Will the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board Go ‘Chavista’?


For several years, thousands of employees of Fresno, Calif.-based Gerawan Farming, the nation’s largest peach grower, have been trying to tell United Farm Workers (UFW) union bosses to go away.

If California’s labor law covering farm workers were fair and sensible, any individual worker who wanted to negotiate his or her own employment conditions with the company without UFW union-boss interference would be able to do so.  But under the Golden State’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), even if the employer is perfectly willing to negotiate with union nonmembers on an individual basis, the only way employees can free themselves from an unwanted union monopoly-bargaining agent is collectively, through a ballot decertifying the union.

(Of course, federal labor laws and the vast majority of state labor laws are similarly pro-union monopoly.)

Unfortunately, many of the California bureaucrats who regulate employee-employer relations in the farm sector, most definitely including Sylvia Torres-Guillen, the general counsel of the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), seem to regard the ALRA as insufficiently biased in favor of compulsory unionism.

Torres-Guillen and her handpicked team of lawyers have relentlessly obstructed efforts by Gerawan employees to oust the UFW brass from their workplaces through a decertification election.  Since such an election occurred in November 2013 despite ALRB lawyers’ best efforts, Torres-Guillen and her cohorts have come up with a variety of excuses to prevent the ballots from being counted.  If these UFW-“friendly” bureaucrats actually believed a majority of Gerawan employees had voted to retain the union, they certainly wouldn’t have gone all-out to prevent a ballot count.

Over the course of the year and a half since Gerawan employees voted on whether or not to retain UFW bosses as their monopoly-bargaining agents, the claims ALRB lawyers have made to justify their refusal to count the ballots have been discredited again and again.

For example, it was just recently revealed to the public that, in January 2o15, “in the presence of ALRB attorneys and an ALRB judge” — all of whom work under the ALRB general counsel — “a former UFW organizer testified that the union [had] constructed lies to dupe the ALRB.”    But the ALRB lawyers who witnessed the admission subsequently did nothing in response:

“Horacio Ramirez Reyes was a UFW organizer who testified to the ALRB in January that the UFW had trained him, and given him personal instructions, to lie to workers in order to discredit . . . efforts to de-certify the union,” [writes Katy Grimes in “Flash Report”]. “Ramirez Reyes said he had been ‘lying to the workers by order of Armando Elenes,’ the Vice President of the United Farm Workers. The targeted field laborers were employees of Gerawan Farming in California’s Central Valley.”

According to Grimes’ investigative report, “Silvia Lopez, a 16-year Gerawan farmworker who has been at the forefront of the de-certification effort, learned of Ramirez’s testimony that he had lied to the workers and instructed them to lie in written reports to discredit the decertification effort. On March 23, she filed a complaint with Silas Shawver, the ALRB director for the Visalia area, who also serves as an attorney under ALRB General Counsel Sylvia Torres-Guillén. “The next day, Shawver promised Lopez in writing, through her attorney, that he would ‘expeditiously’ conduct an investigation and that he intended to conclude within 30 days. “However, documents show that Shawver shut down the investigation before he even started it.

“Court documents show that ALRB attorneys did not want the evidence against the UFW to surface in the first place.”

(See the link below for more information.)

Despite the fact that ALRB staff lawyers now know that key allegations they have made to block the counting of the Gerawan ballots were based on perjured  testimony, there is a strong possibility that ALRB Administrative Judge Mark Soble may soon recommend to the board that the ballots be destroyed, to eliminate any possibility they will ever be counted.

In most Americans’ minds, destruction of electoral ballots is something perpetrated by authoritarian politicians in other countries, such as Nicolas Maduro, the acolyte of the late Hugo Chavez who now rules Venezuela.  Sadly, Torres-Guillen and other ALRB lawyers seem so determined to prevent Gerawan Farming employees from getting out from under UFW union control that they may soon resort to this very appalling tactic.

Freedom-loving employees of Gerawan Farming and their legal counsel are, of course, doing everything they can to keep the employee ballots from being destroyed and ensure that they are finally counted.  National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney Jim Young is currently representing the employees’ attorneys with regard to related matters.

In 2013, Venezuela’s “Chavista” President Nicolas Maduro was widely condemned for apparently orchestrating the mass destruction of ballots to prevent a recount in that year’s presidential race. The first ballot count had shown Maduro winning by a very narrow margin. But the union-label California Agricultural Labor Relations Board is poised to destroy thousands of employee ballots before they’re counted even once. Image: The Real Cuba

Credibility GONE: ALRB won’t probe case of ex-UFW organizer who said union coached workers to lie