CFFA's Barry Bedwell Discusses Judge's Ruling to Set Aside Gerawan Farms Employees' Decertification Vote
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
FRESNO, CA - After a long fight about the power of an employee vote, Administrative Law Judge Mark R. Soble of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) ruled against Gerawan Farms employees’ 2013 decertification vote of the United Farm Workers (UFW).
The decision was issued yesterday, September 17th, and came as a tough blow to advocates for Gerawan Farms and its employees, like the California Fresh Fruit Association.
“While we are certainly disappointed in the judge’s decision and respectfully disagree, we must say that this reasoning that totally ignores the wishes of the clear majority of employees was anticipated given the history of the manner the ALRB has previously handled this case,” Barry Bedwell, California Fresh Fruit Association, said in a statement following the announcement, according to a press release. “We continue to believe that most reasonable and independent observers see this process as seriously flawed and one that does not address the core issue of the employee’s true wishes as to union membership.”
According to the release, Judge Soble based his decision on an environment that he felt made it “impossible for employee true choice when it came time to vote” because of “[the] employer’s unlawful support and assistance” during the events that led to the decertification vote of the UFW’s ability to make determinations on the employees’ behalf.
The decision also specifically referenced the support that was provided by the CFFA on a trip to Sacramento, assisting Gerawan Farming employees by providing aid with transportation, t-shirts and meals for a trip to state their case in October, 2013.
The judge stated that this, which he viewed as a violation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, contributed to his final decision.
The support the CFFA provided, according to the statement, was done on behalf and at the request of other members, not at all connected with Gerawan Farming membership, that felt there was an important issue of having the employee’s true voice heard.
In a followup response to inquiries if the CFFA felt there had been a violation of ALRA section 1155.4, which the judge named in his ruling, Bedwell stated, “Absolutely not."
Because Gerawan has been a member the Association for years, as well as many other California farmers, Bedwell said that the CFFA's support for the workers was in response to the views of other Association members who have no involvement in this election, but felt there was an important issue of having the employees’ voices heard by the Board and by members of the California Legislature.
"Section 1155.4 concerns attempts to influence other employees, which was not the case here," he continued, saying that CFFA members are entitled to expressing their views.
Bedwell concluded in his statement that the CFFA hopes the Agricultural Labor Relations Board will review and overturn this decision, doing the “right thing” by counting the ballots.