ALRB pushes fake UFW line about the employer it targeted

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board is pushing a fake UFW line to attack a company and its workers.

The state agency, known as ALRB, lied in claiming that Gerawan Farming “refused to provide” accurate contact information for its thousands of workers, so that the UFW could organize.

In a three-year campaign to prevent Gerawan farmworkers from voting to de-certify the UFW, the ALRB made the allegation in three separate complaints. However, the ALRB flip-flopped by saying that the company:

  • “failed to provide,”
  • “refused to provide,” and
  • “did not correct or has not corrected” the information.

Those are big differences. But the ALRB’s position has allowed its favored union, the UFW, to push the false line that the big Central Valley employer broke the law by “refusing” to provide accurate addresses.

Facts show that ALRB-UFW are wrong

The facts show that the ALRB-UFW position is a fabrication. ALRB acknowledged that Gerawan Farming provided the original lists between November, 2012, and January, 2013. ALRB also acknowledged that the employer responded publicly in February, 2013. ALRB also recognized that the company provided a new list for direct-hire employees in July, 2013 (while ALRB-UFW organizer Silas Shawver was trying to suppress the workers from voting to decertify UFW). A quick review:

  • November 2012: ALRB stated that UFW organizers had begun to visit farmworkers at the addresses Gerawan Farming provided. Later, in January, 2013, ALRB-UFW would allegedly document more than 2,000 employee address as being inaccurate.
  • December 2012: UFW National Vice President Armando Elenes publicly boasted that the UFW was receiving “tremendous” support from the “vast majority” of workers. Elenes had no complain about not being able to reach Gerawan employees with the lists provided. Instead, he said in Despierta Ya Campesino, “the UFW was receiving a tremendous reception by the vast majority and getting a tremendous response.”
  • January 2013: UFW’s Elenes again boasted about “receiving a tremendous response” beyond his wildest expectations. In Elenes’ words, “best of all, we are receiving a tremendous response, a response I hadn’t even imagined.” Again, Elenes did not complain about not being able to reach the workers.
  • July 2013: Gerawan Farming provides the UFW with a new list of addresses, reportedly because a large percentage were incorrect due to many workers’ having no fixed address. Workers receive weekly pay. As with most employers, an employee’s workplace address is considered valid until the employer is told otherwise.
  • August 2013: UFW again says that Gerawan workers had decided to “flock” to the UFW. The union’s general counsel, Mario Martinez, said during an oral argument before Judge Black, that Gerawan “workers have decided, instead, to flock in support of negotiating an agreement that will improve their working conditions. There has been so much support that the union has had to turn away workers who are interested in being on the negotiating committee because it’s just not feasible to bring in ‘hundreds of workers’ to the negotiation session.”

UFW activist Silas Shawver was behind the discrepancy

Key to this whole problem is Silas Shawver, a committed UFW activist lawyer who was the ALRB’s Regional Director in Visalia at the time.

Many workers were not at their addresses of record, because they had changed locations or moved elsewhere for other seasonal jobs.

It is up to the ALRB Regional Director – in this case, Shawver – to determine whether or not an employee list is accurate. According to the rules, the Regional Director must state the reasons for determining inaccuracies.

Shawver gave no reasons why he claimed that more than 1,100 addresses supposedly were incorrect or invalid. He merely made the declaration for his friends in the UFW.

Pattern of collusion and deception

Shawver shows a pattern of colluding with the UFW and using the ALRB to force a UFW contract on Gerawan farmworkers:

  • A California Superior Court judge found Shawver and the ALRB to be “in cahoots” with the UFW in 2013.
  • Shawver tried to suppress the Gerawan workers from voting to de-certify the UFW in 2013.
  • When public pressure forced ALRB to allow the workers to vote, the ALRB overruled Shawver and instructed the voting to proceed.
  • Shawver then took physical possession of the ballots the workers cast in November, 2013.
  • In 2014, Shawver admitted he had the ballots locked up and had no plan to count them; later that year he disregarded the petitions of hundreds of Gerawan workers to count their stolen ballots.
  • A whistleblower scandal within ALRB forced Shawver to leave ALRB in disgrace in the summer of 2015.
  • ALRB secretly re-hired Shawver in 2016, for a higher post as deputy general counsel.
  • To hide his re-hiring, ALRB concealed Shawver’s name from its publicly available staff list. This fits an established ALRB pattern of deception to conceal inconvenient facts from the public.

UFW falsely claimed thousands of workers as UFW members

The UFW falsely claimed that Gerawan Farmworkers were willing UFW members. In fact, the UFW never negotiated a contract after Gerawan workers had voted to join the union in the 1990s, and abandoned those workers for 17 years – until the ALRB stepped in to force the workers to submit to a UFW contract.

UFW now claims that Gerawan Farming has agreed “to a bilateral settlement with the United Farm Workers and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to resolve charges it broke the the law in 2013. The charges were filed after the giant company ‘refused to provide accurate worker contact information to the UFW,” which the UFW still claims “‘is the exclusive collective bargaining representative’ of Gerawan’s workers.”

About the ALRB

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board is run by three officials appointed by the governor: William B. Gould IV, Chairman; Genevieve Shiroma; and Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez.