Background: UFW lost battle to Gerawan in Superior Court

Note: This is additional backround to the series of stories CalWatchDog.com has been running on the court battle between Gerawan Farms and the United Farm Workers union. The following is from late November, but has not been reported elsewhere.

An order issued by a Sacramento Superior Court judge on Nov. 27 ruled Gerawan Framing did not have to enter into collective bargaining while preparing an appeal. The UFW didn’t even mention this setback on its website.

UFW jumps the gun

While Gerawan Farming was awaiting the results of the Nov. 5 Gerawan employee election to decertify the UFW, the UFW requested a temporary restraining order Nov. 22 to force Gerawan into collective bargaining anyway. This attempt to force unionization on the Gerawan employees was helped along by the  California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which ordered the collective bargaining, while the Board simultaneously has been sitting on the employee election results.

Gerawan Farming refused to enter into the collective bargaining process pending the allotted 30-days to prepare an appeal. The company has since filed a complaint with the with the California Court of Appeal, Fifth District in Fresno, against the ALRB’s invocation of the California’s Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Statute.

The UFW tried to get the state court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Gerawan Farming from refusing to abide by the ALRB’s collective bargaining order. The UFW argued, “Otherwise the UFW and the workers will suffer irreparable harm from precisely the automatic stay that the Legislature declined to enact.”

(All of the documents in this case, including the UFW complaint and judge’s order, can be found here. Case number 2013-00153803)

Judge Brown’s explanation

Superior Court Judge David Brown explained in his Nov. 27 decision:

“The review by the court shall not extend further than to determine, on the basis of the entire record, whether any of the following occurred:

“(1) The board acted without, or in excess of, its powers or jurisdiction.

“(2) The board has not proceeded in the manner required by law.

“(3) The order or decision of the board was procured by fraud or was an abuse of discretion.

“(4) The order or decision of the board violates any right of the petitioner under the Constitution of the United States or the California Constitution.”

Legal cherry-picking

The UFW argued that the language within the state law compels the result they were seeking. “They assert the Legislature’s deliberate creation a narrow framework for review of a Mediator’s report by the Board (ALRB), demonstrates a desire to provide farm workers with the benefit of a collective bargaining agreement,” the judge wrote.

The UFW argued that the language of the statute provided that no final order of the Board should be stayed on appeal unless the appellant shows irreparable harm, and a likelihood of success on appeal shows an explicit intent to provide a collective bargaining agreement to agricultural workers without delay.

But the judge didn’t buy the UFW’s legal argument.

“Unfortunately, there are no provisions of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act governing the Mandatory Mediation Process that permit the Agriculture Labor Relations Board to seek temporary relief during the pendency of the 30-day period for seeking appellate review,” the judge said, quoting from a similar 2012 case, Ace Tomato Company Inc., v. United Farm Workers.

Judge Brown explained:

“In Ace, following a Board Decision affirming the mediator’s report, the UFW filed a request for agency action to enforce the anti-stay provision in the Mandatory Mediation Law, alleging that Ace had failed to implement the CBA as ordered, and requesting that the Board go to court to enforce its decision (under Lab. Code § 1164.3(f), either party or the Board may file an action to enforce the Order of the Board),” the Judge wrote. “Immediately thereafter, the Board issued an Administrative Order requesting that Ace provide a response to the UFW’s request for enforcement. Ace provided a response indicating that it intended to file a petition for review in the Court of Appeal of the Board’s decision affirming the mediator, but did not indicate whether it had implemented the agreement. Shortly thereafter, the Board issued another Administrative Order, ordering Ace to state whether it had in fact implemented the CBA.”

“As in unfair labor practice proceedings, the Board’s decisions are not self-enforcing,” the judge said. “Rather, in order to enforce its decisions, the Board must first obtain a judgement.” And judgments are obtained through the Superior Court.

Legislative intent

The judge explained legislative intent should be gathered from the whole legislative act, rather than cherry-picking a few words or isolated parts. He wrote, “Courts should thus construe all provisions of a statute together,… significance being given when possible to each word, phrase, sentence, and part of the act in pursuance of the legislative purpose.”

In other words, the judge told the UFW that words matter, especially in context. “The meaning of a statute may not be determined from a single word or sentence. Its words must be construed in context, keeping in mind the nature and obvious purpose of the statute where they so as to make sense of the entire statutory scheme,” the judge said.

The judge added there was “no legal mechanism by which the UFW could seek to enforce the collective bargaining agreement” at that time.

Judge Brown ruled: “The application is DENIED.”

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  1. Ed the Independent Contractor
    Ed the Independent Contractor 8 January, 2014, 18:48

    Thank god that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Brown sees through the bias found in the activities of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board which is stacked with organized labor people for the purpose of forcing employers to bend to union demands. Gerawan Farms and their employees have attempted to comply with orders of this highly prejudiced ALRB only to have the board decertify the election and attempt to indicate that the election results were fraudulent. The ALRB has been delaying and attempting to assist the UFW in organizing farm workers that want nothing to do with the UFW. This process by the ALRB is nothing other than blatant coercion to the workers of Gerawan Farms as well as issuing highly propagandized lies as to what is occurring in this case.

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