Gerawan Farming Wins Court Battle, California Court Strikes Down Compulsory Contracting Statute as Unconstitutional
- by Jessica Donnel
FRESNO, CA - The California Court of Appeal in Fresno has unanimously declared the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) Statute unconstitutional. This decision dissolves the California Agricultural Labor Relation Board’s order to force a “collective bargaining agreement" on Gerawan Farming.
“This is a significant victory for our employees, our family, and the entire industry. The Court’s ruling vindicates our argument that no state agency should be able to unilaterally impose a contract on workers without a vote or force it on employers without their consent,” said Gerawan’s Co-Owner, Dan Gerawan. “This decision is a significant win for all agricultural workers, who justifiably deserve the freedom to choose representatives to speak for them at the bargaining table.”
As we’ve previously reported, in 2013, Gerawan Farming asked the California Court of Appeal (5th District) in Fresno, CA to review the constitutionality of the MMC statute, which dictates a binding, collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a union.
This new decision holds that the “inequality and arbitrariness of the MMC process” improperly gives legislative authority to an unelected state agency. The Court referred to the MMC as, “the very antithesis of equal protection,” according to a press release. It also said the MMC unconstitutionally mandates “the imposition of a collective bargaining agreement by administrative edict” based on “a distinct, unequal, individualized set of rules” for each individual employer.
Barry Bedwell, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association commented in a press release, “Yesterday’s decision represents an important milestone in the years long effort by Gerawan Farming, Inc. and their employees for justice. We sincerely hope that the logic and reason shown by the 5th District Court of Appeals will lead to like decisions by the ALRB and other courts who are involved in this important issue.”
18 months ago, thousands of Gerawan employees successfully petitioned for the right to hold an election to determine whether to oust the United Farm Workers (UFW), and those ballots have yet to be counted.
Although federal and state labor laws allow unions and employers the freedom to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, the UFW held no negotiations because it had disappeared for twenty years, according to a press release. The court claims that the UFW has refused to explain its absence. Since its re-appearance, the UFW proposed in bargaining sessions that employees be required to pay 3% of their wages to the UFW or be fired, despite the fact that it had done nothing for the employees.
As a result of this decision, Gerawan was awarded its costs of bringing the appeal.
Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we continue our coverage on this ongoing issue.