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Bill to close exploited loophole in farm-employee rights law approved by the State Assembly


Aggressive opposition from corporation, currently subject to legal action for breach of labor law, doesn’t deter Assembly majority
 
A bill to close an enforcement loophole in farm labor contracts was approved on a 41-24 vote by the California State Assembly today, despite an expensive lobbying and advertising campaign from a corporation currently subject to an official state complaint alleging illegal interference with employee rights. Senate Bill 25, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D – Sacramento), now returns to the Senate for concurrence on Assembly amendments.

“California’s farmworkers have a right to fair wages and safe working conditions. Where they choose to organize and their contracts are negotiated in good faith, they also deserve to have those contracts honored,” said Steinberg. “Despite a deceptive advertising campaign backed by a corporate farm facing complaints of unfair labor practices, an Assembly majority saw that this measure does exactly as intended: it closes the loopholes that have allowed a few bad actors to undermine the contracts of hardworking people who help put food on California’s tables.”
 
Senate Bill 25 has been subject to aggressive opposition by Gerawan Farming, INC., a corporation currently subject to two causes of action for unfair labor practices brought by the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) General Counsel on behalf of the United Farm Workers.  The ALRB charges that Gerawan Farming INC. “unlawfully coerced, interfered with, and restrained its agricultural employees” in violation of California’s Labor Code. Gerawan Farming INC. allegedly attempted to coerce its organized workers into signing a petition to decertify their elected labor representatives, and interrogated workers about their activities and support for their labor representatives.
 
Ironically, Gerawan Farming INC.’s radio and television advertising campaign seeking to kill Senate Bill 25 alleges that the bill seeks “to take away farm workers’ rights.” The television version of the advertisement is available at: http://youtu.be/KYNjtvqPt54
 
Senate Bill 25 allows for the mandatory mediation and conciliation process to be used for collective bargaining contract renewals, as well as addressing a legal loophole the ALRB discovered that prevents them from enforcing their own decisions.  Senate Bill 25 closes this loophole, making it clear that the ALRB will have the “legal mechanism” to enforce a mediator’s decision. 
 
Small farmers with fewer than 25 employees will remain exempt, and SB 25 will impact only about a half dozen of the estimated 86,000 farms in California. The measure would only apply to companies where farm workers have voted to unionize, where either the union or the employer refuses to negotiate a contract, and where the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) has made a final ruling on a mediator’s report.

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