by Katy Grimes | October 31, 2013 5:09 pm
UPDATE: Nov. 1, 2013: Late yesterday Visalia ALRB Regional Director Silas Shawver announced his decision to block the decertification election at Gerawan Farming. The workers have asked twice for an election. Both times Shawver sided with the UFW and against the workers, preventing them from having a vote.
Thousands of farm workers in the Central Valley object to unionization under a collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers. As I have detailed, they say the Agricultural Labor Relations Board is forcing them into the collective bargaining agreement anyway.
The workers of Gerawan Farming collected 2,000 co-workers’ signatures in September and delivered a petition to the ALRB to decertify the United Farm Workers union. But the ALRB declared the signatures were forged and denied the petition.
Undaunted, the workers started over, and this time delivered a second petition with 3,000 signatures to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board Visalia office last Friday.
But by Monday. they heard the second petition was also rejected, under questionable circumstances.
“We are very sad that our government is working against us,” said Silvia Lopez in a statement following the ALRB decision Monday. “We just want the right to vote.”
Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said in an interview on KMJ radio Thursday, the Visalia ALRB “stepped in it,” when they declared the second petition was no good. Patterson said the Sacramento ALRB had to intervene and straighten up the petition procedures.
The Visalia ALRB office appeared to prevent the signatures from even being counted this time. Workers have had many run-ins with ALRB Visalia Regional Director Silas Shawver in their quest to be rid of the UFW.
But once the signatures were officially counted and verified, the ALRB confirmed a “showing of interest.” This decision means the farm workers need to hold an election to decertify the UFW within seven days of turning the petition in.
But, the ALRB can, and may still, block the election at any time.
“ ‘Farm worker’ does not equal UFW any more,” said the workers’ attorney, Paul Bauer, also interviewed on KMJ radio Thursday. “They can speak for themselves.”
Bauer represents Silvia Lopez, the Gerawan Farming employee who has been leading the drive to decertify the UFW.
“No communication to the workers in 20 years from the UFW — they want a vote now,” Bauer said. Bauer was referring to the amount of time the UFW has abandoned Gerawan’s workers. After winning an election in 1990, the UFW disappeared, never to be hear from until October 2012, apparently in search of new dues-paying members.
“The UFW is ‘offering’ her a pay cut to let them come back, as well as 3 percent of her pay,” Bauer said.
Not only did the Gerawan Farming workers recently tell me they think the UFW deal stinks, they really like their employer.
Silvia Lopez’s parents worked for Gerawan Farming. Silvia has worked there for more than 15 years, and her daughters also work for Gerawan.
Bauer said Gerawan Farming is the largest farming employer in the area, and probably why the UFW targeted the 5,000 Gerawan employees for unionization. “Winning this one is like winning the Super Bowl,” KMJ radio talk show host Chris Daniels added.
UFW membership has dwindled to below 4,000 members from a high of 50,000 in the 1970’s, shrinking in size and relevance.
Bauer said with all of the regulations and labor laws in California to protect workers, labor unions are no longer needed. “People like Miss Lopez are treated very well. They like working there,” Bauer added.
Bauer said the UFW picked on the wrong company. Gerawan employees like their employer, they like their jobs, they like their pay and benefits.
It is evident the UFW grossly miscalculated on this one.
“They didn’t count on a Silvia Lopez,” Bauer said. “She’s a true civil rights leader. She works hard, has encountered difficulties, and her heart is big.”
Daniels asked Bauer, “If the UFW is so sure of their value to workers, why not put it to a vote?”
“If you are a farm worker, they think you aren’t smart enough to represent yourself, and must be a UFW member,” Bauer said. “It’s very humbling to meet people like Miss Lopez, who are willing to stop at nothing to do the right thing.”
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