ALRB: Gerawan farmworker signatures invalid

Gerawan farm workersGerawan farm workers
Attempts to show Gerawan Farm workers want to make their own decision about union representation ran into a snag over the weekend as the Agriculture Labor Relations Board claimed that nearly 1,000 gathered signatures calling for a vote on the union issue were invalid.

Silvia Lopez, who has worked 15 years for Gerawan Farms, filed a petition for decertification on Sept. 19 with more than 2,000 signatures calling for a vote to determine if the United Farm Workers should represent their interests.

A majority of signatures from the approximate 2,600 agricultural workers were required, or about 1,300.

Silvia Lopez’ attorney Paul Bauer of Walter & Wilhelm Law Group in Fresno, said that ALRB officials told Lopez that she needed an additional 150 to 170 signatures. He added that the ALRB interrogated her for more than one hour about her effort in gathering signatures.

Bauer said Lopez was told that the nearly 1,000 signatures were deemed invalid because they could not be verified. He said signatures are verified through payroll records.

The ALRB gave Lopez until 1:03 p.m. Sunday to turn in the additional signatures.

On Sunday, Lopez and other agriculture workers turned in about 380 additional signatures – more than double than the ALRB required. To date, a total of about 2,600 Gerawan’s agriculture workers’ signatures were gathered.

If the additional signatures are verified by the ALRB, then an election would have to be held within seven days. Bauer said it is improbable that the additional signatures would be found invalid, but he said he fears the determination process may be somewhat tainted.

Farm workers seeking desertification and another election plan to protest the Agricultural Labor Relations Board at its regional office in Visalia at 2 p.m. today. The ALRB regional office is located at 1642 West Walnut Ave. in Visalia.

“All we are asking for is our right to vote,” Lopez said in a release.  “Less than one percent of my coworkers voted in 1990, and we just want a chance to decide for ourselves about representation.”

In 1990 – more than 20 years ago – the UFW won an election to represent the farm workers.  But, they did not negotiate the terms and conditions of employment, Bauer reported.

The UFW now claims they have the right to represent the farm workers, the said.

“None of us were even here 20 years ago to vote the UFW in,” Lopez said.  “Now, they just show up and want to represent us.  We have a good working relationship with our employer and we don’t need representation – and we really don’t need them taking money out of our paychecks for union dues.”

The petition was filed as part of a legal effort to decertify the election that was held more than 20 years ago and call for another election.