Assembly Bill 1389 Would Correct Flaws in State Law that Discriminate Against Farmworkers

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YesOnAB1389 Coalition Says Legislation Would Guarantee Farmworker Rights

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We have little if any say in the contracts that govern our wages, benefits and other workplace conditions

A coalition of California farmworkers, farmers and businesses today voiced support for a measure that seeks to guarantee organized farmworkers the same rights as other workers when it comes to approving their labor contracts.

Assembly Bill 1389 (Patterson) seeks to correct fundamental flaws in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), which currently freezes farmworkers out of the process involving mandatory mediated contracts, said supporters of the bill.

“In other words, we have little if any say in the contracts that govern our wages, benefits and other workplace conditions,” said Silvia Lopez, a coalition supporter and spokeswoman for farmworker rights.

She said that under the ALRA farmworkers are not guaranteed the right to observe mandatory mediation talks about their contracts. More importantly, once those contracts are hammered out, these same workers are not able to vote on whether to approve or reject their contracts.

Assembly Bill 1389 (Patterson), she said, would make several reasonable, simple improvements to the ALRA that will better protect workers:

1)    It gives workers the right to attend mediated negotiations on contracts directly affecting their pay, benefits, workplace conditions, etc.

2)    It gives workers the right to approve or reject a mediated contract that governs their workplace.

3)    It protects workers from unions that abandon them. If a union abandons its workers for more than a three-year period, the workers have the right to choose a new union to represent them.

The flaws in the ALRA were exposed during an ongoing labor dispute involving employees of Gerawan Farming in the Central Valley. AB 1389 will not have an impact on that issue.

“This measure has nothing to do with Gerawan,” said Lopez, who works for Gerawan. “I am supporting this bill because it will benefit future generations of California farmworkers across the state who have earned the same rights everyone else seems to have. It’s an insult we are not allowed to witness the process or provide consent to a result that directly impacts our wages, benefits and workplace conditions.”

AB 1389 does seek to establish some fundamental improvements in the law so future controversies can be averted, said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, one of about 20 organizations in the YesOnAB1389 Coalition.

“AB 1389 is union-neutral and grounded in bi-partisan values all Americans should cherish,” he said. “The measure provides an opportunity to empower farmworkers to have a say in their contracts. It’s really that simple.”

AB 1389 is scheduled for hearing May 6 before the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee.

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