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