May 31, 2018ALRB may count ballots in election involving UFW, Gerawan Farming
Workers at Gerawan Farming Co., who have been fighting for five years to oust the United Farm Workers, may get another shot to disconnect from the union, thanks to a ruling May 30 by the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno.
At issue is a disputed 2013 election by the workers to decertify the UFW as their representative. The workers won the right to a vote, but the agency that oversaw the election, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, never counted the ballots. The ALRB stopped the process after Gerawan was accused of unfair labor practices by trying to manipulate the outcome of the election.
An administrative hearing was conducted and the board dismissed the decertification petition, saying the vote was not valid.
In its 138-page decision, the court said the ALRB erred in several of its findings of unfair labor practices.
Gerawan Farming issued the following statement following the May 30 ruling:
“Since the Nov. 5, 2013 election at Gerawan Farming, the Gerawan family and employees have had a simple request: “Count the votes.” Today, four-and-ahalf years after the election, in a 3-0 decision, the Court of Appeal has instructed the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to open the ballots, count them, and issue a tally. That is good news for all who believe in the workers’ right to choose.
“We call upon the ALRB to follow the Court’s instruction and promptly count the votes without any further delay. Today’s decision affirms that farm workers have the right to decide for themselves whether they wish to be represented by the United Farm Workers, or any union. The Court’s decision finds that the ALRB “effectively lost sight of the . . . value of protecting the farmworkers’ right to choose” (p. 7) and that the ALRB embraced “a one-sided approach . . . that unnecessarily disenfranchised the workers.” (p. 131)”
Dan Gerawan, the company’s co-owner said, “This is a victory for our employees. They never gave up on their struggle to achieve the same rights that all other workers have, and we never wavered from our support of their right to choose.”
Ron Barsamian, the company’s attorney said, “This is one of the most detailed and thoroughly analyzed court decisions I’ve seen in over four decades of practice in California agricultural labor law, and yet it is premised on the simple elegant concept of letting people vote to decide on important issues for themselves.”
“The court’s decision mandates that when the ALRB calls an election based on a sufficient showing of support, the ALRB must count the ballots,” Barasmian said. “The decision also recognizes that the decertification drive was “a worker-initiated and worker led movement.” (p. 129) That conclusion, along with the more than majority support from the workers (as certified by the ALRB) asking for an election on whether to decertify the UFW, underscores why it is so important to count the ballots now.
“Thankfully, the court has gone to great effort to remind the ALRB of what its core purpose is, which is to protect the workers’ right to vote. I am extremely happy for the workers who have long suffered at the hands of the UFW and the ALRB in this matter.”