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April 2003, Volume 9, Number 2

UFW: Coastal, Gallo

The UFW won the right to represent more strawberry workers at Coastal Berry, but may have lost the right to represent 350 Gallo of Sonoma employees.

Coastal. The UFW launched a drive to organize strawberry workers in 1996, and in April 1997, AFL-CIO president John Sweeny called the UFW's strawberry campaign the most important union organizing drive in the US. In May 2000, the UFW won the right to represent 700 workers at Coastal Berry operations in Oxnard, and a local union, the Coastal Berry of California Farm Workers Committee, won the right to represent 800 workers at Coastal Berry operations in Watsonville.

On November 13, 2002, Coastal's Watsonville workers voted to replace the Committee with the UFW, even though only 412 workers were eligible to vote, that is, Watsonville employment was barely 50 percent of required peak employment.

Gallo. On March 13, 2003, Gallo workers voted on whether to decertify the UFW, but the ALRB did not count the ballots until UFW charges of unlawful Gallo interference with the decertification effort are resolved. The ALRB's General Counsel in April 2003 issued a complaint agreeing with the UFW, saying that a Gallo foreman "assisted, supported, approved and encouraged the agricultural employees of his crew to sign a document which would lead to a petition to decertify the union."

Gallo workers voted to join the UFW in 1994, and a first contract was signed in September 2000. Gallo alleged that the UFW interfered with the March 2003 election, and made "disparaging remarks" that the current contract prohibits.

E. & J. Gallo employs 4,600 people; 80 percent belong to unions, but only the 350 Gallo of Sonoma farm workers are represented by the UFW. Gallo of Sonoma has 3,000 acres of grapes in Napa and Sonoma counties.

The UFW filed petitions with the NLRB for elections to represent banquet employees at four San Antonio hotels; at the Adams Mark, the employees voted against UFW representation.

Pensions. Workers who earn pension benefits under UFW contracts must apply for benefits, but many do not. The UFW periodically finds workers who are owed pension benefits, and gives them a lump sum plus a continued monthly pension in front of local media. For example, a 72-year old worker employed at Watsonville's Monterey Mushrooms between 1979 and 1988 in March 2003 received $24,000 and $280 a month.

The UFW's Juan de la Cruz Farm Workers Pension Fund in 2003 had 2,400 beneficiaries who each received $40 to $600 a month, or a total of $375,000 a month.

Salinas. The UFW arranged food aid for 200 Triquis, a regional group of Oaxacans who speak an indigenous dialect instead of Spanish, who were jobless in Greenfield in the southern part of Monterey county.

On April 23, 2003, the tenth anniversary of Cesar Chavez's death, the U.S. Postal Service plans to issue a new first-class Chavez stamp.

NBC's TV show "Mister Sterling" on January 24, 2003 highlighted the struggle of the UFW to amend the ALRA to provide for mandatory mediation during the summer of 2002. In the 1972 film "The Candidate," Robert Redford made a campaign stop with farm workers.

Tim Tesconi, "ALRB: Gallo 'coerced' workers," Press Democrat, April 16, 2003.

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