For Release: July 3, 1997
Grower bid to ‘sabotage’ progress for strawberry workers will be denounced
UFW co-founder, lawmakers to urge quick ALRB action at capitol news conf. 12 noon Thursday
The Agricultural Labor Relations Board should not allow a powerful agribusiness group to stop an election at one of the nation’s largest strawberry growers because the company has agreed it wont coerce or intimidate workers.
The Western Growers Association filed charges Monday with the ALRB claiming it is illegal for Coastal Berry Co. to honor an agreement with the United Farm Workers acknowledging its pickers’ right to organize without fear of threats or retaliation. Coastal Berry, the largest direct employer of strawberry workers in the U.S., also agreed to negotiate in good faith for a union contract if the UFW wins the election.
WGA "is attempting to sabotage a framework for peace and cooperation between strawberry workers and Coastal Berry Co. that is a refreshing departure from this industry’s sordid history," states UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta. She will urge the ALRB to dismiss ‘these meritless" WGA-filed charges.
After strawberry workers voted for the UFW in three recent elections, growers shut down operations and laid off workers rather than bargain with the union. WGA lawyers were advising one of the companies, VCNM Farms, in August 1995 when it plowed under fields in retaliation for workers having voted 332-50 for the UFW. In March 1996, VCNM settled a formal complaint filed by the ALRB over that illegal incident by agreeing to pay its workers $113,000 for lost wages.
WHO: UFW Secretary-Treasurer Dolores Huerta, state Senate Industrial Relations Committee Chair Hilda Solis (D-El Monte), Assembly Labor Committee Chairman Richard Floyd (D-Wilmington) and former ALRB members Jerry Waldie and Patrick Henning.
WHAT: Scoring Western Growers Association’s bid to block a breakthrough in strawberry worker organizing.
WHEN: 12 noon, Thursday, July 3, 1997.
WHERE: State Capitol Room 1190, Sacramento.
STATEMENT FROM DOLORES HUERTA,
SECRETARY-TREASURER AND CO-FOUNDER
UNITED FARM WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO
DENOUNCING CHARGES BY WESTERN GROWERS ASSOCIATION
July 3, 1997-state Capitol
The Western Growers Association is attempting to sabotage a framework for peace and cooperation between strawberry workers and the new Coastal Berry Co. that is a refreshing departure from the industry’s sordid history.
After months of hard work and struggle by workers, clergy, community leaders and some elements of the strawberry industry, Watsonville-based Coastal Berry-the biggest direct employer of strawberry workers in the nation-has agreed to grant workers the freedom to organize without fear of intimidation-and to bargain in good faith for a contract if workers vote for the union.
It is sad that the Western Growers Association is trying to stand in the way of this hopeful breakthrough. The unfair labor practice charges the WGA filed Monday with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board are ridiculous and totally without merit. They are based on the WGA’s misrepresentation of a press release and the absurd claim that it is somehow unlawful for a grower not to oppose the union while workers are organizing. (We have provided the details on the WGA’s charges in your packet.)
Three times in recent years, strawberry growers have shut down operations and laid off workers after they voted overwhelmingly for the UFW in state-conducted elections.
WGA lawyers were advising VCNM Farms when that Salinas company made the decision in August 1995 to plow under part of the strawberry crop in retaliation for its workers having just voted 332-50 for the Ufli. In March 1996, VCNM settled a formal complaint filed by the Pete Wilson-appointed ALRB over that illegal incident by agreeing to pay its workers $113,000 for lost wages.
The same WGA whose lawyers were advising a strawberry grower when it broke the law has now filed charges against the UFW and another grower because that company has agreed to obey the law. Coastal Berry Co.’s only crime is honoring an agreement with the UFW that affirms its workers’ right to organize without fear of threats or retaliation.
When the UFW and the AFL-CIO began their joint strawberry organizing campaign a year ago, everyone knew there were rich, powerful people who would use any weapon to try and crush workers and keep them from improving their lives. The WGA, with board members like Driscoll strawberry grower Clint Miller, are among these people.
Remember, this is the same Western Growers Association that has spent decades fighting farm worker organizing efforts and trying to weaken field sanitation protections and regulation of toxic pesticides that threaten both farm workers and consumers.
We’re confident that the ALRB will quickly see through the WGA’s phony allegations and dismiss these groundless charges.
WGA Charges Based on Misrepresentation
The chief basis for the Western Growers Association’s unfair labor practice charges against the United Farm Workers is a news release issued by the AFL-CIO and Monsanto on June 17, 1997, that the WGA misquotes to back up its absurd allegation that "collusion" between the UFW and Coastal Berry Co. is denying farm workers the right to vote in an ALRBconducted election.
The WGA press release claims that "the union and Monsanto released a joint statement indicating an agreement was reached between the two organizations that ‘intended to result in the scheduling of a supervised election… as soon as possible.’
What the WGA release omitted with the ellipsis is telling. The actual sentence reads (see attached): "The agreement is intended to result in the scheduling of a supervised election consistent with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act as soon as practical… (emphasis added)
When an election is held at Coastal Berry, it will be no different from every election conducted by the ALRB in the last 22 years.