Gerawan Farming harvesters seeking an election to decertify United Farm Workers stopped production Sept. 30 to protest the California Agriculture Labor Relations Board’s rejection of their petition.
Harvesting of peaches and table grapes was interrupted by the demonstration at a Gerawan facility in Kerman, Calif. Work resumed the next day.
“It is unfortunate that our employees felt they needed to take such a drastic action to have their voices heard,” co-owner Dan Gerawan said in a statement. “We are still hopeful that the (board) will protect the workers’ right to choose.”
The demonstration came the week after the Agriculture Labor Relations Board cited insufficient signatures and some forgeries in the petition, a ruling that stops a vote.
Gerawan, which grows and ships under the Prima label, employs more than 2,000 farm workers. According to the company, more than 2,000 signatures were filed; 1,300 were needed to secure a vote.
Gerawan Farming has claimed that Silas Shawver, regional director of the state board, failed to provide in the ruling a count of signatures filed, the number needed for a vote, and the number judged invalid.
The board’s ruling cites a seven-page section of signatures it calls forged and refers at one point to “100 suspicious signatures.”
“(T)he evidence shows that a majority of the current employees at Gerawan have not expressed interest in decertifying the union,” Shawver wrote in the ruling. He said Gerawan unlawfully assisted in the petition’s circulation.
At issue for the demonstrating workers are union dues that total 3% of wages.
“The UFW won an election to represent Gerawan workers 23 years ago, but then after only one bargaining session the union disappeared and hasn’t been heard from in 20 years,” the company said in its statement. “Last October, the union reappeared and is using decade-old legislation to now impose a contract on the employer and the employees without a vote.”