Farm Workers Resist Union Representation

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Labor Relations Board show that less than 10 percent of employees actually voted for their union representation. This happens because, under federal labor law, unions do not have to stand for reelection. The only way for employees to displace a union is through a rigorous decertification process.

In California, the problems associated with not holding regular union recertification elections are on full display.

In 1990, the United Farm Workers (UFW) union won an election to represent agricultural workers at Gerawan farms. Then, in 1992, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) certified the UFW as the exclusive representative of the Gerawan workforce.

But as stated in The Wall Street Journal, “after holding just one bargaining session, the union lost interest and never procured a contract.”

Now, over 20 years later, the UFW union organizers are demanding Gerawan negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. The contract would require the agricultural workers to pay 3 percent of their wages in union dues. Workers refusing to pay dues would be fired.

Until UFW’s recent contract talks with Gerawan, most of the current workers didn’t know a union represented them. Only 5 percent of employees were around in 1990 when the union election took place.

Now aware, workers are actively resisting union representation. The Fresno Bee reports:

Dozens of field workers employed by Gerawan Farming held a rally Monday afternoon in front of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board office in Visalia, demanding that the state agency allow them to vote on a proposal to kick out the United Farm Workers union.

Further, Silvia Lopez, an employee of Gerawan Farming for 15 years, has filed a petition with the appropriate amount of signatures to decertify the UFW. However, the ALRB permission is necessary to call for a union decertification election. And the ALRB is known for its union-bias and the employees are concerned the Board will not accept the petition.

The California farm workers plight demonstrates how labor law grants unions inappropriate special privileges that put union power over employees freedom to choose.

Thankfully, one bill in Congress, The Employee Rights Act, would address the fact that most unionized employees never voted for union representation. According to, the ERA “requires that every unionized workplace have a supervised secret ballot election every three years to determine whether employees want to continue to be represented by any incumbent union.”