ALRB’s top lawyer named to governor’s staff

Sylvia Torres-Guillen
Sylvia Torres-Guillen State of California

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s general counsel was appointed Wednesday to a new job in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.

Sylvia Torres-Guillen, 49, of Los Angeles will become special counsel to the governor. She had been the ALRB’s general counsel since 2011.

The ALRB has been embroiled in a battle between Gerawan Farms, one of Fresno County’s largest growers, and the United Farm Workers of America over who will represent Gerawan’s nearly 3,000 field workers. Whether Torres-Guillen’s departure will affect the outcome of the dispute was unclear Wednesday night.

The union won the right to represent Gerawan workers in 1992. Anti-union workers say the UFW was absent for nearly 20 years before re-emerging several years ago to represent them. The UFW attempted to force Gerawan to the collective bargaining table, while the company and some of its workers wanted the issue of unionization put to a new vote.

The ALRB sided with the UFW, ruling that Gerawan had to negotiate with the UFW.

However, a panel of Fifth District Court of Appeal judges in May decided that Gerawan should have had a chance to prove that the union abandoned workers for about two decades before ever trying to represent them.

Gerawan workers held a new representation election. The ballots were never counted, as unfair labor claims from the UFW sent the issue to a separate administrative hearing.

Beyond the Gerawan case, Torres-Guillén has been sparring with the ALRB’s new chairman, William Gould, who has wanted to take back some of the wide powers she had been granted previously.