FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Finally Some Good News for Labor

Last November organized labor received a welcome and, truth be told, largely unexpected piece of good news. The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the UFW (United Farm Workers) in its protracted battle with Gerawan Farming, Inc., one of the largest growers in California’s Central Valley. The issue in dispute was “binding mediation.”

One of the sleazier tactics used by a sore-loser company whose employees “betray” them by choosing to join a labor union is to take an inordinate amount of time at the bargaining table while negotiating the local’s inaugural contract.

This phony stalling is intentional. It’s done to pry the employees off their union affiliation. It’s done in the hope that these newly certified union members will eventually become so impatient or dispirited that they lose faith in their International, and ask to decertify (“Hey, why have a union if they can’t even get us a contract?”).

As primitive and transparent as that tactic seems, it’s a device that has been around for decades, going all the way back to the 1930s, and has been known to work, especially in instances where the vote to join a union was hard-fought and won with a narrow plurality.

It’s not the memberships’ fault for being skittish. A freshly certified union shop can lose its confidence and sense of solidarity very quickly. As for the magnitude of the stalling itself, one might rightly ask, What amount of stalling qualifies as “inordinate”? How about months stretching into years? It happens. It happened with Gerawan.

In order to prevent these tactical delays from occurring, the California legislature, in 2002, passed a law granting a neutral mediator the right to impose a contract in the event that negotiations stalled out. Astoundingly, this law gave mediators the right—pending approval of the CALRB (California Agricultural Labor Relations Board)—to set the hourly wages and other provisions of a union contract. Hence, “binding mediation.”

To anyone who’s ever sat at a bargaining table and attempted to negotiate a union contract with a hard-nosed company, this arrangement—where a neutral party can dictate the terms of a contract—has to be seen as profoundly significant.

Indeed, so repugnant to management is the notion of government agencies poking their noses into private business that company negotiators don’t even appreciate having the FMCS (Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service)—which has ZERO power to “impose” anything—sitting in the room, hand-holding and gently nudging the parties to reach agreement.

As a general rule, management negotiators don’t want the FMCS anywhere near the bargaining table. That is unless the company feels that they can manipulate or win the support of these people, which, given today’s pro-business, anti-labor climate, is not out of the question.

Accordingly, Gerawan Farming (mainly stone fruit and table grapes) filed a lawsuit, claiming that the 2002 “binding mediation” legislation so clearly expanded government reach, it was unconstitutional. A lower court agreed with them.

But in November, 2017, in a landmark decision that even the AFL-CIO didn’t see coming, the California Supreme Court struck down that lower court ruling. The Court gave mediators the right to impose contractual wages and working conditions for the UFW, pending approval by the CALRB. It was a day of rejoicing for the farm workers.

All parties agree that this case is far from over. Not only will there almost certainly be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, there are jurisdictional voting issues being raised by the growers, as well as a dispute over how much, if any, back wages the workers are entitled to.

The UFW is arguing that Gerawan’s 3,000 employees are owed $10 million in back wages. Because retroactive pay is standard procedure in contract settlements, that $10 million figure is based on the difference between what the farm workers were being paid and the subsequent wage approved by the CALRB. To be continued.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail