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Another View: UFW, labor board are hurting workers

Farm workers harvest asparagus in a Central Valley field, near Firebaugh, Calif., on March 12, 2014.
Farm workers harvest asparagus in a Central Valley field, near Firebaugh, Calif., on March 12, 2014. The New York Times

Marc Grossman, spokesman for the United Farm Workers, recently argued that field workers at Fresno-based Gerawan Farming need protection from their employer (“Farmworkers need more protection,” Another View, Oct. 11).

I have personally met with hundreds of these workers, and can testify that they do need protection, but not from their employer. Rather, the Gerawan workers feel besieged – and violated – by the very union Grossman represents, along with its government enforcers at the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

The Gerawan workers voted to decertify the UFW last November. The union doesn’t like that because it needs of the Gerawan workers’ money to survive (the UFW now claims only 10,000 members, down from an estimated 50,000-80,000 in its Cesar Chavez heyday).

The labor relations board does not want Gerawan to decertify either, and no wonder – the board would have no reason to exist if there were no UFW to file the frivolous, unprovable “unfair labor practice” charges that have proved so effective in shaking down California companies and workers.

The UFW is dying, and will drag this moribund bureaucracy into the grave with it. The labor board cannot let that happen.

So the board and the union are colluding to force the workers into a UFW contract. But don’t take my word for it. Even Fresno Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton accused the ALRB general counsel of appearing to be “in cahoots” with the union.

The labor board is engaging in active, state-sponsored voter suppression in its attempt to help the UFW. The board has sequestered the ballots from the decertification election and refuses to count them in direct violation of Gerawan workers’ First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.

And by forcing the workers into a contract (against their will) that will siphon 3 percent of their pay to union bosses, the board is effectively confiscating property in direct violation of the 14th Amendment.

It’s not only the workers who need protection from the two-headed beast that is the UFW/ALRB – it’s the U.S. Constitution.

Matt Patterson is executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, an advocacy group affiliated with Americans for Tax Reform.

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