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Katy Grimes

Legislation Targets Political Enemies

The IRS scandal in the headlines for several years revealed the Internal Revenue Service developed a scheme to prosecute conservatives who publicly oppose President Obama’s policies.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and his legislative Democrats have just accomplished a similar scheme with the passage of a bill targeting two large agriculture businesses, which dared to challenge the illegal stranglehold on Brown’s appointed Agriculture Labor Relations Board by the waning United Farm Workers labor union.

Fowler Packing Company

Family owned and operated Fowler Packing Company and Gerawan Farming are targets of Assembly Bill 1513, which unfairly carves-out the two employers who have long been targeted for UFW unionizing efforts, from the limited safe harbor provisions in the recently passed and signed bill.

Both large employers and growers, Fowler Packing grows peaches, nectarines, plums and mandarins, and Gerawan grows nectarines, peaches and grapes.

Wag the Dog

Gov. Brown signed a bill into law October 10 rewriting the definition of labor rules governing piece-rate compensation in California. But, unsurprisingly, the bill extracts a very high price from employers to benefit unions and, unfairly carves-out the two employers that are targets of UFW unionizing efforts.

“The process from the beginning stunk to high heaven,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. “This does lay open the dirty politics that can be put together with the ALRB, UFW and politicians.”

“This is what a Banana Republic looks like,” Patterson said. “If they can do it to Fowler Packing and Gerawan Farming, they can do it to anybody.”

“This Machiavellian, utterly dishonest and punitive carve out could not have happened had this not been the end of legislative session,” Patterson explained. “What is missing is a criminal complaint in this case. This is and was a criminal conspiracy. Perhaps as time goes by, a court case will be so glaring, law enforcement will look at the potential,” Patterson said.

AB 1513, authored by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, never was heard in a legislative committee; it was a gut and amend bill done at the very end of the legislative session, in order to avoid public legislative committee hearings. “If ever there was a piece of legislation that should put some members of the Legislature in prison, this is it,” Patterson said. “If you peel open this rats nest, you will see the conspiracy: Huge campaign contributions… huge amounts of money flowing to lawmakers who voted for it… all willing to vote for excising out the Parnagians (of Fowler), and Gerawan,” Patterson said. “And quite frankly, the governor knew it when he signed it,” Patterson added. “This is more evidence of what one-party dictatorship looks like: fear, conspiracy, the use of law making against one’s political enemies.”

“It’s shameful,” Patterson said. “Many have crossed the line.”

Icing on the UFW Cake

Anyone who doesn’t know of this unholy liaison between the ALRB and the UFW might think the United Farm Workers labor union has an angel in the governor’s office, because nothing other than divine intervention – or criminal conspiracy – could explain the wanton gifts the labor union has received from California Gov. Jerry Brown by way of the Legislature.

AB 1513 creates the new California Labor Code section 226.2, setting forth requirements for payment of a separate hourly rate for “non-productive” time, i.e., rest and recovery breaks documented by piece-rate employees. The new law, which applies to all employees compensated on a piece-rate basis, becomes effective January 1, 2016.

Gerawan Farming

Piece-rate work is paid for according to the number of units or products completed or produced. Piece rate plans may be determined by one individual’s work, or can also include a group of employees who share compensation based upon group completion of required tasks or products.

The bill, born out of two class action lawsuits, Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors and Bluford v. Safeway, allows employers to come into compliance with non-productive time pay requirements in exchange for liability protection from related wage claims. However, AB 1513 discriminated against specific companies where an active non-productive time wage lawsuit was filed as of March 1, 2014, and/or for which an active suit alleges the adding of “ghost” employees to reduce wages.

Prior to AB 1513 being introduced, Downtown LA Motors and Safeway, involved in class action lawsuits for non-productive time payment, entered into a negotiation with California labor organizations to develop safe harbor protections to limit their exposure for non-productive time payment while offering a formula for paying back pay.

Illegal Carve-Out

Never before has legislation specifically targeted two businesses the way AB 1513 does. AB 1513 illegally carves out Gerawan Farming, and Fowler Packing from the safe harbor protections. The exclusion of Gerawan and Fowler was based on a specific carve out was the direct result of labor permitting the involvement of the UFW in the negotiations.  All other employers may take advantage of the safe-harbor liability protection from penalties from unpaid wages.

Never before has any legislation excised out private businesses for exclusion of legal protections.

Gov. Ignores Farm Workers

Assemblyman Jim Patterson

While Gov. Jerry Brown has ignored thousands of California farm workers who don’t want to be unionized by the UFW, he recently authorized gifting the financially floundering UFW labor union $3 million each year for the next five years toward their Obamacare health plan.

There are nearly one million farm and agricultural workers in California, yet the United Farm Workers labor union represents less than 4,000 of them. Still, Jerry Brown continues to help the UFW limp along, assisting the union to terrorize well-run, law-abiding, decent farming businesses with countless lawsuits, and harassing them with unreasonable and illegal demands.

Assemblyman Patterson said the creation of AB 1513 was conspiratorial because a “group of individuals got together, and then put together a bill they knew was unconstitutional, because the labor union demanded if they did not, no one would get protections.”

“And a lot of other interests in the state – who, if this happened to them, would have righteous indignation – rolled over, said nothing, and got the benefit of the bill,” Patterson said. “The fundamental operation of Sacramento, and one-party rule, is fear. This is the reason this bill looks the way it does – political fear.”

He added, “The only way for justice is that this Constitutional conspiracy is brought out in a court of law.”

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