Thursday, May 21, 2015

Farmworkers at Gerawan deserve a union

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has a piece on Tues, May 19,  about the struggle of farmworkers at  Gerawan   to gain union recognition and a contract.  The parts of the story  used in Walters’ piece were highly selective. The piece was from the point of view of the corporate grower.   Here is a more complete side of the story by David Bacon,

 When Jose Dolores began picking grapes at Gerawan Farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1990, the company was paying a little over the state minimum wage of $4.25 an hour. “We just weren’t making enough, and everything cost a lot. That’s why people wanted the union,” he recalls.

Dolores was one of over 1,000 workers at Gerawan that year, when its workers voted for the United Farm Workers union to represent them. But they didn’t get any further. Mike Gerawan, one of the company’s owners, repeatedly challenged the validity of the union vote. The one time he met with the UFW he said, “I don’t want the union, and I don’t need the union.”
That effectively ended bargaining on a contract, which union reps believe would have provided better working conditions and more protection for the laborers. Another owner, Dan Gerawan, declined to comment, but a statement sent by the company publicist, Erin Shaw, blamed the union for the stalled efforts: “The UFW abandoned Gerawan employees without ever negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.” Over the years, with no contract, Gerawan Farms grew to become one of the nation’s largest growers, with more than 5,000 workers.
It was only in 2012, after a new state law on mandatory mediation was implemented, that the UFW was able to go back to Gerawan to demand a renewal of the talks. While the company did meet with the union, it also attempted to have the UFW removed as the representative of the workers. Even more importantly, it is challenging the constitutionality of the law in state court.

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