Political Notebook

VIDEO: UFW leader Dolores Huerta and anti-UFW farmworker at odds

United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta speaks at the California State Capitol on June 22, 2014.
United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta speaks at the California State Capitol on June 22, 2014. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Grainy footage shot during a party last month appears to show United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta blocking another invited guest — and political opponent — from access to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The brief video was shot at the Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento on June 24 during a celebration observing the 40th anniversary of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The statute protects the right of California farm employees to organize and established a labor-relations board to enforce it. Brown signed the measure into law when he was governor the first time.

Outside the mansion, a group of Fresno-area farmworkers from Gerawan Farming Inc. and their supporters gathered. They want the labor relations board to count UFW decertification ballots cast by the company’s employees nearly two years ago.

Despite a court order, the board has refused, citing irregularities in the balloting process. Some employees have sued the board, contending that it has colluded with UFW officials to avoid counting the ballots that likely would toss out the union. The Center for Worker Freedom, an anti-union arm of Gover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, is backing the decertification effort.

Before the protest got underway, Huerta, 85, spoke to the group, including anti-union leader Sylvia Lopez. Some of the exchange was captured on video by Pick Justice, another organization that rejects UFW representation.

The protesters delivered petitions to Brown from Gerawan employees stating that they do not want to be covered by UFW. A state official took the petitions, according to Center for Worker Freedom Executive Director Matt Patterson, and invited Lopez inside to join the celebration.

Footage shot inside the mansion shows Huerta moving to block Lopez as she attempts to meet the governor. The video was shot by Anthony Raimondo, a Fresno labor-relations lawyer who is representing Lopez in the Gerawan case.

A voice off camera asks Huerta, “Why are you doing that?”

Huerta’s answer: “You know why.”

The Sacramento Bee left a telephone message with the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which did not respond to the request for comment on the videos.