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October 2021, Volume 27, Number 4

UFW, ALRB, NLRB

The UFW’s RFK health care plan reported $21 million in revenue in 2018, over 99 percent from employer contributions, and paid $22 million for health care benefits, ending the year with $7 million in assets.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation, which develops and operates low-income housing projects, reported $56.5 million in program revenue in 2019, when it had $58 million in expenses, ending the year with $136 million in net assets. Seven CCF employees earned over $100,000 a year, and two earned over $200,000 a year.

Líderes Campesinas, co-founded by Mily Treviño-Sauceda, represents 500 female farm workers in 14 chapters in California’s agricultural areas, highlighting the dangers of pesticides to pregnant women. Begun in 1992, Líderes staff pass out pamphlets and explain pesticide dangers to farm workers during field visits. Líderes takes credit for helping to end the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops.

ALRB. Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed AB 616 in September 2021, which would have allowed the ALRB to recognize farm worker unions as bargaining representatives of workers if they win elections using mail-in ballots that may be completed at home with union organizers present rather than after in-person secret ballot or polling-place elections. AB 616 would have allowed workers to send or deliver their ballots to the ALRB or to give them to union organizers to transmit to the ALRB. Worker votes would have remained valid for 12 months.

Some 25 UFW marchers were in the midst of a 200-mile March for the Governor’s Signature to Sacramento when AB 616 was vetoed. The UFW redirected the march to Newsom’s PlumpJack Winery in Napa.

The UFW has been seeking a card-check alternative to secret ballot in-person voting for the past decade, marking an ironic reversal. Cesar Chavez insisted that farm worker unions could be certified only after secret-ballot in-person elections to prevent growers from recognizing the Teamsters as the representative of their farm workers without an election. However, the UFW’s failure to win a September 2005 election at table grape grower Giumarra after collecting signed cards from 2,000 workers persuaded the UFW that it could not overcome employer efforts to encourage a no-union vote. The UFW lost at Giumarra by a vote of 1,121 to 1,246.

Card check bills have been approved by the Legislature several times and vetoed by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown. The USMCA, which went into effect July 1, 2020, required Mexico to change its labor laws to require secret-ballot union elections, prompting a US complaint that an April 2021 vote at a GM facility in Silao on whether to retain the current union was improper because it was not a secret ballot. The Mexican government ordered a new election, and noted that secret ballot re-certification votes must be held in all unionized workplaces by 2023.

Unions represent a sixth of California’s workers, down from 40 percent in the 1950s. Some 2.4 million California workers are members of unions, and another 200,000 are represented by unions; 13 million workers are non-union. The Service Employees International Union has 17 locals in the state and 700,000 members, including 96,000 state workers in SEIU Local 1,000.

NLRB. An NLRB hearing officer in August 2021 recommended that the results of the February-March 2021 mail ballot at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama be set aside, opening the door to a new election. Workers voted 1,798 to 738 for no union, but the hearing officer found that the installation of a USPS mailbox to collect ballots near the warehouse prevented a free and fair election.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died in August 2021, raising questions about the federation whose member unions represent 12 million US workers. Trumka saw the AFL-CIO as the Washington representative of unions and their members. Others want the AFL-CIO to undertake pilot projects that range from organizing unauthorized workers to joining coalitions with like-minded interest groups.

The AFL-CIO’s top legislative priority is enactment of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO), which would make it easier to organize workers and increase penalties on employers who violate labor laws. PRO was approved by the House in March 2021, but is unlikely to be approved by the Senate.


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