Back during his first turn as governor, Jerry Brown signed the 1975 historic Agricultural Labor Relations Act that established collective bargaining rights for California’s farm workers. It was the first time that farm workers were given the right to organize themselves, having been left out of the National Labor Relations Act enacted in 1935; in signing California’s law, Gov. Brown became an icon of the farmer workers movement. Flash forward to yesterday, Gov. Brown might have done his reputation some damage when he vetoed the “Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act” just before the bill would have gone into effect, going against his history as a champion of farm workers. What’s the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act? It would’ve made it easier for farm workers to organize into unions, providing them an alternative to the secret ballot, letting unions organize them instead through signed petition cards. In his veto statement Gov. Brown said the bill is a “drastic change” to the state’s agricultural labor relations act, although he “appreciate(s) the frustrations that have given rise to it.” The effort to ease unionization has been thwarted for years under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and surely the United Farm Workers thought they had an ally in Jerry Brown. Alas they did not—what’s next for farm workers and their farmer employers?
Giev Kashkooli, national vice president of the United Farm Workers
Tom Nassif, president & CEO of the Western Growers Association