Ag Policy Blog

California Farm Bureau Disappointed in New Union Organizing Law

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A farm worker in California sprays a patch of vines. A new law in California will make it easier for labor unions to organize farm workers. California Farm Bureau calls the legislation "misguided" and said farmers and ranchers would give up speech and property rights because of the new law. (DTN file photo)

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a bill signing with farm workers on Wednesday, the California Farm Bureau president said the group is "deeply disappointed" in the governor's decision to sign "misguided union organizing legislation."

Newsom had initially indicated some hesitation about the bill, but then President Joe Biden said earlier this month that he backed the measure.

Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau, issued a statement on the legislation, Assembly Bill 2183.

"Farm Bureau stands with California's agricultural employees and will continue to defend their right to make uncoerced choices about union representation," Johansson said. "However, the governor's unfortunate decision to sign this bill will create a mail-in balloting system that threatens the integrity of secret ballot elections and leaves farm employees vulnerable to intimidation by union organizers with an obvious interest in the outcome. It also forces California's farmers and ranchers to choose to give up free speech and private property rights in a dubious trade to allow their employees a real voice in a union election."

The legislation comes in part after a federal court ruling had restricted the ability of union organizers to enter farm properties to talk to laborers.

Associated Press reported Newsom approved the bill only after he, the United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation agreed on clarifying language to be considered during next year's legislative session to address his concerns around implementation and voting integrity.

AP noted the law gives California farmworkers, who harvest much of the nation's fruit and vegetables, new ways to vote in union elections beyond physical polling places on farm property. Proponents say that would help protect workers from union busting and other intimidation, while owners say such a system lacks necessary safeguards to prevent fraud.

United Farm Workers had led a weekslong summer march up the state to Sacramento, where farmworkers and their supporters rallied outside the Capitol, some camping outside through September in an effort to win Newsom's support, AP reported.

"California's farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace," Newsom said in a statement after signing the bill.

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