UFW hopeful on appeal after Fresno judges ax farm workers’ mediated union contracts when growers won’t negotiate
Farm workers across the state are disappointed by the May 14 decision by three Republican-appointed judges of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, throwing out the state’s landmark Mandatory Mediation law. But the United Farm Workers is optimistic that it will be overturned on appeal to the California Supreme Court. The 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento upheld the same law in 2006, and the state Supreme Court rejected a request from growers to overturn that ruling.
The Mandatory Mediation Law lets farm workers call in neutral state mediators when growers don’t negotiate union contracts. Farm workers voted for the UFW in hundreds of elections over the decades. Yet in 60 percent of those elections, employer resistance meant farm workers never enjoyed the benefits of union contracts. The California Legislature and governor remedied this wrong in 2002 by enacting the Mandatory Mediation law.
Despite the 2006 Sacramento appeals court ruling affirming the law’s constitutionality, giant Gerawan Farming Inc. turned to what it hoped would be friendlier judges in its home turf of Fresno. Like all jurists, the Fresno judges are required to base their decision on “evidence on the record.” Yet they simply accepted false claims by Gerawan when there was no evidence in the record to support them. For example, the Fresno judges accepted Gerawan’s bogus allegations that the UFW abandoned the company’s workers when no proof was ever presented. They also accepted Gerawan’s dishonest claim that it paid the highest wages in the industry when the neutral state mediator found that was not the case. (The UFW has already forced Gerawan to raise its wages by 22 percent, from $9 to $11 an hour, for most workers.)
The California Supreme Court will likely hear an appeal since there are now contrary rulings from two different appeals courts. The UFW looks forward to a fairer hearing before the state high court and is confident that the Supreme Court will overturn this pro-grower decision.