The ALRB has been a quiet state-sponsored accomplice for the United Farm Workers in the union’s combative relationship with Gerawan Farming, as well as many other California farming and ranching businesses. And since 2011, the ALRB General Counsel Sylvia Torres Guillén was been behind most of the combat – until she was recently reassigned to Gov. Brown’s inner office sanctum, rather than firing her, and filing charges against her with the California Bar Association.
Now it appears that another of the ALRB antagonists, Silas Shawver, the ALRB Regional Director in Visalia, is also becoming someone else’s problem, rather than firing him, and filing charges against him with the California Bar Association. According to a source close to the ALRB, Shawver, a lawyer, is leaving the ALRB and going to work for the department of Fair Employment and Housing, where he can continue to terrorize California employers under the protection of another state agency.
“Governor Brown is known for moving his controversial appointees to other government positions to get them out of the limelight, rather than firing them for misconduct,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “He quietly named Torres-Guillen to the post of governor’s counsel without portfolio, a $162,852-a-year job.”
This is how state government deals with its worst employees: They are promotes, and moved into higher paying jobs in other state agencies.
The UFW won an election to represent Gerawan Farming Company’s workers 23 years ago. But after only one bargaining session, the union disappeared and wasn’t heard from for more than 22 years. However, in October 2012, the union reappeared to impose a contract on Gerawan Farming and its employees — without a vote of the workers. Since then, the workers have fought the UFW with everything they can, including legal court battles, rallies and protests, and personal appeals to the California Legislature. While they win the legal battles in California Superior Courts, battles with ALRB administrative Law Judge Mark Soble, continue. Soble is stalling his decision of whether or not to order the worker’s ballots destroyed from their 2013 decertification election of the UFW. It’s a political hot potato at this point, because so many in California are now aware of the gross conflicts of interest within the ALRB, and the abuse of power this agency has exerted on California agriculture employers.
And Judge Soble and Silas Shawver are at the center of the H&R Gunland Ranches case being prosecuted but he ALRB. Shawver, the former Directing Attorney for the Fresno Migrant Office of the California Rural Legal Assistance program, has led the contentious labor union issues at H&R Gundlund Ranches, even after Gunlund paid out a nearly $1 million settlement to the CRLA.
As far back as August, 2013, California Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton, Jr., took ALRB Regional Director Silas Shawver to task for working overtime to stop farmworkers from voting on whether or not to decertify the UFW as their collective bargaining representative.
Judge Hamilton accused Shawver of “overreach” of his legal authority in trying to stop the vote. “So the Court is very suspect of, one, the ALRB’s position here,” Hamilton said. “It almost seems like it’s in cahoots” with the UFW. “And the Court finds it very troubling that the ALRB is taking such a position, especially sitting in a prosecutorial role,” he told Shawver, who is a lawyer. “That is a role you should not be taking when you sit as a prosecutor.”
Social Media Shows ALRB Lawyers In Cahoots With UFW
A search of publicly available social media sites and donor records show close personal relationships between ALRB lawyers hired under Torres-Guillén, and the UFW, and UFW-related causes. Torres-Guillén, in her position as ALRB General Counsel, was the keynote speaker at the UFW’s 50th anniversary gala in 2012. Perched before a Cesar Chavez portrait, she pledged to the union that she would “regain their trust.” Speaking at a 2015 forum marking the 40th anniversary of the ALRB, Torres-Guillén quoted glowingly from Chavez.
The other ALRB regional director, attorney Alegría de la Cruz, runs the Salinas office. She worked at the California Rural Legal Assistance with Shawver. A report filed with the California superior court alleges that Shawver is the godfather of de la Cruz’s child.
