California lawmakers send farmworker union bill to Newsom

West

(NewsNation) — California lawmakers have, for a second time, sent Gov. Gavin Newsom a bill that would make it easier for farm workers to vote in a union election.

Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, and as recently as Thursday his office said he “couldn’t support” Assembly Bill 2183 in its current form, but remained opened to negotiations. It passed the state Senate by a 26-10 vote and the state Assembly by a 55-18 vote on Monday.

The legislation would allow farmworkers to vote by mail in a union election and is backed by the United Farm Workers. The group has been waging a pressure campaign on the governor and on Friday, capped a 24-day, 335-mile march at the Capitol in Sacramento.

“Their feet have become cut, bruised, and swollen but their spirits remain strong and their energy remains,” Eriberto Fernandez, march coordinator for UFW, told the Sacramento Bee. “They know that their sí, se puede attitude will carry them through the day.”

Currently, union elections take place directly on growers’ property. AB 2183 would allow farmworkers to vote at a physical location or mail a ballot card to the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

The agricultural industry, grower associations and state Chamber of Commerce have staunchly opposed the legislation, arguing it would lead to forced unionization. The Chamber takes issues with the “card check” process, which allows workers to unionize if a majority of employees sign authorization forms indicating they want to be represented by the union.

A union would be installed as a bargaining unit’s representative merely by submitting a petition to the ALRB along with “ballot cards” signed by a majority of affected workers. This is being portrayed as mail-in voting, but in actuality the union would have the right to request these cards for workers and fill out the cards for them,” the Chamber wrote in a Monday letter to state senators.

Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, citing “various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards.” Since then, the governor and the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Mark Stone, have been in negotiations to address concerns.

Amendments include allowing the ALRB to handle all mail-in ballots and a sunset date of Jan. 1, 2028. The provisions of the bill would end on that date unless future legislation is passed extending the new labor law.

Lawmakers remain at odds with Newsom over his request that employers be given advance notice of the specific date the union election. Because many farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, advocates fear that requirement would open up workers to intimidation or even deportation for supporting a union.

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