The California State legislature is currently considering major reforms to labor laws regarding the forming and maintenance of unions. The United Farm Workers of America, which is facing dwindling membership, is currently supporting the proposed reforms.
The bill in question would adopt two major reforms to the unionization process. First, it would move elections off-site. Currently, farm union elections are held on the employer’s site, often with foremen and other farm employers watching and observing elections. UFW officials say that employee intimidation is a major factor in stagnant union membership.
Second, the bill would adopt card-check, also known as majority sign-up, a controversial union voting method. Workers away from the fields would sign state-issued representation cards which would be submitted to state labor officials. If a majority of workers have signed the cards, they would certify the union, avoiding an on-site secret election. Supporters say this process would expedite unionization and would avoid potential intimidation, while detractors say that it would involve an added layer of intimidation by union officials and that the lack of a secret ballot could unfairly pressure workers.
The UFW, which made national headlines in the 1960s and 70s under the leadership of César Chavez, is currently facing a membership crisis. Membership has declined from over 70,000 in 1970s to about 27,000 today. Union leaders say that the decline in membership is the cause of recent farm labor abuses, including several deaths by heatstroke, stagnant wages, and lack of safety regulation.
Producers, however, say that the current law is unnecessary, and merely an effort by the UFW to increase its membership at the expense of farm workers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer