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Newsom gets another chance to sign ag labor bill

ag workers

California governor Gavin Newsom has been given another chance to approve legislation governing union elections for farmworkers.

Newsom vetoed similar legislation last year and has indicated that he will do so again. He requested that the bill include a measure requiring that employers receive advance notice of the date of a union election. This is not included in the bill.

State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, said the new bill is “90 percent” of what the governor asked for.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 2183, is supported by the United Farm Workers union (UFW) and opposed by agricultural interests. It has passed both houses of the state legislature, leaving the final decision to the governor.

The bill has to do with voting procedures for union elections. Among other measures, it would allow employees to vote by mail. Presently, they are allowed to vote only at locations designated by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), which, union officials say, make them prone to retaliation by employers.

Under the bill, the ALRB would mail and handle all ballots.

Presently hundreds of farm workers and their supporters are camped out in front of the state Capitol to support the bill and say they will remain until the governor makes a decision.

According to California Fresh Fruit Association president Ian LeMay, the bill gives two options for labor elections. The first is a labor neutrality agreement.

The agreement forbids employers from interacting with employees during union votes, LeMay said. It also requires them to forfeit compensation when a union comes onto their property to recruit, undoing a 2021 Supreme Court decision forbidding union members from coming onto private property without consent from the owner.

The second choice for employers is to allow union representatives to request a “voting kit request form.” The form would include the addresses and telephone numbers of employees to allow organizers to contact them.

LeMay added that the bill includes no requirements for the union to contact all employees, meaning that those who oppose a union could be left out.

The bill includes a sunset measure whereby its provisions would expire on January 1, 2028 unless ratified by later legislation.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.