Fresno, CA − A Fresno County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order on Wednesday, Aug. 21, requiring Gerawan Farming Inc. to “cease and desist from interrogating employees about their union sympathies [and] threatening employees with job loss for supporting” the United Farm Workers. The court order came six days after the Agricultural labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint, on Aug. 15, accusing the giant farm employing approximately 6,000 workers of “coercing its employees in the exercise of their rights…to freely choose whether they support the union or support the de-certification of the union.”
Gerawan said it recently paid $75,000 to run television and radio ads in Sacramento claiming its farm workers “want their right to vote” on decertifying or getting rid of the UFW. See: http://www.news10.net/news/article/254668/2/TV-ad-with-heavy-Spanish-accent-criticized-as-dishonest Also see: http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/politics&id=9209582
The ALRB’s general counsel obtained the court order after a Wednesday hearing before Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton. Six days earlier the general counsel issued the complaint, which amounts to an indictment, based on evidence state agents gathered showing Gerawan supervisors coerced workers into signing petitions to decertify the UFW and illegally interrogated employees about their union loyalties.
The ads, featuring a narrator with a heavy Spanish-accent who is apparently supposed to be a farm worker, also attacked UFW-sponsored Senate Bill 25, by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The bill would let farm workers whose union contracts expire bring in neutral state mediators to hammer out agreements when their employers refuse to re-negotiate them. A mediator is currently finalizing a contract for farm workers at Gerawan, which wouldn’t be affected by SB 25, but is covered by a 2002 state law permitting binding mediation for bargaining over first contracts. The ALRB complaint and the court’s granting of the temporary restraining order seriously undermine Gerawan Farming’s public claims about workers wanting a vote on further union representation.
Gerawan grows peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and table grapes. Workers at Gerawan voted for the UFW during a 1990 election but they have not yet benefited from a union contract.