California governor approves farmworker unionization law
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last week signed a bill expanding unionization rights for farm workers.
Newsom signed the bill on Wednesday alongside advocates and farmworkers outside the State Capitol in Sacramento.
In a news release, Newsom said, “AB 2183 by Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, 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.”
Newsom had expressed concerns about the bill and he, the United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation reached agreement on supplemental language that Newsom said “includes a cap on the number of card-check petitions over the next five years and will allow the ALRB to adequately protect worker confidentiality and safety.”
Newsom said the California legislature will pass the supplemental language next year.
Newsom’s decision thrilled the United Farm Workers, which had mounted a march to Sacramento to convince the governor to sign the bill but angered Western Growers, the largest organization representing fruit and vegetable growers even though the clarifying language agreement was made.
“California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace,” said Newsom. “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 United Farm Workers said in a news release, “Farm workers across the state organized and sacrificed to make their voices heard and to pass AB 2183. California and many parts of the country heard their voices, and farm workers felt the deep and historic solidarity from all parts of California and all across the nation.”
“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.”
But Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said, “It is shameful that Gov. Newsom invoked the name of Cesar Chavez in signing AB 2183. 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.”
“Chavez fought for passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, making California the first state in the country to give farmworkers the right to unionize,” Puglia said.
“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.
“Rather than seeking ‘a collaborative approach among all relevant stakeholders’ to address the ‘various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards,’ as outlined in the governor’s veto message of AB 616 (the UFW’s 2021 card check bill), the 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.
“To quote 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.’ 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.
“AB 2183 will unleash a relentless campaign of union pressure and harassment targeting California farmworkers, less than 2% of whom have voted in state-supervised secret ballot elections to pay the UFW 3% of their wages.”
The California Farm Bureau also said it was “deeply disappointed” in Newsom’s decision to sign the bill, the Associated Press reported.
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