California Governor signs controversial farmworker election law

California Governor condemned by WGA as he signs controversial farmworker election law

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California Governor condemned by WGA as he signs controversial farmworker election law

Under pressure from President Joe Biden, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 29 signed a bill that reduces the secrecy of farmworker union ballets in California. The bill is AB 2183.

In response that day, Western Growers Association President, and CEO Dave Puglia issued the following statement:

“It is shameful that Governor 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. 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 indicated in his release.

WGA indicates that United Farm Workers and the 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.”

On Sept. 29, the California eNewsletter “Calmatters” reports that “Gov. Gavin Newsom ended the suspense over a farmworker labor bill by agreeing to sign it two days before deadline and after much prodding by national and state union leaders and President Joe Biden.”

Calmatters notes that the California Chamber of Commerce and the Western Growers Association “fiercely opposed this bill.” This is described as “a victory for labor groups after the governor vetoed similar legislation last year.”

On Sept. 4, Biden specifically urged passage of AB 2183. The White House statement adds in part: “Unions transform how we work and live: higher wages, better benefits, like health insurance and paid leave, protections against discrimination and harassment, and a safer and healthier workplace. …Organizing or joining a union, that’s democracy in action. And it’s especially important today for Black and Brown workers whose voices have long been silenced through shameful race-based laws and policies.”

Puglia expresses: “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.

According to the WGA executive, AB 2183 unleashes “a relentless campaign of union pressure and harassment targeting California farmworkers, less than two percent of whom have voted in state-supervised secret ballot elections to pay the UFW three percent of their wages."

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