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April 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

UFW, ALRB, Unions

The UFW reported 9,555 members at the end of 2016, up from 8,300 in 2015 but down from a peak 10,300 in 2013. For many years, the UFW reported about 5,000 members, but the count jumped to over 10,000 in 2013.

There were celebrations around the US for the March 31 birthday of Cesar Chavez, founder of the UFW. Current UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said that "70 to 80 percent" of current farm workers are unauthorized, and that only the unauthorized have "the skill, the talent, the stamina or the willingness to do agricultural work today."

The Cesar Chavez Foundation in February 2018 agreed to pay a $115,000 fine for airing commercials on two of its eight educational radio stations; educational stations may acknowledge their underwriters, but not air commercials for them. The Foundation, with income of $39 million in 2015 and assets of $100 million, also owns the for-profit Farmworker Educational Radio Network.

ALRB. The ALRB issued a decision in March 2018 in Premiere Raspberries (44 ALRB 3) allowing the UFW to demand mandatory mediation and conciliation (MMC) to reach a first contract. Workers voted 269-236 for the UFW in an August 9, 2017 election, and the ALRB certified the UFW on October 11, 2017 (stayed until December 6, 2017).

Premiere challenged the certification of the UFW as the bargaining representative of its workers, engaging in a technical refusal to bargain in order to have courts review the ALRB's certification of the UFW. The ALRB's General Counsel found that Premiere interfered with the rights of farm workers; a hearing is scheduled for July 2018. At the request of the UFW, the ALRB ordered mandatory mediation and conciliation to help the UFW obtain a collective bargaining agreement with Premiere.

Unions. Some 10.7 percent of US workers were union members in 2017, including 34 percent of public-sector workers and 6.5 percent of private-sector workers. The private sector is much larger, so the number of private sector union members slightly exceeds the number of public-sector union members.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 in February 2018, a case challenging the 1977 Abood decision that allowed unions to collect "fair share" fees from nonmembers. Mark Janus argued that the demands of public sector unions are inherently political, so that his required contribution of $45 a month, 80 percent of what union members pay, is unlawful support of Council 31's political speech.

AFSCME, the largest union in the AFL-CIO with 1.6 million members, argued that representing all workers has costs, and that Janus and other nonmembers cannot be free riders. There are 28 right-to-work states in which unions cannot collect fair share fees, and 22 states that allow fair share fees. In 2016, public sector unions spent almost $18 million on candidates; 90 percent went to Democrats.

DOL. David Weil, who was President Obama's Wage and Hour Division Administrator, urged the 1,000 WHD field investigators to consider most workers employees, rather than independent contractors. Weil wanted DOL to seek joint employer liability for affiliated businesses when enforcing labor laws.

Home-care registries that consider aides who provide in-home care to be independent contractors have pushed back. The registries, like Uber, say the service providers they link to those needing care are not their employees. Home health agencies who consider service providers to be employees complain of unfair competition to provide in-home care to the elderly and disabled.