Some 300 farm workers at San Joaquin Tomato Co. near Madera, Calif. are getting closer to a semblance of justice. This is 23 years after they voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers. On Friday, April 20, legal briefs are due over how much money San Joaquin Tomato must pay its workers since it refused to negotiate in good faith for a union contract. Under the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board's "make whole" remedy, growers can be ordered to make their workers whole when employers break the law, causing workers to suffer economic loses. This case involves money the workers lost because their employer illegally denied them a union contract that would have meant better pay and benefits.
Although the case against San Joaquin Tomato was filed by the UFW in 1994, Lawrence Alderete, regional director for ALRB, failed for years to take action to get the workers the money they are owed. A state administrative judge tried to dramatically reduce the money workers would receive. His ruling was appealed by the UFW and the ALRB general counsel. Soon, the three members of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board will rule on the appeal.
On Monday, April 23 at 10am, we will kick off a vigil to urge the ALRB to issue a decision. We will continue to maintain our vigil from 9am to 5pm daily so that the ALRB understands how important this case is to farm workers. Please join us if you can.
Arturo S. Rodriguez, President United Farm Workers of America