ALRB taking months to resolve UFW decertification vote

by Katy Grimes | December 19, 2013 11:21 am

Silvia Lopez[1]It took more than one year of doing battle with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. But in November, workers with Gerawan Farming finally won the battle to vote on whether to allow the UFW to represent workers, or to send the UFW packing.

Although the UFW officially has represented the workers for two decades, many workers charge that it has done nothing for them. The vote was whether or not to decertify the UFW as the workers’ representative.

The workers voted on Nov. 5. But so far the votes have not been counted by the ALRB. By contrast, the dispute over the 2000 presidential election vote and recount in Florida, Bush vs. Gore[2], took just 36 days to resolve.

Of the nearly 3,000 Gerawan Farming employees who potentially voted, 800 of their ballots have been challenged by the UFW. The ballots have been sealed and will not be opened until there is a court hearing, which is not anticipated to take place for months.

Neither the ALRB nor the UFW have explained why the ballots were challenged. Attorneys representing both Gerawan Farming and the workers suggested this is a stalling tactic.

As the ALRB has been silent since the November election, I recently contacted the board, and asked J. Antonio Barbosa, ALRB Executive Secretary, what was going on.

Barbosa emailed me his response and said, “This is a complicated case that does not lend itself to simple answers.”

Q: What is the status of the employee votes and count? Why are the results not yet available?

Barbosa:  “The results of the election are not available because multiple issues must be resolved before the results of the decertification election will be final.  In this election, the eligibility of a very large number of voters was challenged.  The Board will determine which of those challenges must be set for an evidentiary hearing in order to be resolved.  The ballots of those individuals found to be ineligible after the hearing and the resolution of any requests for review of the hearing examiner’s recommended decision will not be counted.

“Parties may also file election objections arguing that the election should be set aside because of misconduct that allegedly affected the outcome of the election.  In this matter, the UFW has filed 32 objections, the Employer has filed seven objections and the Decertification Petitioner has filed 13 objections.  The Board is in the process of determining which of the objections should be set for a hearing, and a Board Decision and Order on the objections will issue soon. The hearing on objections could either lead to the setting aside of the election or certification of the election results by the ALRB.

“Finally, in this matter a number of unfair labor practice (ULP) charges relating to the election have been filed with the Visalia ALRB Regional Office. Some of the ULP matters may be resolved in a consolidated hearing with the election objections.  It is impossible to predict how long these processes will take.  The Board is following the time lines set forth in section 1156.3(i) of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act; however it is likely that a hearing or hearings to resolve the above matters will be very lengthy.

“Insofar as the number of ULPs that are pending, investigation of ULPs is under the jurisdiction of the Office of the General Counsel.  Please contact the General Counsel’s office at (916) 653-2690[3] or the Visalia Regional Director at (559) 627-0995[4] for this information.”

Origins of the dispute

The UFW won an election to organize Gerawan Farming in 1990, it held only one meeting a couple of years later, then abandoned the farm due to lack of worker support. There was never a contract for the workers.

The UFW, with membership now below 4,000, is looking for new dues-paying members. The labor union showed up in October 2012, claiming Gerawan Farming’s 5,000 employees were de facto union members. But many workers were furious.

Organized by longtime Gerawan Farming[5] employee Silvia Lopez (pictured above in front of the governor’s office), thousands of workers fought against the attempted takeover.

“We never certified the union,” Silvia Lopez told me in September. “Why do we have to certify the union? This is a question for Jerry Brown. I tried to contact the governor, but couldn’t. The only thing we want is to vote.”

Read all of my stories about the Gerawan Farming workers’ fight against the UFW, the ALRB, and legislation attempting to force Gerawan into unionization HERE[6].

  1. [Image]:
  2. Bush vs. Gore:
  3. (916) 653-2690: //localhost/tel/%2528916%2529%20653-2690
  4. (559) 627-0995: //localhost/tel/%2528559%2529%20627-0995
  5. Gerawan Farming:
  6. HERE:

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