Exclusive: CA Governor Meets Disenfranchised Farm Worker

Posted by Matt Patterson on Friday, June 26th, 2015 at 4:58 pm - Permalink

Jerry Brown Receives Petitions From Anti-Union Activists

On Wednesday June 24, an historic meeting occurred in Sacramento as the co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union collided with anti-union farmworkers at a black-tie event attended by Governor Jerry Brown.

The Center for Worker Freedom, along with Common Sense Information and allies, bused 200 workers from Fresno’s fields to the Leland-Stanford Mansion in Sacramento where the Governor was a guest and speaker at an event celebrating the 40thanniversary of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (CALRA).

In attendance were members of the government agency charged with enforcing the act, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, its Chairman William Gould, as well as the board’s regional directors and state law makers.

The workers have been struggling against the ALRB since November 2013, when their votes in a union decertification election were impounded by the board. Nearly two years later, those votes remain uncounted, as the board colludes with UFW officials to force the workers into a union contract.

The governor’s office, perhaps fearing a disruption of the party and knowing protestors were intent on reaching Brown, offered to send a representative to meet the workers. And so at 5:15 pm the representative came out and I introduced her to Rosie Solano. Rosie read a prepared statement and then handed over 800 signed petitions from workers testifying that they did not want the union to represent them and that they had not been intimidated into voting for decertification, as the ALRB had alleged.

The aide graciously listened, received the signatures, and told us she would make sure the Governor would see them. The workers cheered.

Then Silvia Lopez, leader of the anti-union movement, was invited in to join the party and meet Governor Brown. The crowd cheered again – it was the first time Brown had acknowledged them or their struggle publically.

Unfortunately, inside Silvia was accosted by Delores Huerta, cofounder of the UFW with Cesar Chavez, who physically attempted to block Silvia from meeting the Governor.

Meanwhile outside, news was breaking that Sylvia Torres-Guillen, lead attorney for the ALRB and who had spearheaded the oppression of the Gerawan workers, had been removed from her post. Officially she would be “reassigned” as special council to the Governor’s office. But everyone knew that this development, and the timing of the announcement, was no coincidence –  she has been dogged with accusations of improperly favoring the union, and higher-ups in Sacramento were alegedly none-too-pleased with her handling of the Gerawan matter.

And now she’s gone. Workers cheered loudly as news spread through the crowd.

As the party continued, the protestors surrounded the mansion and raged for two hours, drowning out the speeches and the sounds of cocktail glasses toasting their oppression. A source inside who spoke to CWF on condition of anonymity, reports that the Governor addressed the protest in his official remarks. According to the source, Brown acknowledged the events unfolding outside, and noted with pleasure the peaceful but passionate nature of the protest.

The protestors, encouraged by all these good signs, grew louder and more animated. They hoisted a large piñata shaped and labeled as “ALRB Safe,” and took turns beating it until it burst open and hundreds of hand made ‘No!’ ballots rained down on the street and sidewalk. The workers roared their approval, snatching up and proudly displaying their ‘No!’ votes to the attendees passing in and out of the party.

As the party wound down at 7 o clock, the workers calmly picked up their trash and boarded the buses for the 3.5 hour drive back to Fresno. They had worked a full day in the fields, starting at 5 am, had boarded buses mid-afternoon for Sacramento, then stood and shouted in the 100 degree heat before the long trip home.

Can anyone doubt their passion? Can anyone doubt that hundreds of workers willing to make such sacrifices know what they are doing, and what is being done to them?

The Center for Worker Freedom is proud to have stood with these workers and our coalition allies, including Common Sense Information, which had blasted the ALRB and union throughout the week in a blistering Sacramento radio blitz. 

“We are tired but happy,” one of the workers told me as the protest concluded “at least we know the Governor heard us now.”

“Do you think he will help you?” I asked.

The worker shrugged but smiled, sweat on his brow but hope in his eyes.