|Overwhelming vote for UFW by blueberry workers at McFarland ranch with 627 workers
Second union election victory in a month comes as UFW convention marks recent organizing & bargaining gains Gov. Brown & President Clinton address weekend sessions
Blueberry workers who struck for three days this week overwhelmingly voted Saturday, May 21 to be represented by the United Farm Workers during a union representation election overseen by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board. It was the second union election victory in a month. Farm workers at two related Oxnard, Calif. companies with a total of 240 employees voted for the UFW on April 20 at Hiji Bros., Inc. celery company and the Seaview Growers Inc. nursery.
Klein Management blueberry workers voted 347 to 68—or 82 percent—for the union during state-conducted balloting beginning at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. The ALRB said 627 workers were eligible to vote.
News of the blueberry workers’ vote for the UFW was announced 20 miles south in Bakersfield at the union’s 20th Constitutional Convention while delegates and alternates received reports about significant gains farm workers have scored through UFW organizing and contract negotiations. Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to the 7 p.m. convention dinner Saturday night at Bakersfield’s Rabobank Convention Center. Former President Bill Clinton addresses thousands of farm workers and supporters during the union convention at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday.
Events at Klein Management began Monday when employees protested unfair labor practices and a reduction in their piece rate pay. The company responded to the protests by firing three crews of blueberry workers, which prompted the strike. State law requires balloting to be conducted within 48 hours after a valid election petition is filed when workers have walked out of the fields, although the ALRB did not respect that law when it caved in to grower pressure to delay the election beyond 48 hours.
The UFW vows to press for bargaining over a union contract with the McFarland ranch as soon as the election results are certified by the Sacramento-based ALRB.
Klein Management markets its blueberries under the Gourmet Trading Co. label. The northern Kern County farm town of McFarland was the setting for the popular 2015 feature film McFarland U.S.A. starring Kevin Costner.
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