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Latest News - March 2011

March 31, 2011
State Senate passes ag labor 'card check' bill
Source: The Business Journal
By: Gabriel Dillard

On the holiday commemorating labor leader Cesar Chavez, the Valley farm community is dismayed at news the California Senate passed a bill that would make it easier for farm workers to unionize.

The bill, S.B. 104, would do away with secret ballots for ag laborers to organize, instead letting them join a union if a majority of the crew signs cards. Several incarnations of the bill have passed both elected houses in recent years, only to face former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto.

The United Farm Workers of America — founded by Chavez in 1962 — sponsored the bill, which was carried by Senate Leader Jim Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

"We appreciate Senator Steinberg's leadership again this year and we are confident Governor Brown won't treat this bill the way Governor Schwarzenegger did," said United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez in a statement.

That prospect doesn't sit well with the Valley's farmers, said Shawn Coburn, a Western Fresno County grower.

"Anything that hampers the productivity of California's farmers is going to make our products harder to sell in this global market, let alone in the domestic market, where other states don't have all of the regulations," said Coburn, who farms about 3,500 acres of almonds, wine grapes and processing tomatoes.

Though the Sacramento Bee is reporting the governor's office is mum on the matter, Coburn agreed with Rodriguez's assessment on how Brown will handle the bill.

"I would suspect he won't veto it," Coburn said.

Groups including the California Chamber of Commerce, Western Growers and the California Farm Bureau Federation have come out opposed to past versions of the bill.

The Sacramento Bee reported the vote went 24-4 along party lines. Sergio Reyes, communication director for Michael Rubio, freshman Democrat from Bakersfield representing the 16th District seat vacated by Dean Florez, said the Senator was traveling and unavailable to comment.

The measure now goes to Assembly committees.



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