Latino Farm Workers Confront Governor Brown Over Being Silenced

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Latino farm workers confronted Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown at an official labor board dinner Wednesday over accusations that labor officials within his administration actively silenced them.

It is unclear what the roughly 5,000 workers at Gerawan Farming, which is based in Fresno, want when it comes to union representation. After an unfair labor practice charge against the farm employer, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) decided to lock away a ballot vote which was going to determine whether workers wanted to continue being represented by the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Though the ballot could be unlocked pending an investigation, concerns that the ALRB is biased toward the union has made critics skeptical. It is unclear how much the governor knows, but since the agency does fall within his administration, the farm workers and supporters went to him directly.

It all began in 2013 when Silvia Lopez and many of her fellow workers at Gerawan filed to decertify the UFW. The union came back after 20 years of absence to demand dues, angering many of the workers, some of whom didn’t even know they were in a union. Still waiting to find out whether the ALRB will even count the ballot, Lopez hopes Brown will do something to help.

“I don’t know if Gov. Brown knows,” Lopez told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I hope the more media, the more we are heard, he’s supposed to help us.”

The Center for Worker Freedom (CWF), which helped to organize the rally, has been at the forefront of bringing national attention to the issue. Matt Patterson, executive director for CWF, notes he is happy with how the rally went.

“I’m optimistic Gov. Brown is a good man,” Patterson told TheDCNF. “I think once he understands what is happening, he’ll do the right thing.”

The main goal is to simply get the ballot unlocked and the votes counted. The CWF wants the workers to decide for themselves whether joining a union is right for them. Patterson notes CWF and the workers have been trying to reach out to the governor on the issue and the ALRB dinner provided them the chance.

“We just thought this was a tremendous opportunity,” he continued. “These workers have had their votes locked up for a year  and a half.”

Some workers have alleged there is more going on then just bias. Accusations that ALRB officials have intimidated voters opposed to the union were first brought to light in an article published on Jun. 18, 2015 from Flash Report Senior Correspondent Katy Grimes. The accusations allege that board officials have illegally prevented some workers from voting and openly advocated for the union. Legal testimony from the workers, which TheDCNF obtained through a third-party source, details similar acts of voter abuse.

It is unclear when the ALRB will decide whether or not to unlock the ballot. Some workers and their supporters expected a decision to be made earlier in the week but were disappointed to find out it still pending. Paul Starkey, counsel at ALRB, noted to TheDCNF that there is no set timeline and a case this large may take more time then usual.

The UFW and Gov. Brown’s office did not respond to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

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