californians approve of the job Gov. Jerry Brown is doing and think the state is on the right

Leg Passes LGBT Textbook Mandate Bill

JULY 6, 2011 By KATY GRIMES A Fourth of July celebration in the Assembly was overshadowed on Tuesday by debate

Raft of new state laws are going – or have gone – into effect

SACRAMENTO – California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills into law last year. Most start on Jan. 1, but others going into effect