California Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed legislation that would drastically change the nature of farm workers unions in California. SB 104, better known as the Farmers Card Check bill, would have instituted majority sign up in California farm unions. This process, in essence, would allow for the creation of a union once a majority of farm workers signed a card, rather than requiring a secret ballot done on the worksite. This process, supporters argued, allowed for farm workers to unionize without succumbing to pressures from employers, who many claim had worked to hinder unionization efforts.
Supporters of the bill pointed to recent farm worker abuses as evidence of the necessity of stronger union and tougher regulations. Three years ago, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a teenage farm worker, died of heat stroke. Authorities who investigated the death claimed that her farm supervisors failed to provide required heat protection (particularly shade and water).
Opponents of the measure, on the other hand, claim that card check would have allowed powerful union interests to bully farm workers and would have driven up the price of agricultural products in the state.
Card check supports had hoped that Brown, who emphasized his union background and his connection to Cesar Chavez, would sign the bill. Union leaders have vowed to keep up the fight despite Brown’s veto. Card check legislation has been passed nearly a half dozen times over the past several years (it was vetoed four times by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during his seven years in office).
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer