Not so good for the Latino farm workers.
After a long and bitter legal battle, California officials decided Thursday that the vote of thousands of Latino farm workers does not count, and they must stay in their union.
The case pitted farm workers of Gerawan Farming, union officials, advocates and government agents against each other. Accusations of union bias, employer abuse and even “Jim Crow” suppression tactics were detailed through countless pages of legal testimony. After nearly two years of uncertainty, the courts have sided with the United Farm Workers (UFW).
“As a result of the employer’s unlawful support and assistance, I am setting aside the decertification election and dismissing the decertification petition,” the arbitration judge decision declared. “Given that the unlawful conduct tainted the entire decertification process, any election results would not sufficiently reflect the unrestrained free expression of the bargaining unit members.”
Additionally, the decision accused Silvia Lopez, the main worker leading the effort to decertify the union, of being paid to do so. It noted she was given time off to lead the effort and actively blocked her colleagues from voting. It also cited her as being a “girlfriend” of one of the Gerawan Farming supervisors.
It all began in 2013 when Lopez and many of her fellow workers at the Fresno-based Gerawan Farming filed to decertify the UFW. After 20 years of absence, the union came back to demand dues, angering many of the nearly 5,000 workers at the farm. After an unfair labor practice charge against the farm employer, though, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decided to lock away the ballot vote.
The ALRB began investigating to determine if employer abuse actually occurred. Concerns that the board was biased in favor of the union, however, made critics skeptical they would make a fair decision. As the dispute developed, it quickly gain attention from local lawmakers like Republican state Assemblyman Jim Patterson.