Sep 29, 2022
Western Growers refutes characterization of California labor law

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation designed to expand union rights for farm workers, AB 2183, he referred to the “heroic activism of farmworkers, championed by Americans” including Cesar Chavez.

Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia called the invocation shameful.

Puglia

“Instead of advancing the labor icon’s movement, as the governor claimed, California has officially unraveled Chavez’s legacy, striking at the heart of his greatest political objective and accomplishment: the right of farmworkers to a state-supervised secret ballot election,” Puglia said in a statement about thesigning of the labor law on Sept. 28.

According to the governor’s office, AB 2183 creates new ways for farmworkers to vote in a union election, including options for mail-in ballots, and authorization cards submitted to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, in addition to the existing in-person voting process.

“California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace,” Gov. Newsom said. “Our state has been defined by the heroic activism of farmworkers, championed by American icons like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong. California is proud to stand with the next generation of leaders carrying on this movement.”

The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 supported by Chavez made California the first state in the country that allowed farmworkers to unionize.

“For Chavez, the key to that law – like American democracy – was the guarantee of free and fair elections shielded from intimidation and coercion by any interested party,” Puglia said in his statement.

Rather than seeking a collaborative approach with all stakeholders, Puglia said, the United Farm Workers (UFW) and California Legislature “pushed forward an even more flawed form of card check, which is effectively forced union submission for farmworkers disguised as mail-in voting.”

Puglia cited language in AB 2183: “A labor organization representative may fill out all of the information in a mail ballot.”

“Thus the union – with a clear financial stake in the outcome – will displace the state as supervisor of the ‘election,’” Puglia said. “So-called ‘clarifying language’ would simply remove the mail-in voting option for farmworkers altogether rather than implement a mail-in voting process with integrity measures to ensure genuine protections for farmworkers.”

According to the UFW, farm workers across the state sacrificed to make their voices heard in support of the law.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Newsom and the legislature to make agreed upon changes that will ease implementation of AB 2183 so that farm workers can participate in elections free from intimidation and deportation beginning next year,” according to a UFW statement.




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