Today, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) blocked a group of farm workers’ second attempt to hold an election to determine if the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) should represent them.
“We are very sad that our government is working against us,” said Silvia Lopez, a farm worker with Gerawan Farming, Inc. who filed the second petition for decertification asking for the right to vote on representation. “We just want the right to vote.”
On Friday, October 25, Lopez delivered nearly 3,000 signatures to the ALRB, calling for an election before a collective bargaining agreement is imposed on them. She arrived at the offices in Visalia at 1 p.m. and they took almost 6 hours to process her paperwork. The ALRB today claims that she was too late – that the ALRB in Sacramento had purportedly taken action on a few terms of a collective bargaining agreement on Friday before she filed her petition. Her attorneys are challenging the suspect timing of the Board’s action and that the contract is not final – it is being remanded to the arbitrator before a final order can be adopted.
“There is no final contract barring this election from taking place,” said Paul Bauer, an attorney representing Lopez. “The ALRB should follow the clear policy and legislative intent of the Agriculture Labor Relations Act, which is free choice, and allow the workers the chance to vote.”
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.
Questions have been raised about the relationship between a government agency (ALRB) and the UFW. In fact, Judge Hamilton commented during a court proceeding on August 21, 2013: “…the Court is very suspect of, one, the ALRB’s position here. It almost seems like it’s in cahoots. And the Court finds it very troubling that the ALBR is taking such a position, especially sitting in a prosecutorial role.”
The denial of the petition and the approval of a collective bargaining agreements would mean that the farm workers cannot likely hold an election for another two years.
“This is flat-out wrong and simply un-American.” Bauer said. “We will continue to fight for the civil rights of these farm workers.”
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