Farm Workers Win in California

Late last night Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the California farm workers “card check” bill SB 104 for.

The bill would have abolished workers right to a secret ballot. The right to vote on whether to join or not to join a union by secret ballot was granted to farm workers in California during Gov. Brown’s first term in 1975. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act was the nation’s first act of its kind. A top legislative priority for the newly elected Governor and the United Farm Workers (UFW), Brown advocated for this monumental change first inaugural speech:

I also believe it is time to extend the rule of law to the agriculture sector and establish the right of secret ballot elections for farm workers. The law I support will impose rights and responsibilities on both farm worker and farmer alike. I expect that an appropriate bill that serves all the people will not fully satisfy any of the parties to the dispute, but that’s no reason not to pass it.

Thirty-six years later Brown, who once marched with UFW founder Cesar Chavez and his farm workers, seems to have distanced himself from the union. SB 104 has been a top UFW legislative priority for years. This legislation is a last attempt by the union to stem its dwindling membership numbers. A decade ago the UFW had 26,000 members, a year ago that number was just over 5,200.

The lessening clout of the UFW in California politics may be an isolated insolent, however last night workers rights prevailed. In his veto message the governor said, “I am not yet convinced that the far reaching proposals of this bill . . . are justified.” These far reaching provisions would have taken away a workers right to a secret ballot. Farm workers can thank Jerry Brown for protecting them from invasive union card check.