Legislation that would allow farmworkers seeking union representation an alternative to secret-ballot elections passed the California State Assembly on Monday. The measure, Senate Bill 104, cleared the Assembly by a vote of 51-26, with Republicans opposed. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not yet announced whether he will sign it.
Proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the bill would let farmworkers bargain collectively if a majority of employees submit petition cards to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Provisions also would stiffen penalties for employers who seek to thwart farmworkers’ efforts to unionize. The bill was sponsored by the United Farm Workers union.
Supporters say SB 104 is needed because employers wield too much power and can coerce farmworkers into voting against collective bargaining. Opponents, including numerous grower groups, say the bill violates a fundamental precept, secret-ballot elections, and could lead to intimidation of farmworkers by union leaders. Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif released the following statement on today’s passage.
“If Governor Jerry Brown signs the card check bill, SB 104, he will effectively abolish a farmworker’s exclusive right to vote by secret ballot in a state-supervised election process. We doubt the governor has forgotten what he and Cesar Chavez fought for in the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 — the secret ballot as the exclusive means of determining the true wishes of the workers. With a card check system, every worker’s vote is made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers. Union organizers trying to get signatures would be able to shove the cards in front of a worker with no one else around. This clearly exposes workers to unwanted pressure and possible intimidation by the union. This legislation is not about advancing the cause of farm workers; SB 104 is only about advancing the cause of a union that cannot persuade workers to vote for it without having a union organizer looking over the worker’s shoulder.”