Thursday, October 13, 2011

Automatic Union Recognition When Bosses Misbehave, Or Just A Little Red Tape?

This weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that will allow state regulators to automatically certify union elections by farmworkers if it can be shown that growers used threats or intimidation toward workers in the election process.

The United Farm Workers (UFW) membership has been declining over the past decade, in part because of intimidation and dirty tricks by growers.  However, the new law will not end intimidation by employers. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez called the new law an “improvement,” not a remedy, according to the Washington Post.

The UFW has been fighting for card-check balloting, which would allow workers to vote by signing petitions away from the fields. Farmers and growers’ associations have vigorously fought the move, arguing that union officials would use the method to rig elections. However, the growers and farmers don’t really care about whether the unions are corrupt (they will corrupt the unions themselves, when given the chance). What the growers want is the cheapest labor possible, which means either no union at all, or a company union in the pockets of the bosses.

Legislation that would have given farmworkers the right to card-check elections was vetoed by Gov. Brown in June. Brown has tried to portray the new law as a victory for workers, but it is nothing more than a weak compromise that gives the workers little and the bosses a relatively large hoop to jump through.

Growers nonetheless cried foul, complaining that the new law could easily trip them up. However, if they leave their workers alone and allow them to organize freely and without any intimidation or intervention, they have nothing to fear from the law. They can probably even continue with most of their dirty tricks without fear of legal consequences. The Agricultural Labor Relations Board said that misconduct by growers would have to be “egregious and include pervasive threats” for an election to be automatically certified, according to the WaPo article.

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