January 2021, Volume 27, Number 1
UFW, ALRB, DOL
The Napa Valley Register reviewed UFW activities December 18, 2020, noting that the UFW represented workers only at Charles Krug and St Supery, while the UFCW represented workers at Hess Collection. At each of these wineries, the number of workers represented is small, about 20, as the wineries rely increasingly on custom harvesters and other nonfarm businesses that bring workers and equipment to their vineyards.
There are over 800 wineries in Napa county, including 500 that have public tasting rooms.
The largest grape grower in Napa county, Andy Beckstoffer, had two contracts with the UFW before creating a non-union business. The Napa Valley Grapegrowers association says that two-thirds of their member farms offer full-time farm worker employees health insurance.
The UFW acknowledged that it has fewer than 50 members among the 5,000 farm workers in Napa. However, UFW goals are to “improve the lives of farmworkers throughout the entire food supply chain” by lobbying for federal and state laws that would help farm workers and their families. The UFW has been advocating for immigration reforms to legalize unauthorized farm workers for two decades.
ALRB. The US Supreme Court in November 2020 agreed to hear appeals from two growers after a divided Ninth Circuit decision in May 2019 upheld the ALRB’s 1975 access regulations that give union organizers access to workers on farms up to three hours a day and four-30 days a year.
The Cedar Point strawberry nursery and the Fowler Packing Company that produces citrus and table grapes challenged the access regulation, arguing that the union organizers who entered their property to talk to workers disrupted their business operations. They argue that giving union organizers automatic access to workplaces is an unlawful “taking” of their private property.
The Ninth Circuit dissenters concluded that union organizers should be prevented from entering private property unless farm workers live on the property, which they did not at Cedar Point and Fowler Packing. The USSC is expected to decide whether the access regulation is constitutional by June 2021.
Cedar Point employs about 100 year-round workers and 400 seasonal H-2A workers that it houses in motels in Dorris, California near the Oregon border. Fresno-based Fowler employs about 2,000 seasonal field workers and 500 packingshed workers.
DOL. President-elect Joe Biden promised to empower American workers by raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. Biden could quickly raise the minimum wage for federal contractors from the current $10.10 an hour to $15.
Biden promised to roll back Trump actions that curbed diversity training for federal employees, to reverse DOL and NLRB orders that make it easier for workers to be considered independent contractors, and to double the number of OSHA inspectors to enforce regulations aimed at protecting workers from Covid.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO), approved by the House in February 2020, would tighten the definition of independent contractor to make more workers employees by adopting the California Supreme Court’s ABC test. The PRO Act would also weaken right-to-work laws that prohibit mandatory collection of dues from union-represented workers in 27 states.
The California Supreme Court on April 30, 2018 switched from a 10-factor test to an ABC test to determine if workers are employees or independent contractors. In Dynamex Operations West, the Court ruled 7-0 that, if a worker performs a job that is part of the "usual course" of the company's business, he or she should be considered an employee.
The 300 Dynamex drivers set their own hours to deliver packages, and could work for other firms. The court’s ABC test said that firms must satisfy three tests to make their workers independent contractors, are they free of the company's "control and direction," is the work "outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business," and is the worker regularly engaged in an independent occupation or business of the same type he or she is performing for the company? If not, the workers are employees.
The Alphabet Workers Union organized 225 Google engineers in December 2020; Google has 260,000 directly hired and contract employees. There are few unions in the tech industry, where wages are higher than average, but some workers believe unions are needed to confront management over diversity and other issues.