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Assemblyman Jim Patterson

Assembly Hearing to Shed Light on True Commitment to Farmworker Rights

Central Valley farm workers will leave their jobs in the fields and make the journey to Sacramento tomorrow morning to support a proposed new law that would finally give them the same rights afforded to almost every other union member in America and it’s my sincere hope that they are victorious.

As the law stands today California farm workers are essentially powerless when it comes to determining their own labor contracts. They can’t be in the room when their contracts are being hammered out by the union and the Ag Labor Board, they don’t have the right to approve or decline the contract that was created without their knowledge or input. Also, if the union they chose to represent them abandons them, they have no recourse.

Thousands of farm workers from the Central Valley have been dealing with these very issues since 2012 when the United Farm Workers Union returned to a farm in Fresno County to enforce a 20 year old abandoned labor contract.

Not surprisingly, the workers, most of whom were not around 20 years ago, have been fighting an up-hill battle to nullify the contract without the legal power to advocate for themselves. Farm worker and civil rights leader Silvia Lopez has said repeatedly that she isn’t interested in joining a union that refuses to acknowledge the voice and the votes of its own members.

I wrote Assembly Bill 1389, Fair Contracts for California Farm Workers, with the support of Silvia and her fellow farm workers, with the ultimate goal of ensuring their rights are respected. Nearly a hundred farm workers will join me on Wednesday to support AB 1389 in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. The bill would fix fundamental flaws in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act by ensuring farm workers have the following legal tools:

  • The right to attend and monitor all mandatory mediation meetings held by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) so they can understand the terms of their contract
  • The ability to vote to approve or decline the terms of that contract.
  • Requires the ALRB to nullify a union contract if the union abandons the workers for a period of three or more years.

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat bill, and it’s not anti-union. It simply puts the spotlight back on worker rights in California. These are honest, hardworking people who are trying to make a better life for their families. The rights they are asking for are fundamental and represent the American values of freedom and prosperity. I look forward to hearing from colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are tasked with helping this righteous movement succeed.