How Gerawan farming vote will impact workers

November 5, 2013 9:01:47 PM PST
Farm laborers at one of the Valley's biggest Ag companies are voted Tuesday over whether they want to be represented by the United Farm Workers. It could take several months before the votes will be counted because of legal challenges to the process.

Workers at Gerawan Farming had until 7 p.m. Tuesday to cast their ballots.

The grounds at Gerawan farming in Kerman were quiet for the most part on Tuesday. The company is one of the Valley's biggest producers of tree fruit and grapes. But debate over whether or not to decertify the united farm workers union has been a contentious issue.

In September some Gerawan workers protested the UFW's bid for a 3 percent cut of their salary for union dues. In the 90's the UFW won the right to represent the workers.

"They held one negotiating session with this company and then they disappeared for over two decades. They showed up again in October 2012 and said we're here, we're ready and we want to begin negotiating," Gerawan Attorney Ronald Barsamian said.

Barsamian said over 2,600 employees are expected to vote at nine work sites. The UFW expressed shock the agricultural labor relations board allowed the vote to precede. UFW spokesperson Maria Machuca said in a statement, "Gerawan workers have asked UFW to seek all legal relief available and to file objections to the election so that they can enjoy the benefits of a recently ordered contract that would give workers immediate wage increases and other protections."

All of the votes will be delivered to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board office in Visalia to be counted at a later date.

"Obviously it's going to take at least months, could approach a year. There's a lot of Procedures at stake, hearings have to be conducted," Barsamian said.

Some of the issues which need to be resolved include the validity of signatures Gerawan workers gathered for a decertification petition, and whether there was any company interference during the process.


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