Legislation that would have allowed California farmworkers seeking union representation an alternative to secret-ballot elections was vetoed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill, which had cleared the Assembly by a vote of 51-26, with all Republicans opposed, would have let farmworkers bargain collectively if a majority of employees submit petition cards to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Provisions also would have stiffened penalties for employers who tried to thwart farmworkers’ efforts to unionize. The bill was sponsored by the United Farm Workers union.
The UFW and other supporters claimed the law was needed because employers wield too much power and can coerce farmworkers into voting against collective bargaining. Opponents, including numerous grower groups, said the bill violated a fundamental precept, secret-ballot elections, and could have led to intimidation of farmworkers by union leaders. They hailed Brown, a Democrat, for not simply hewing the party line.
“We commend the governor’s courageous veto today of Senate Bill 104,” said Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif. “We are heartened that the governor has rededicated himself to this important principle, that the secret ballot must be the exclusive means of determining the true wishes of the workers. Gov. Brown has done the right thing and preserved the heart and soul of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.”
Kim Ledbetter Bronson, chair of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, issued a similar statement praising Brown’s protection of the secret ballot for farmworkers. “By vetoing Senate Bill 104, Governor Brown made clear that union interests should not trump the rights of agricultural employees,” she said. “Workers will continue to have the right to decide the question of union representation without fear of harassment and intimidation.”
To read a PDF of the message the governor delivered to the California State Senate, outlining his reasoning for the veto, click here.