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July 2019, Volume 25, Number 3

UFW, Unions

The UFW began a campaign in June 2019 to alert workers about their right to shade. Marichel Mejia of the UFW said that "Farmworkers are just like everybody else ? we all have smartphones?[and many] are active on Facebook and WhatsApp." Mejia said that farm workers can warn each other about heat stress and about farmers who do not provide appropriate water and shade.

California enacted emergency heat-protection regulations in 2005 after several workers who had just arrived from Mexico died. The UFW sued Cal/OSHA in 2009 and 2012 for inadequate enforcement of heat-protection regulations, and in 2015 reached a settlement that allows the union to forward worker reports of violations of protective regulations to Cal/OSHA. Minnesota, Oregon and Washington also have heat-protection rules for farm workers.

Unions are trying to organize workers in the growing cannabis industry. Under the terms of Prop 64, cannabis farms with 20 or more workers can sign Labor Peace Agreements with unions promising not to oppose unionization.

John Giumarra Jr, CEO of Giumarra Vineyards, died in June 2019. Giumarra Vineyards is a major table grape grower in Kern and Tulare counties and imports grapes and fruit from Chile. Giumarra earned a law degree at Stanford, and clashed as a 28-year old with Cesar Chavez in the mid-1960s during the UFW-called table grape boycott.

Giumarra had a contract with the UFW between 1970 and 1973. After signing the contract that raised wages from $1.65 plus $0.20 a box to $1.80 and $0.20 a box, plus $0.10 an hour for health insurance, Giumarra said "we have to work together and respect each other and go forward for a better life for everyone." In 2005, the UFW lost a vote to represent Giumarra Vineyards workers, 1,121 to 1,246.

ALRB. Barry Broad, a former Teamsters official, was appointed to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) in May 2019. Board member Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez became an appointments secretary in the Office of the Governor in July 2019.

Cedar Point Nursery in 2016 challenged the ALRB's access regulation, which gives union organizers access to workers on farms to inform them about the benefits of unions. Cedar Point grows strawberry plants in northern California, and said that union organizers were disruptive at the nursery.

Employers can file charges with the ALRB accusing union organizers of disruption. Cedar Point sued the ALRB, arguing that the access regulation violated the Fifth Amendment by allowing union organizers to "take" private property. The US Ninth Circuit in May 2019 disagreed with Cedar Point, upholding the ALRB's access regulation.

Unions. The United Auto Workers in June 2019 lost a vote, 833-776, to represent 1,600 of the 3,800 workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee that opened in 2012. The UAW previously lost a bid to represent VW's Chattanooga workers in 2014, and was rejected by a majority of workers at a Nissan plant in Mississippi, a Toyota plant in Kentucky and a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.

No major foreign automakers have unionized plants in the United States. VW's unionized Pennsylvania plant opened in 1978 and closed in 1988.

The UAW had 1.5 million members in 1979 and has 400,000 today. Its 155,000 auto members are employed by the three US auto firms based in Detroit, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. UAW members employed at Big 3 plants earn a top wage of $30 an hour, compared to $24 at VW in Chattanooga.

In-home Care. Beginning July 5, 2019, union dues may no longer be deducted automatically from the wages of in-home care givers paid through Medicaid. The income of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 800,000 care aides, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is expected to decline. California and several other states sued to allow union dues to continue to be deducted from paychecks.