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July 2023, Volume 29, Number 3


Julie Chávez Rodríguez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez and closely linked to Kamala Harris, is President Biden’s campaign manager for the November 2024 elections. She was head of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and is known for her ability to connect people to one another.

The UFW’s Juan De La Cruz Pension Plan collects pension contributions from employers and provides benefits to retired workers. In January 2023, the JDLC had $92 million in liabilities and $81 million in assets, which means that employers with UFW contracts may have to pay extra premiums to keep the JDLC solvent.

The UFW is battling Ostrom Mushroom Farms in Sunnyside, Washington, alleging that Ostrom in June 2022 replaced US workers with H-2A guest workers at the $60 million facility opened in 2019. In February 2023, Ostrom was sold to Canada’s Windmill Farms, which renamed it Greenwood Mushrooms Sunnyside and reduced the productivity standard so that pickers must pick at least 50 pounds an hour.

The UFW represents workers at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Paterson, while Familias Unidas por la Justicia represents workers at Sakuma Farms.

In May 2023, Ostrom agreed to pay $3.4 million or $20,000 each to 170 workers who alleged gender discrimination before the sale. Ostrom employed 115 workers, almost 90 percent women, before replacing them with H-2A men, prompting the suit. The women who lost their jobs said that Ostrom wanted them to work long hours and on weekends.

ALRB. AB 2183, enacted in 2022, was amended with AB 113 in 2023 to finalize two options for union recognition in California agriculture: (1) secret ballot or labor peace elections on farms that allow union organizers to take access to workers on farms and requires employers to remain neutral during union campaigns (labor peace); and (2) card-check or majority-support-petition elections that can result in a union being certified if the union collects signatures from a majority of employee over a year and submits them to the ALRB.

The ALRB has supervised six elections since 2016.

No farms signed labor peace agreements. Farm employers fear that, with the UFW one of the NGOs that is distributing USDA grant funds to farm workers, organizers could solicit worker signatures that could later be used to represent the workers on the farms where they work.

AB 2183 allows the ALRB to levy penalties of up to $25,000 for unfair labor practices and to require employers who want to contest ALRB decisions to post bonds equivalent to pending ALRB penalties in order to appeal to the California courts.

In Gerawan Farming (49 ALRB 2) the ALRB decided 3-2 that, rather than averaging all contracts in effect during the bad faith bargaining period to determine makewhile wages and benefits, the MMC contract developed by a mediator-arbitrator offered the best evidence of what would have been negotiated if there had been good faith bargaining. Since contracts negotiated by the parties usually introduce fringe benefits that add 20 to 35 percent to the wage package, while MMC contracts normally only raise wages, the effect of the is to reduce the makewhole owed by Gerawan by 80 to 90 percent.

Gerawan engaged in bad-faith bargaining between January and August 2013, and the GC found almost $5 million plus interest was owed to over 4,600 employees based on the average wages and benefits found in 23 UFW contracts in effect in 2013, the contract averaging method of determining makewhole. Gerawan countered that a MMC contract effective July 1, 2013 was a better reflection of what was owed to workers. The Board agreed, and shortened the makewhole period to end June 30, 2013. Gerawan did not implement the MMC contract, and the UFW was decertified.

The Board does not usually allow a contract developed after employer bad faith bargaining to be used to calculate makewhole, reasoning that the union is weakened by the employer bad faith. However, the Board concluded that the MMC process ensures that employer’s bad faith does not unduly influence the MMC contract.

The Board concluded that in future makewhole cases, there should be a search for a comparable contract and, if none is found, contract averaging should be used to calculate makewhole wages and benefits.

DOL. President Biden nominated Julie Su to be Secretary of Labor in February 2023. Su was secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency from 2019 to 2021 and before that a labor lawyer who helped immigrant workers. Major employer groups opposed Su, arguing that her efforts to convert gig workers into employees and the fraud in California’s UI system during covid disqualified her from leading DOL. Business groups in 2021 blocked the return of David Weill to head DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.

Joe Biden, strongly supported by police, fire, and building trade unions in 2020, was endorsed by the AFL-CIO in June 2023. Hillary Clinton won 51 percent of the votes from households headed by union members in 2016 when Donald Trump attacked free trade. Biden took 56 percent of the vote from union-headed households, but most older white men voted for Trump.

The United Auto Workers began negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in July 2023 over new contracts for 150,000 workers. The UAW has not endorsed Biden, complaining that federal subsidies for accelerating the transition to EVs has not emphasized the need to ensure that workers in battery factories and assembly plants, many in southern states, are represented by unions. There could be auto strikes in September and a strike by the Teamsters against UPS in August.

Over the past decade, the number of English-language TV series doubled from 300 to 600. The 9,000 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike in spring 2023 to win improvements in job security. They emphasize that, as TV series get shorter, writers may find work for 10 rather than 20 episodes. The last writers’ strike in 2007 reduced US economic output by an estimated $2 billion; a strike was averted in 2017.

The Teamsters, created in 1903, and UPS, begun in 1907, have a long relationship. UPS employs a third of Teamster members who earn an average $42 an hour after four years; part-time UPS workers earn $20 an hour. UPS pays all health care premiums for its employees and contributes to their pension. The Teamsters threatened to strike UPS in July 2023. UPS is the only unionized parcel delivery service; Fedex and Amazon are non-union.

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