Nearly 100 United Farm Workers union supporters held a protest rally Monday over concerns that employees of Gerawan Farming are intimidating witnesses from testifying against the company. Gerawan is facing unfair labor charges at a state administrative hearing.
The workers, standing along O Street in downtown Fresno, carried signs and waved UFW flags. One of the signs read: “Gerawan stop bullying us.”
Union supporters say the farming company’s employees have videotaped pro-union workers in the field or have told them they will be fired if they testify in the administrative hearing that began last week.
“We don’t want to be afraid for our jobs,” said Augustin Garcia, a four-year Gerawan employee and union supporter. “It’s not right for witnesses to be intimidated.”
Gerawan has been accused by the state Agriculture Labor Relations Board of multiple unfair labor practices stemming from an election in November to decertify the union. The election’s results have been sequestered until the hearing before administrative law judge Mark Soble is complete.
Gerawan company leaders and anti-union workers have said they don’t want to be part of the union and simply want their decertification election votes counted.
Monday’s hearing was held at the Hugh M. Burns Building, 2550 Mariposa, in downtown Fresno. The administrative hearing process is expected to last several weeks, possibly longer.
The issue of intimidation came to a head last Wednesday after an anti-union rally was held at the Radisson Hotel -- the site of last week’s administrative hearing. ALRB officials allege that after the rally, three anti-union workers approached one of the witnesses in the case and told him that he could go to jail if he testified. A police report was filed.
“What happened last week just reaffirms what the ALRB found in its complaint against Gerawan: threats, intimidation and coercion,” said Armando Elenes, UFW national vice president.
Dan Gerawan denied the intimidation allegation. In a statement, Gerawan said: “It’s yet another ALRB and UFW attempt to deflect attention from the fact that they are denying the right of thousands of Latino farmworkers to choose whether to be part of a union. The real intimidation is the effort by UFW and ALRB to force a contract on the employees without first counting their votes.”