California: Farm worker alleges conflict of interest from ALRB member Shiroma

January 28 , 2016

The farm worker who has been the voice of anti-union protests in California has petitioned for the disqualification of Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) member Genevieve Shiroma, alleging conflict of interest and breaches of the Code of Judicial Ethics.

Silvia Lopez

Silvia Lopez

A release from law firm Raimondo & Associates said Silvia Lopez filed legal documents to the ALRB alleging Shiroma made payments of more than US$120,000 to United Farm Workers' (UFW) lobbyist Richie Ross.

The ALRB declined to comment, and at the time of writing Shiroma has not yet responded to requests for her perspective on the matter.

The petition comes at a heated time for farm labor relations in the state, stemming from the UFW's decision in 2012 to impose mandatory mediation and conciliation (MMC) on workers at Gerawan Farming, charging a 3% fee for the union which many workers see as unjust given they never voted to be part of the union.

Lopez - who has since garnered support from the Center for Worker Freedom of Grover Norquist's NGO Americans for Tax Reform - spearheaded a movement to decertify the union but has been met with obstacles at every turn, with the ALRB dismissing decertification elections based on allegations of interference.

An ALRB document written by General Counsel Sylvia Torres-Guillen in 2014 claims Lopez only "sporadically" worked for Gerawan and spent significant periods of time engaged in anti-union activities during work hours.

The UFW itself has been highly critical of Lopez's links to the Center for Worker Freedom, but now she is taking aim at the government itself for recently appointing Shiroma, alleging her connections to the UFW could affect her decisions on labor matters.

"Shiroma made the payments to the UFW’s lobbyist while she sat in judgement of issues directly involving that union, and while the workers ballots remain uncounted in a government vault," Raimondo & Associates said in the release.

"Until 2014, Shiroma was Chair of the ALRB and under her leadership the agency was restructured to place UFW allies in critical positions."

The law firm alleged she abused her position on behalf of the UFW, allowing for "corruption and prosecutorial misconduct to run rampant at the expense of worker rights", according to the petition.

"The worker’s allegations are explosive because Governor Jerry Brown recently reappointed Shiroma to another term. Shiroma has been on the ALRB since 1999, making her the longest tenured member of the ALRB," the law firm said.

"Lopez says that Shiroma cannot be a fair and impartial judge in the workers’ case because of Shiroma’s longstanding professional and political alliance with the registered lobbyist for the UFW and the politicians in the union’s pocket."

In other news relating to Gerawan Farming, on Dec. 18 the company announced it would fully close its table grape operations located in unincorporated areas between the cities of Fresno and Kerman, affecting 2,551 employees.

"The table grape operation closure does not affect any of the employees' employment in other Gerawan farming operations," the company's lawyer Ronald H. Barsamian said in the notice.

Gerawan declined to comment on the closure.

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  1. 1MrPeanut2 says:

    Shiroma sits on the Mar Monte Planned Parenthood Board, which oversees 34 abortion clinics throughout California. Mar Monte has marched alongside the UFW in their causes, as well as participated in UFW sponsored causes, providing money and speakers. Shiroma is also a United Way Board Member: United Way is tied to the hip to the AFL-CIO (UFW's affiliation).

    It should be noted that in May, 2012, the UFW held it's 50th Anniversary bash over a three day period. Genevieve Shiroma, along with seven other ALRB Brass, attended the UFW event, and the General Counsel for ALRB, Sylvia Torres-Guillen, was a featured speaker who promised to revive the UFW through forced contracts. This took place several months before ALRB and UFW launched their campaign against the Gerawan Farmworkers.

    That ALRB is heavily biased, favoring the UFW, is by now not disputable. Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, another ALRB Board member, also is on the Mar Monte Board, as the Chairman/President. Rivera-Hernandez was one of the eight ALRB Brass that attended the UFW's 50th anniversary event.

    ALRB is an embarrassment to the State of California. Heads need to roll, but more importantly, ballots need to be counted. The Gerawan Farmworkers did EVERYTHING the law requires of them to do, in order to decertify the UFW as their bargaining rep, as the UFW never participated as their rep. UFW abandoned the workers who voted for them back in 1990. Those workers were let down by the UFW, and a new generation of workers is in the fields today, being forced into a union they never were allowed to choose.

    ALRB committed all kinds of fraud in attempting to ram a UFW contract down the throats of the Gerawan workers. Take for instance the whistle blower in Silas Shawver's regional office. Shawver was accused of falsifying evidence in order to get a TRO against Gerawan for rightfully disciplining and firing an employee. Shawver also breached ethics by showing confidential documents to a third party, for which he was taken to task by Mark Soble for doing so.

    Consider that Alegria De La Cruz, one of three ALRB regional directors, is a 3rd generation UFW activist. Jessica Arciniega, one of three ALRB regional directors, was a paid UFW Organizer and later UFW attorney. Then you have Silas Shawver, a union organizer for Unite, rounding out the legal staff of the ALRB. All were working with the UFW, in collusion, as Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton noted when he said that the ALRB was acting "in cahoots" with the UFW.

    The Gerawan farmworkers have been shamefully treated, experiencing the worst forms of Jim Crow ever carried out in the state of California. And it all has been done at taxpayer expense, over $7Million being spent by the ALRB to force them into the UFW. Count the ballots, allow the Farnworkers to exercise the rights that the ALRA law intended them to have in the first place.