Monday, May 16, starting at 10:15 a.m.
State Assembly Honors Late Teen Farm Worker by
Voting on Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act
SACRAMENTO, CA – On May 16, hundreds of farm workers from across the state will descend on Sacramento to rally support for the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act or SB 104, a bill by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The Assembly is scheduled to vote on SB 104, in honor of farm worker Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, 17. The pregnant Lodi teenager died on May 16, 2008. She had collapsed from heat exhaustion two days before on a farm east of Stockton, after laboring more than nine hours without accessible shade or water.
The Steinberg bill would provide farm workers the ability to help ensure that their work places abide by the law through union representation. Three earlier versions of SB 104 were vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – twice in 2007 and once in 2009.
“The legislation is not only fair, but a matter of equity,” said United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez.
“Currently, only two groups of workers in California are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act – public employees and farm workers. But California’s public employees have the ability to select a union using a card-check election. Why can’t farm workers have the same right, if they so choose?” Rodriguez said.
In 1978, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed card-check legislation for ALL public state employees. This included employees responsible for overseeing the state’s agricultural industry, such as those in the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Exposition and State Fair, and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Collective bargaining for state government employees was achieved by Governor Brown’s signing of the State Employer-Employee Relations Act of 1978, or the Ralph C. Dills Act.
In 2001, the card-check provisions were extended to all local government employees, through AB 1281, signed by Governor Gray Davis.
Despite UFW’s past and present fight to improve working conditions in the fields, the reality is that the laws of the books are not the laws in the fields.
After a UFW campaign to prevent heat-related farm worker deaths, the state enacted its current heat-safety regulation, signed in 2005 by then-Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Unfortunately, the state has failed to create a system that protects farm workers by ensuring that agricultural employers comply with the law. At least 11 farm workers have died from heat-related illnesses since the law’s enactment. Sexual harassment remains rampant, wage and hour violations are common, dangerous overexposure to pesticides is a health crisis, and sanitation standards are lax.
“With more than 400,000 farm workers working more than 80,000 farms, it would take tens of millions of state budget dollars to provide near acceptable levels of enforcement of these laws,” Rodriguez said.
WHO: UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, Doroteo Jiménez, uncle of the 17-year old farm worker who died; and hundreds of farm workers and supporters.
WHAT: Hundreds of farm workers and supporters will advocate at the State Capitol on support of the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104) and to honor farm worker Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez.
WHEN: Assembly is expected to vote on SB 104 Monday, May 16. Farm workers and supporters will start gathering at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament between 10: 15 a.m. and 11 a.m. to prepare for the day.
WHERE: Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th Street Sacramento, CA 95814
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**** SB 104 Backgrounder
The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104)
SB 104, a bill by state Senate leader Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento), creates a new way for agricultural workers to select their collective-bargaining representatives.
If passed, farm workers would still cast secret ballots on whether to join a union. Or, for the first time, they would participate in equally secret majority signup elections.
The traditional polling place election would remain in the workplace; majority signups – in which workers would sign state-issued ballots – would occur away from farms, far from bosses’ in-your-face threats and intimidation.
If a majority of the workers sign the ballots, the state would certify the union to represent them.
All elections would be overseen by the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Why is the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act Needed?
The Steinberg bill is a way for farm workers to more easily express whether they want to be represented by the United Farm Workers. They will have the choice of not joining a union, selecting a union using a polling place election under the current process, or choosing a majority signup election.
On-site elections can engender worker intimidation to sway the outcome: Workers are told by bosses that a union contract would kill the company, with a resultant loss of jobs. Merely voting in the workplace can be daunting.
Off-site elections would help insulate workers from threats and other harassment. Voting would be done with greater peace of mind.
Are we asking for secret ballots to be eliminated?
Absolutely not. With SB 104, farm workers decide how they want to vote – either through a majority signup or a polling place election.
SB 104 provides farm workers with an additional option – they select the voting process. The measure also extends existing prohibitions and penalties for unfair labor practices in connection with majority signup elections.
Differences between Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act (SB 104) and Ballot elections under Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).
There are two major differences between the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act and EFCA:
Agricultural Employers are not required to be neutral—employers can continue to oppose the union as long as they do not threaten the jobs of their employees.
Government-issued majority sign-up ballots—the Majority signup ballots will not be union authorization cards, but a distinct, government-issued election ballot.
California State Senate passed SB 104 in 2011. The California State legislature has passed a similar bill three other times in previous years.
The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act passed the State Senate by a 24-14 vote on March 31, 2011.
On May 16, the Assembly will vote on SB 104, in honor of farm worker Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, 17. The pregnant Lodi teenager died on May 16, 2008. She had collapsed from heat exhaustion two days before on a farm east of Stockton, after laboring more than nine hours without accessible shade or water.
Three earlier versions of SB 104 were vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – twice in 2007 and once in 2009.