At least five cases involving labor practices at Fresno, Calif.-based Gerawan Farming Inc. are moving through state and federal courts in California with workers both supporting and challenging the grower, which is asking that a state labor board and a union be stopped from imposing a contract on its employees.
Owner Dan Gerawan and an employee both have cases pending that seek a court order to force the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board to count votes cast by Gerawan workers in November 2013 on whether they want to be part of the United Farm Workers union.
In a separate action, the labor board wants a court order to force the grower to adopt a UFW contract requiring Gerawan’s workers to pay the union 3% of their wages. The labor board did not allow workers to attend negotiations for the UFW contract.
After a May 27 hearing the judge took that case under advisement. Union attorney Mario Martinez, who is following the case but not working for the labor board, said he expects a ruling in the next two weeks.
The owner of the 76-year-old grape and tree fruit operation said it is “disturbing” that the ALRB wants to impose the union contract without worker input.
“A contract is supposed to be a product of consensual negotiation,” Gerawan said May 29.
“These are the industry’s highest paid employees who were told by a union that was gone for 20 years that — without even counting their ballots — they will have to pay 3% of their wages to the union or be fired.”
Less than a week before the hearing, the UFW planned to take its case to managers of Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The union targeted Wal-Mart for the May 22 protest because the retailer is “one of the largest buyers of Prima-brand plums, peaches, nectarines and grapes produced by Gerawan,” according to a news release.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said May 23 that he had not heard of any protests and that the company did not have a comment regarding the UFW’s position.
The union contends Gerawan does not meet Wal-Mart’s supplier standard requiring compliance with labor laws.
Two days before the planned Wal-Mart protests, federal Judge Anthony Ishii denied Gerawan’s motion to dismiss a suit filed by two farm workers who are pursuing class action status against the grower because of labor issues.
That lawsuit, filed in February, raises similar issues as those California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board is alleging, including pay rates.