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California Farm Union Confronts DC Opposition

A modest crowd of farm union supporters rallied in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to oppose the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) for its involvement in an ongoing labor dispute in California.

A project of Americans for Tax Reform, CWF has sought to bring attention to California’s refusing to count a union decertification vote, which they argue is unfair to the thousands of farm workers at Gerawan Farming. The United Farm Workers (UFW), however, has argued the vote was manipulated and therefore needed state intervention.

“There are many people when they show their support for the union, who are fired, who are fearful that they’re going to be fired,” Santos Baires, a former worker at Garawan, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Giev Kashkooli, the national political legislative director for UFW, who helped Baires translate from Spanish, added that the state found many signatures in the vote were fraudulent.

“It was fraud,” Baires continued. “I hope that the farm workers will receive justice.”

“I think they’re misinformed,” Baires said of CWF. “Or perhaps they are doing this because they are being paid but I don’t know.”

In 2013, Silvia Lopez and many of her fellow workers at Gerawan, attempted to rid themselves of the UFW through the decertification election. After 20 years of absence, the union came back to demand dues, which angered many of the farmers, some of whom didn’t even know they were in a union. The decertification ballot was locked after employers at the farm were accused by general counsel attorneys for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) of unfair labor practices.

“Those votes were impounded for multiple serious labor violations” Virginia Nesmith, former executive director of the National Farm Worker Ministry, told TheDCNF. “The state of California issued multiple complaints.”

The complaints ranged from harassing workers, stopping work to let workers vote in the decertification election and forging signatures.

“There is nothing legitimate about a vote like that,” Nesmith continued. “It’s not legal for the company to be involved in that way.”

“I believe it’s amazing that the Center for Worker Freedom and ATR has taken upon itself to ally with this huge company against the farm workers,” Nesmith also noted.

Despite some claiming the ALRB has shown a clear bias in favor of unions throughout the case, Nesmith argues it has not and can be trusted to make a fair decision. After six months of testimony, the longest labor hearing in California history, which ended in March, an Administrative Law Judge with the ALRB, is expected to decide soon whether to count the ballots casted during the decertification election.

Members of the crowd, which totaled slightly below 10 people, claim many of the farm workers are afraid to speak out because of employer intimidation. Matt Patterson, executive director for CWF, found no merit in the claims.

“That’s a crock,” Patterson told TheDCNF. “We had a thousand workers at our protest.”

The dispute has even got the attention of local lawmakers. Republican state Assemblyman Jim Patterson in February introduced legislation which he hopes will put power back in the hands of the workers, not the union or ALRB. Farmers and law makers rallied Tuesday near the state capitol in Sacramento in support of the bill which will be heard by the Assembly Labor Committee Wednesday.

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