The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board has upheld an administrative law judge’s decision to dismiss a petition by workers for Gerawan Farming of Fresno who sought to decertify the United Farm Workers as their bargaining representative.
As a result, the balloting by Gerawan workers will be nullified, the ALRB said.
The development was a new milestone in what has been a long and often heated process.
In a decision reached Friday, the ALRB said it affirmed the judge’s previous finding that Gerawan officials had tainted the workers’ decertification effort with certain actions and that it was impossible to know the true sentiments of the employees toward the UFW.
The Agricultural Labor Relations Board said Gerawan ‘improperly inserted itself’ into the UFW decertification election.
On Oct. 25, 2013, Gerawan employee Silvia Lopez filed a petition to decertify the UFW from representing the company’s workers. An election involving Gerawan workers was held several weeks later, but the ballots were impounded after objections were raised and unfair labor-practice complaints were brought.
In his ruling, administrative law judge Mark R. Soble determined that Gerawan had violated the Agricultural Labor Relations Act by supporting and assisting in signature gathering for the decertification petition.
Gerawan also increased workers’ wages as the decertification effort was ongoing, Soble found, which was an unfair labor practice.
The Gerawan family sharply disagreed with the board and said it would appeal the ruling.
The ALRB agreed with Soble that Gerawan “improperly inserted itself into the campaign by discriminatorily permitting decertification petition signature gathering during work time while prohibiting pro-union activity of the same kind.”
The board also agreed Gerawan brought an unfair wage increase, solicited grievances and had approved an unlawful blockage of company entrances to collect signatures of workers for the petition.
For these reasons, the ALRB said, the petition would be dismissed and the election set aside.
In a statement, the Gerawan family sharply disagreed with the board and said it would appeal the ruling.
“In its decision to destroy the ballots, the board ignores the desires of workers to determine their own economic future,” Gerawan said.
The company noted that except for the 2013 election, there had not been such a balloting of Gerawan workers for more than 25 years. “The board states that it does not ‘ignore the fact’ that the employees began this decertification campaign,” Gerawan said. “The board then disregards how its own decisions to impose a forced union contract on the employees started this campaign.”