D’Arrigo Bros. violated labor law, judge says - The Packer

D’Arrigo Bros. violated labor law, judge says

06/19/2012 11:36:00 AM
Mike Hornick

SALINAS, Calif. — D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California violated state labor law by soliciting signatures for a union decertification vote during work hours, a judge has ruled.

The decision by Mark Soble, an administrative law judge with the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, concerns a November 2010 vote by employees of Salinas-based D’Arrigo Bros. on whether to decertify United Farm Workers as their union representative.

At the time, ballots were impounded without a count when the union alleged unfair labor practices. The voting took place in Spreckels, Gonzales and Calipatria; 1,665 employees were eligible.

Soble’s June 15 decision invalidates the election and dismisses the underlying decertification petition. For a 60-day period, D’Arrigo Bros. must post a workplace notice reminding employees of their rights to organize and acknowledging the company was found in violation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Board representatives are to meet independently with employees to discuss the notice.

D’Arrigo Bros., which has until July 9 to appeal to the state board, did not return immediately return calls June 18.

The judge’s 98-page decision outlines the actions of supervisors, foremen, temporary foremen and machine operators in the decertification effort at various work sites.

“D’Arrigo management instigated decertification and D’Arrigo supervisors supported the soliciting and signature-gathering by openly viewing and allowing it during work time despite a company no-solicitation policy that was enforced upon pro-union workers,” Soble said.

On the two days prior to the election, company president John D’Arrigo gave speeches during work hours urging a no-union vote. That made it likely employees would infer top management directed the signature gathering in the fields, contributing to a coercive atmosphere, according to the judge.

“If a worker thinks that his employer supports decertification, and that supervisors may see whether or not the worker signs the petition supporting it, he or she may feel compelled to sign the petition regard(less) of his or her personal feelings,” Soble said. “Employer misconduct created an environment which would have made it impossible for true employee free choice when it came time to vote.”

John D’Arrigo’s speech appears in the hearing record.

“I do not believe that we need the UFW at D’Arrigo Bros.,” he said. “I am asking you to trust my father and me, and vote ‘no union.’”

In the speech, he cautions employees that he is not making promises. But the company had seniority practices, medical benefits and fair wages before union contracts, D’Arrigo said in the speech.

“We have never proposed to get rid of the medical plan (or anniversary bonuses),” D’Arrigo said. “Over the past three years, the union has collected $1.2 million from your pockets for union dues. That’s a lot of money. Remember, no union also means no more dues.”

The request of pro-UFW employees for similar workplace access was calculated for effect, the judge said, but made its point anyway.

“(It) was probably motivated in large part with a desire to prove that the company would treat pro-union workers differently than those who supported the decertification effort,” Soble said. “But the fact that the plan was hatched in the hopes of catching company supervisors treating their side differently does not change the fact that their requests were both made and denied.”



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