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Real people from the fields: Mauricia Calvillo and why farm workers need "Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act"

Real people from the fields: Mauricia Calvillo and why farm workers need
"Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act"

 Mauricia Calvillo never will forget the exciting countdown to Sept. 1, 2005, when she and other employees of Giumarra Vineyards Corp. voted on whether to join a union.

About 80 percent of  Giumarra’s 2,995 farm workers had signed cards authorizing the United Farm Workers to represent them.   Despite that solid support, the UFW narrowly lost the election – because the giant company intimidated some workers into voting against the union, the  Agricultural Labor Relations Board found.

But since current law provides no remedy against such violations other than throwing out the election – which the board did --  the workers went back to square one in their quest for union protection.

That setback has not deterred Calvillo, 49, a strong UFW supporter who is in her 16th year as an $8-an-hour Giumarra farm laborer in Kern County.

In a recent interview, the Lamont resident talked about the 2005 election – and the need for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign SB 104, which would make it easier for farm laborers to join unions.  Calvillo’s  comments:

“In the days before the election, I remember that all of us – my co-workers and I -- were certain that we would win.  But Giumarra violated the law.  That’s why we lost.  

“Prior to the election,  the owners of Giumarra,  its bosses and foremen told the workers that a union would not be convenient for us.  They said  the union would take money away from us.

“The day of the election, we all lined up to vote in the same fields where we work.  The bosses and foremen watched us.   I voted in favor of the union.  But, because of what the bosses had said, some of my fellow workers voted against it.“With SB 104, we farm workers would have the freedom to fill out union  representation cards in the privacy of our homes, outside the presence of owners,  bosses and  field foremen.  People would no longer be afraid to vote for the union.
“I hope that bill becomes law …

“We (union supporters at Giumarra) were, and remain, in favor of the union.  We want pay raises, better benefits, better treatment.  We haven’t lost the hope that there will be another election.”

Note:  SB 104 would allow farm workers to choose between traditional on-the-job polling place elections or a new process of filling out state-issued ballots at home.  All elections would be supervised by the ALRB.  SB 104 would NOT END the secret-ballot process.