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Gov. Newsom signs farm worker bill

ag workers

California governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation promoted by the United Farm Workers union (UFW) that will make it easier for state farm workers to unionize.

The governor had vetoed similar legislation last year.

Over Labor Day weekend, President Joe Biden had issued a statement urging the governor to sign the legislation.

“I strongly support California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (AB 2183), which will give California’s agricultural workers greater opportunity to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” Biden said in a press statement.

The governor was also urged to sign by Vice President Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The bill “creates new ways for farmworkers to vote in a union election, including options for mail-in ballots, and authorization cards submitted to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board [ALRB], in addition to the existing in-person voting process,” said a statement from Governor Newsom. 

The supplemental agreement between the Newsom Administration, UFW, and the California Labor Federation includes a cap on the number of card-check petitions over the next five years, and will allow the ALRB to adequately protect worker confidentiality and safety. This additional agreement would be codified into law with a bill next year that would be supported by both the administration and the union. The agreement will be codified with additional legislation next year backed by the union and the administration,” the governor’s statement also noted.

Business interests, including Western Growers BB #:144734, have vehemently opposed the legislation.

WG president Dave Puglia has argued, “Under the UFW’s legislation, the following scenario could occur: The union could pre-print every employee’s ‘ballot,’ present them to employees at any place the union chooses (employees’ homes, church and school parking lots, etc.), persuade the employee to sign the card in favor of the union, and take the ‘ballot’ from the employee with a promise to send it to the state agency that regulates union elections in agriculture. Would every ballot—even those where the employee voted ‘no union’ under the watchful eyes of a union organizer—be faithfully forwarded by the union to the state agency? This is the opposite of a free and fair election, and all of this could occur completely out of sight of the state’s union election regulators.”

For further information about the new law, see this article.

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.