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UFW march ends in disappointment as Governor Newsom turns down Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act

United Farm Workers Flag
Posted at 5:28 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 21:25:46-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — Farm workers gathered in the city of Delano to embark on a march about voting rights earlier this month. Their mission was to have a bill signed that would allow farm workers to feel safe when voting in union elections.

Over 330 miles, and 23 days later, that march reached the state capitol.

Thousands of farm workers marched alongside various community members in order to ask California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign AB 2183. "Si se puede" is a chant that filled the streets of Sacramento on Friday as more than 5 thousand farm workers and supporters arrived at the capitol demanding to see the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act become law.

The bill was intended to make it easier and safer for farm workers to cast their votes in union elections, free from intimidation and threat. However, in response to the conclusion of the march, the Communications Director for the Office of the Governor, Erin Mellon, released a statement.

"Governor Newsom is eager to sign legislation that expands the opportunity for agricultural workers to come together and be represented, and he supports changes to state law to make it easier for these workers to organize. However, we cannot support an untested mail-in election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election and is predicated on an assumption that government cannot effectively enforce laws. We welcome an agreement with UFW on the ground-breaking legislation the administration has proposed.”

Despite their efforts not ending the way they wanted, Leydy Rangel, Communicator Director for the United Farm Workers (UFW) Foundation, says that the UFW will continue to march.

"Farm workers are not asking for much. They just want to have those rights that essential workers should have," said Rangel, who has been alongside the farm workers on the entire 23-day mission. "It’s extremely hard, it’s a big sacrifice to march. Especially those day-one marchers who have been with us since August 3rd. It’s grueling, their feet are hurt, they’re bruised, they have blisters, they are in pain.”

Rangel also said that despite the pain, it was a sacrifice that the farm workers were willing to make.

“Every single step of the way we are going to continue saying 'yes we can' and these folks are not tired yet of raising their voice and they’re going to continue marching and doing everything they can until we have the vote become law.”

To support the United Farm Workers on their legislative journey, donations can be made on their website.

The full text of AB 2183 is below:

Existing law, the Alatorre-Zenovich-Dunlap-Berman Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, grants agricultural employees the right to form and join labor organizations and engage in collective bargaining with respect to wages, terms of employment, and other employment conditions, and authorizes employees to elect exclusive bargaining representatives for these purposes. Existing law creates the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and prescribes its composition, duties, and powers. Existing law authorizes the board to hold hearings and conduct investigations and requires that certain procedures be the exclusive method of redressing unfair labor practices. Under existing law, any person who willfully resists, prevents, or interferes with a member of the board or its agents or agencies in the performance of their duties is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Existing law requires the board to certify the results of an election conducted by secret ballot of employees in a collective bargaining unit to designate a collective bargaining representative, unless the board determines there are sufficient grounds to refuse to do so. Existing law further provides that if the board refuses to certify an election because of employer misconduct that would render slight the chances of a new election reflecting the free and fair choice of employees, the labor organization shall be certified as the bargaining representative for the bargaining unit.

This bill would refer to the election by secret ballot process as a polling place election. The bill would establish alternative procedures to the polling place election and authorize a labor organization to be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of a bargaining unit through either a labor peace election or a non-labor peace election, as prescribed, dependent on whether an employer enrolls and agrees to a labor peace election for labor organization representation campaigns. The bill would provide that a labor peace election or a non-labor peace election permits a bargaining unit to summarily select a labor organization as its representative for collective bargaining purposes without using the existing polling place process. Under the bill, a labor peace election would be a mail ballot election and a non-labor peace election would establish a process for the submission of a petition with proof of majority support, subject to certification by the board. Among other provisions, the bill would require for both alternative procedures that an employer respond to the board with regard to a petition, including providing a specified list of employees to the board. By expanding the definition of a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

This bill would establish a schedule for agricultural employers to indicate to the board whether they agree to a labor peace compact, defined to mean an agreement by the employer to, among other things, make no statements for or against union representation to its employees or publicly, in any written or oral form, at any time during employee hire, rehire, or orientation, or after certain documents regarding organization are filed with the board. The bill would prohibit a labor peace compact from prohibiting an employer from communicating truthful statements to employees regarding workplace policies or benefits, as specified. The bill would require the board to develop an online web-based labor peace election process that will allow employers to indicate their labor peace choice online, and that will allow labor organizations to see whether a specific agricultural employer has agreed to a labor peace election campaign.

This bill would repeal the above provisions on January 1, 2028.

This bill would prescribe civil penalties to be imposed upon an agricultural employer who commits an unfair labor practice in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation, and would increase that sum to an amount not to exceed $25,000 for specified violations. The bill would require the board to consider specified factors in determining the amount of a civil penalty pursuant to these provisions. The bill would also authorize the board to impose personal liability for these penalties upon a director or officer of an employer in certain circumstances.

Existing law authorizes a person aggrieved by the final order of the board granting or denying in whole or in part the relief sought for an unfair labor practice, to obtain a review of the order in a specified court of appeal by filing in the court a written petition requesting that the order of the board be modified or set aside.

This bill would require an employer who appeals or petitions for a writ of review of any order of the board involving make-whole, backpay, or other monetary awards to employees, to post an appeal bond in the amount of the entire economic value of the order, as specified, and would provide for the bond to be forfeited under specified conditions.

This bill would state that its provisions are severable.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.