Gerawan union dispute still in limbo after Fresno court hearing

The Fresno BeeMay 27, 2014 

A disputed contract affecting about 3,000 field workers at Gerawan Farming remains in limbo Tuesday after testimony concluded on the case in Fresno County Superior Court.

The state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board is asking Judge Jeffrey Hamilton to stop Gerawan from violating labor law by not honoring an employee contract between the company and the workers represented by the United Farm Workers union.

The contract was hammered out in November through the state's mandatory mediation process. But Gerawan's lawyers have challenged the constitutionality of the process and that case is pending before the state Court of Appeals.

Hamilton briefly heard from both sides in the case Tuesday as he took the case under review. Attorney's on both side said it could take weeks for a decision.

Alegria De La Cruz, an ALRB regional director, told Hamilton that Gerawan's failure to implement the contract is a clear violation of the law. She also criticized the farming company, one of the largest tree fruit growers in Fresno County, for attempting to dismantle the contract through legal challenges.

"He has been denied at every turn and he ignores all of these denials," she said.

Gerawan's attorney, David Schwarz, said the proposed contract can't be finalized until the state appeals court review of the case is completed.

"The Court of Appeals is the venue where this should be heard," Schwarz said.

Under the disputed three-year contract, Gerawan workers' salaries would increase from $10 an hour to $10.75 an hour, a grievance process would be created and workers would receive other benefits.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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