Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ruling finds California’s largest fruit grower collectively bargained in bad faith with the UFW

[Apologia: I realize all agriculture-newsworthy items don’t originate from California, but as I live in the state and our other bloggers are quiescent at the moment, I trust you can forgive me. And yet we might recall that California is ‘positioned as the agricultural powerhouse of the United States,’ as it ‘leads all of the other states in farm income!’]
By Geoffrey Mohan for the Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2017
The state’s largest grower of peaches and other fruit bargained in bad faith with the United Farm Workers of America and wrongly tried to exclude as many as 1,500 employees from a collective bargaining agreement, a judge has ruled. The decision gives a strong boost to the UFW’s claim to represent as many as 6,500 workers at Gerawan Farming Inc., a 12,000-acre farm and packing operation in the San Joaquin Valley that has been the focal point of one of the longest-running and most acrimonious labor dispute in decades. The decision also reaffirms that employees of labor contractors, who now provide about half the workers who pick the state’s crops, are covered by union contracts signed with the grower.
The Gerawan-UFW fight, which began in the early 1990s, has sparked the single largest effort to decertify a union, along with a flurry of labor board and court decisions, including one that has stalled the state’s ability to impose a contract on warring parties. And these parties have been at war, Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt acknowledged in a decision issued Friday.
Co-owner Dan Gerawan’s undisguised anger with the union, Schmidt wrote, ‘appears deep and unusually long-lasting,’ and ‘perhaps explains the motive underlying the current expenditure of what must have been enormous sums by the Gerawan enterprises opposing the UFW and seeking to rid itself of any legal obligation to deal with that organization.’  Gerawan showed ‘at most, a lackadaisical attitude … and at worst, complete hostility’ and ‘almost certainly guaranteed’ a mediator would have to step in and impose a contract in 2013, Schmidt wrote.
Armando Elenes, a spokesman for the UFW, said the decision ‘confirms what we’ve been saying all along — Gerawan has been undermining the law. They’re trying to undermine the state of California.’
Gerawan’s lead attorney, David Schwarz, blasted the decision and promised an appeal — none of the previous decisions in the case has gone without appeals from the growers and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. ‘Gerawan is confident that these undemocratic decisions will not stand, and will challenge this latest erroneous ruling,’ Schwarz said Monday. He accused the judge of blaming the grower for the union’s ‘unexplained, 17-year absence’ from Gerawan’s fields.
Schmidt’s ruling appears to undermine Gerawan’s assertion that the union abandoned his workers in the mid-1990s before returning in 2012 to demand the right to negotiate a new contract. Gerawan has argued that UFW was solely looking to pad its membership and coffers — it collects dues of 3% of each member’s gross pay — by deliberately running out the clock on negotiations so it could obtain a contract imposed by a mediator. [….]
The rest of the article is here.


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