California Governor Jerry Brown has reached a tentative agreement with farm labor advocates on new union legislation. The compromise was reached several months after Brown’s controversial veto of card check legislation, which would have radically transformed farm unions in California.
Card check would have loosened restrictions on unionization efforts, replacing secret ballots held at the workplace with cards declaring support for the formation of a union. Members would sign a card to indicate their support, and upon gaining the agreement of a majority of workers, a union could then be certified.
Supporters argue that this new method would eliminate pressure from employers, which some argue has been rampant. Opponents, however, argue that without secret ballots, union officials could be free to pressure workers into supporting a union, potentially against their own interests.
Brown, who campaigned in 2010 as a champion of the labor movement and a supporter of the United Farm Workers of America, defied expectations and vetoed the bill after it had passed the California House and Senate, stunning supporters who vowed to continue fighting for union reform.
The compromise legislation, which is expected to easily pass in both houses of the legislature, would make it easier for farm workers to unionize. The bill would expand the powers of California’s Agriculture Labor Relations Board, giving them the ability to certify a union if it believes that employers have illegally attempted to undermine union elections.
For the time being, Brown’s decision has mollified the agricultural labor movement. Several labor organizations have decided to cancel protests planned for this week. While these groups have vowed to keep pushing for card check, they have hailed this bill as an important first step.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer