After months of collecting signatures and being denied once already by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), Silvia Lopez, a Gerawan Farming, Inc. farmworker and on behalf of thousands of her coworkers, has won the right to vote on whether the Gerawan farmworkers should be represented by United Farmworkers of America (UFW).
“We are very happy to finally have a chance to vote,” Lopez said. “We have been asking for our voice to be heard and now we have that opportunity.”
Details of the election are being worked out with the ALRB, Gerawan Farming, Inc. and the farmworkers. The exact process will be determined in the coming days. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act requires that an election be held within seven days of a showing of interest, which was recognized by the Regional Director for the ALRB at 10:22 p.m. on October 30.
On Friday, October 25, Lopez delivered nearly 3,000 signatures to the ALRB, calling for an election. By Monday, October 28, the ALRB Regional Director denied the petition, claiming that the ALRB in Sacramento had already approved a collective bargaining agreement, rendering the petition irrelevant. However, less than four hours later, the ALRB in Sacramento issued an order, vacating the decision of the Regional Director that essentially wiped his decision away.
“This has been a long, rocky road to get to this point,” said Paul Bauer, attorney representing Silvia Lopez. “My client has been put through the wringer, but what’s important is that these farmworkers finally get to exercise their right to vote on representation.”
The ALRB denied the farmworkers’ petition filed last month – claiming that the more than 2,600 signatures filed did not demonstrate the “showing of interest” required to trigger a vote under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. In 1990 – more than 20 years ago – the UFW won an election to represent the farmworkers. They did not negotiate the terms and conditions of employment and abandoned the workers. The UFW now claims they have the right to represent the farmworkers.
“The spirit of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act is to honor farmworkers’ free choice – that is exactly why this election needs to be held,” Bauer said. “Very few of the Gerawan farmworkers were here 20 years ago – they deserve a chance to vote on whether they want the UFW to represent them.”