Salinas Regional Director Alegría de la Cruz: 3rd generation UFW
A third-generation UFW supporter, since childhood de la Cruz has been steeped in UFW activism and organizing. She is the granddaughter of the late Jesse de la Cruz, an early female organizer of the UFW a half-century ago. Both her parents “were also well-known and active UFW organizers,” according to a 2013 complaint before a California superior court by Anthony Raimondo, an attorney for farm laborer Francisco Napoles. “In fact, her parents met on a campaign for the UFW and later married,” Raimondo said. “When speaking of her upbringing, Ms. De la Cruz boasted that her parents ‘were both organizers and raised four kids in the movement. By the time I was old enough to walk and talk, I was doing outreach in front of supermarkets, collecting signatures on petitions.”
A photograph posted online shows de la Cruz as an infant, being held in Cesar Chavez’s lap.
“Que viva Dolores Huerta!” De La Cruz says on her Flickr page.
ALRB Lawyer is Former UFW Organizer
The ALRB has another union organizer working on contentious decertification cases against farms and ranches. Jessica Arciniega, the regional director and lawyer in Salinas for the ALRB, is a former UFW organizer who completed her first year of study under attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz, another former union lawyer who helped set up California’s unique legal apprenticeship program. California law allows prospective attorneys to skip law school and earn the right to practice by serving apprenticeships. The UFW has made regular use of the program, turning out many union attorneys just like Arciniega. This 2004 Los Angeles Times story highlights Arciniega and Macri-Ortiz, and identifies Arciniega as “a Pomona-Pitzer colleges graduate who worked on UFW union organizing campaigns before plunging into the law.”
One popular social media photo shows ALRB attorney Jessica Arciniega, ALRB Regional Director Alegria de la Cruz, and ALRB General Counsel Sylvia Torres-Guillén in a celebratory photo with UFW attorney Mario Martinez and a UFW organizer who is giving the thumbs-up.
Arciniega was Facebook friends with UFW Vice President Armando Elenes. She is shown in a photo on the UFW’s Facebook page as a leader of a UFW street protest, carrying the union’s red banner.
In this youtube video, Barbara Macri-Ortiz (At 04:45) talks about the ALRB and her apprentice Jessica Arciniega.
As further evidence of the ALRB and UFW being in-cahoots in the Gerawan Farming employee decertification election, Arciniega was one of the main people running the Gerawan UFW decertification election.
Martha Guzman Aceves
In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Martha Guzman-Aceves deputy legislative secretary for agriculture, environment and natural resources — working inside of his office. Before that, she was a founding partner of Cultivo Consulting, which says it engages in lobbying, political campaigning and community organizing in California. It’s a lobbying and outreach firm specializing in social, economic and environmental justice.
She also was listed on 2011 tax returns (pictured nearby) as president and CEO for Communities for the New California Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization “committed to achieving environmental, economic, and socially just public policy for working class families in the rural areas of California.”
Her biography says she “previously served as the Legislative Coordinator for the United Farm Workers (UFW) AFL-CIO covering a range of labor and environmental issues. She worked for the UFW for five years in both their political and research departments.”
Alegria De La Cruz was appointed by Brown on Dec. 13, 2011 as Regional Director for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. She was Guzman-Aceves’ partner in the CNC Education Fund. She previously worked for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment as a staff attorney. Prior to the center, De La Cruz worked for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation as a staff attorney.
MarthaGuzman Aceves is also “co-founder of Communities for a New California, a 501(c)(4) [sic], and Cultivo Consulting, a political consulting partnership,” her biography said at the Latino Journal. It has been taken down.
I first wrote about Guzman Aceves, exposing her flagrant conflicts of interest in October 2013, but she kept her position in the governor’s office, running interference on UFW issues.
Under CNC’s umbrella are the Communities for a New California Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity; the Communities for a New California Inc., a 501 (c)(4) charity; and the Communities for a New California Fresno-Tulare Independent Expenditure Committee. According to federal regulations, an independent expenditure is “an expenditure by a person for a communication expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents.”
However, while Guzman-Aceves has served as a public official in the Brown Administration, CNClobbied the Legislature and governor’s office on various issues, including AB1081, federal immigration policy enforcement. AB1081’s bill analysis shows CNC listed among the supporters.
More house cleaning needs to take place at the ALRB, and in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.