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October 2018, Volume 24, Number 4

UFW, ALRB, Unions

The United Farm Workers union announced that Secretary-Treasurer Teresa Romero, age 60, would replace Arturo Rodriguez as president on December 20, 2018; the UFW Convention in 2020 is expected to confirm Romero's selection, which was made the the executive board. Romero is a Mexican immigrant from Guadalajara who managed a construction firm and worked at a law firm that assisted workers before joining the UFW in 2009; she was never a farm worker.

Rodriguez served 25 years. Upon taking office in 1994, Rodriguez inititally tried to work with growers at a time when the UFW had about 12,000 members. Chavez was testifying in a suit brought by lettuce grower Bruce Church when he died in 1993 and was replaced by Rodriguez, who quickly won a string of election victories on California farms and settled with Bruce Church in 1996.

However, UFW efforts to organize strawberry workers under the "five cents for fairness" program largely failed. The UFW wanted growers to raise the piece rate for picking a flat of 12 pint boxes by five cents.

After 2000, Rodriguez moved much of the UFW's work from organizing farm workers and negotiating contracts to advocating on behalf of farm and other immigrant workers in Sacramento and Washington. The Rodriguez-led UFW was the lead worker voice in negotiations with growers over a legalization-and-guest worker package known as AgJOBS that was introduced in Congress in 2000 but never enacted.

Rodriguez was more successful in the Legislature, winning Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation in 2002, heat-stress regulations, and overtime pay after eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. The UFW was not able to win card check, under which the ALRB could recognize a union as bargaining agent for workers without a secret ballot election.

The UFW in 2018 has contracts with about 30 California farms and claims 10,000 members, including 1,500 at D'Arrigo, a Salinas vegetable grower. Romero, whose first field visit was to D'Arrigo, says her top priorities are legalizing unauthorized farm workers and protecting female farm workers from harassment. Romero believes the H-2A guest worker program will continue to expand, and supports the UFW's H-2A CIERTO labor recruitment organization in Mexico. D'Arrigo has 200 H-2A workers.

Cesar Chavez day, March 31, is a state holiday in seven states including California. California in July 2018 designated April 10 as Dolores Huerta day, a non-state holiday that encourages schools to teach about Huerta.

ALRB. The Agricultural Labor Relations Board in Arnaudo Brothers (2018) 44 ALRB No. 7 dealt with the interactions of Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) and an employer's refusal to bargain. Arnaudo paid MMC wages in 2014, but did not bargain with the UFW over wages in 2015, the second year of the MMC contract. The mediator eventually determined wages for 2015.

There was no medical plan in the MMC contract, but Arnaudo offered health insurance to its employees in April 2016 without bargaining; the ACA required Arnaudo to offer heath insurance. The ALRB ordered the General Counsel to determine the value of the Arnaudo health insurance plan and compare this value with what would have been bargained to determine if any make whole is due workers.

The ALRB in Premiere Raspberries (2018) 44 ALRB No. 8 ordered Premiere to implement the collective bargaining agreement developed by an arbitrator under MMC; Premiere was formerly Dutra Farms. Premiere's workers voted 269-236 for the UFW in an August 9, 2017 election, and the ALRB certified the UFW as bargaining representative for Premiere workers October 11, 2017.

Premiere refused to bargain with the UFW in order to contest the ALRB's certification in the courts. Premiere said that the UFW offered its workers financial incentives to vote for the UFW and threatened to report them to immigration authorities if they did not support the UFW.

Premiere made no proposals to the mediator, who accepted the UFW's proposals for a three-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that included a 15 percent wage increase and a $0.25 per hour contribution to the UFW's JDLC pension plan that Premiere refused to implement. The Board on August 27, 2018 ordered Premiere to implement the CBA.

Some 100 Premiere workers staged a one-day strike September 26, 2018 to persuade Premiere to implement the CBA, picketing Well Pict. Instead, Premiere appealed the ALRB's MMC-implementation order. In Premiere Raspberries (2018) 44 ALRB No. 9, the Board refused to reconsider its certification of the UFW as bargaining agent for Premiere workers.

The ALRB in Gerawan Farming (2018) 44 ALRB No. 10 reversed an earlier decision that Gerawan interfered with a November 2013 decertification election, counted the ballots that were cast, and decertified the UFW as Gerawan's bargaining representative. The vote in the election was 197 to retain the UFW and 1,098 to decertify; another 660 votes were disputed.

The ALRB in 2018 found that Gerawan interfered in the election by providing wage increases in 2013 and allowing the collection of signatures to decertify during work time, but that these Gerawan actions did not affect the outcome of the election. Over five workers voted to decertify the UFW for every worker who voted to retain the UFW.

In October 2018, the US Supreme Court rejected Gerawan's appeal of the California Supreme Court's decision that the state?s MMC law was unconstitutional.

Unions. Some 34 percent of public sector workers, and 11 percent of all workers, belong to unions. The US Supreme Court's June 2018 Janus ruling prohibits state and local governments in 22 states from signing contracts that require all union-represented workers to pay member dues or agency fees that cover the cost of representing them. The Janus decision found that public sector union activities are inherently political, so that forced payments to unions infringe on free speech rights.

Public sector unions such as the NEA are expected to see their revenue drop as members quit. Many unions allow members to resign only once a year, prompting suits from workers who want to resign immediately and recoup past member dues and agency payments.