Weekly Issues

J. Peter De Young

Screen Shot 2015 05 28 at 1.42.01 PMPresident / CEO

Culinary Competitions International

What we do:
We are a full-service public relations firm with a highly specialized set of talents and experience. Our mission is to creatively assist Agricultural Commodity Boards and Private Branded Agriculture Products to promote the consumption of their products in target markets all over the world. We do this by organizing and producing high profile, culinary competitions, exhibitions, focus groups, as well as public relations initiatives in those target regions.

Fresno County employment study finds growth, concerns

The latest employment study from the Fresno Area Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for 2014 finds that while various sectors continue to grow, there’s still a scarcity of manufacturing jobs and mid-level positions.
The WIB has conducted four employment studies over the last eight years, providing a forecasting tool as the organization collaborates to address workforce barriers. The next employment study will be conducted in 2016.

Hanford Commercial real estate activity heating up

Summer is just around the corner and commercial real estate activity around Hanford is clearly heating up.
On June 22, the first official day of summer, Hanford will welcome the Valley’s newest Hobby Lobby, which will open in the former Walmart building at 12th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard.
The popular Oklahoma-based company will hire as many as 50 local workers to staff the new Hanford store, with hiring to take place in the coming weeks, according to Vince Parker, a spokesman for Hobby Lobby.

New regulations, bird flu scrambling state’s egg industry

Twenty years ago, the Golden State was the nation’s number one egg producer.
Today, Californians are still the country’s top egg consumers, but California only produces about 4.5 percent of the country’s egg supply.

Student wins international science fair

As career technology education programs grow in popularity throughout the Central Valley, participating students are gaining recognition for their advanced skill sets.
Such was the case for Clovis North junior Alex Tacescu, who recently won a $10,000 scholarship prize at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tacescu won for “Project Maverick,” an omni-directional robotic mobility system he designed and built on his own time using skills he learned in his school’s robotics club and career tech courses.

Valley groups band together to create new career pathways

A renewed emphasis on career technology education has brought together a broad range of business leaders and educators within Fresno and Madera counties that share a common goal of increasing work-based learning opportunities for local students in order to build up the region’s workforce and boost the local economy.

Fulton Mall project to shift into gear next month

Downtown’s six-block-long Fulton Mall is poised to undergo a dramatic facelift.
After years of discussion, debate and delays — and amid still-pending lawsuits — city officials are set to begin the Fulton Street Reconstruction Project, an ambitious plan to reopen the 50-year-old pedestrian mall to two-way auto traffic.

Signs of life at Fresno’s Campus Pointe

Despite Fresno’s newest movie theater, Maya Cinemas, debuting this weekend at The Square at Campus Pointe near Fresno State, many of the shopping center’s other tenants are still months away from opening.

Gerawan wins case, but labor drama far from over

Last week’s decision by a federal appeals court in Fresno to void a state-imposed union labor contract on thousands of workers at Gerawan Farming appears to be a setback for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and United Farm Workers (UFW) — and a major victory for Gerawan.
While the UFW vowed to contest the 5th District Court of Appeal’s decision almost as soon as it was announced, the ALRB, according to the court ruling, must now pay court costs incurred by Gerawan in bringing the appeal.
“This is a big victory for our employees, our family and the entire industry,” said Dan Gerawan, co-owner of one of the Valley’s largest stone fruit and grape farming operations.
Gerawan said the appeals court ruling “vindicates our argument that no state agency should be able to unilaterally impose a contract on workers without a vote — or force it on employers without their consent.”
Gerawan characterized last week’s ruling as “a significant win for all agricultural workers, who justifiably deserve the freedom to chose representatives to speak for them at the bargaining table.”
But Scott Kronland, a lawyer for the UFW, disagreed and confirmed this week that the union will appeal the recent ruling to the state’s highest court.
“It’s very likely the California Supreme Court would grant review and reverse” the 5th District panel’s recent ruling, Kronland said.
Last week’s appeals court ruling is just the latest skirmish in the more than two-decade-old battle between the grower and labor union.
“Our employees’ ballots in the decertification election haven’t been counted,” Gerawan said this week. “So the whole drama is not over yet.”
The trouble between Gerawan and the UFW began in 1990 when the union won a contested election to represent Gerawan workers.
That election was subsequently certified by the ALRB in 1992.
But the appeals court justices, in their recent decision, determined the UFW “disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades” — not having any contact with Gerawan or its workers again until 2012 when, after failed negotiations, the union invoked a controversial 2003 law that allows the state — via the ALRB — to impose a labor contract on the employer and employees against their will.
This process, called Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation — or MMC — drew particular criticism from the three-member 5th District Court of Appeals panel of justices.
“It is clear that the employees’ right to a representative of their own choosing would be seriously jeopardized in the situation of abandonment by a union where, as here, the absentee union suddenly reappeared on the scene to demand the MMC process,” the justices wrote in their a 58-page decision.
More than 200 Gerawan employees gathered outside the 5th District Court of Appeals in downtown Fresno in mid-April during the most recent hearing. Many carried anti-union signs.
On average, Gerawan workers earn $2 an hour more than industry-standard wages, and while the hearing went on inside the courthouse, occasional shouting incidents erupted on the courthouse lawn between the Gerawan employees and a much smaller contingent of representatives from the UFW.
According to the independent website unionfacts.com, at the end of 2014, the UFW had 10,278 members and total assets of $3.7 million.
The once-powerful labor union founded by Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta in the 1960s saw its membership numbers shrink considerably beginning in the 1980s. But since 2012, in a renewed push to become relevant again in California’s lucrative ag labor landscape, the UFW has more than doubled its membership.
The union’s attempt to regain a foothold at Gerawan Farming appears to be part of its strategy to boost membership.
But a recent analysis by CNN reveals that American unions have just a fraction of the influence they did a few decades ago.
Nationally, in the public sector, only about 12 percent of workers are union members, down from 20 percent in 1983, according to federal data.
In the private sector, union membership has dropped from 17 percent in 1983 to just 7 percent today.
The next key milestone in the battle between Gerawan and the UFW is likely to occur in June when an administrative law judge employed by the ALRB will rule on whether or not to count ballots cast by Gerawan workers in a still-controversial November 2013 election held to decertify the union.
Amid allegations of misconduct and fraud by both sides, ballots from that election have never been counted and remain locked in a safe in the Visalia office of the ALRB.
Meanwhile lawyers for both sides have until the end of this week to submit arguments for why those ballots should or should not be counted.
The ALRB is expected to announce its final decision on that matter before the end of June.
Dan Gerawan said a vote to decertify the UFW by his workers would effectively “take the teeth out of” any potential future ruling by the state Supreme Court. He estimates the ALRB has already spent $7.5 million in tax dollars dealing with the contested labor dispute.
“And that does not include the state’s legal costs for the constitutional challenge,” Gerawan said. “If the state’s mission is peace in the fields, well, we had that peace until the ALRB came along. So what is the state accomplishing by spending millions of dollars?”

George Lurie  |  Reporter can be reached at:
490-3464 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Study finds Clovis, Fresno schools lacking in computer science instruction

Less than 1 percent of high school students enrolled in Clovis and Fresno Unified schools have access to computer science courses.
The districts are not alone however, as public high schools throughout California have relatively low enrollment figures for computer science classes.