Farmworkers are better off without ALRB-UFW protection racket

Gerawan farmworkers voted to give their trust to Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers (UFW).

In 1990, they voted to certify the UFW as their collective bargaining representative. Then the UFW disappeared.

For twenty years, Gerawan farmworkers heard nothing from the UFW. The UFW never communicated with them. Nobody from the UFW came out to the fields to talk to them. The UFW never negotiated a contract for them.

Joining the UFW, as UFW first vice president Irv Hershenbaum told council members in Long Beach, is like “being married until you’re divorced.”

If the UFW had been a person, it would have been declared legally dead years ago ending the marriage. Unfortunately, just like the deadbeat spouse Hershenbaum described, the UFW came back.

The UFW resurfaced in November 2012 demanding that we either pay them 3% of our wages or be fired.

Back then, the California minimum wage was $8.00 an hour. The UFW bragged about their contracts that gave employees $8.25 an hour but farmworkers already made more with Gerawan at $9.00 per hour. Not only did Gerawan workers make a dollar more than minimum – they took home $.75 more per hour than the UFW’s unionized workers made on paper.

Worse, in reality those workers who were represented by the UFW weren’t receiving more than $8.00 per hour anyway. They had to pay the 3% UFW fee on all of their wages, turning that $8.25 an hour to $8.00 an hour.

Since Cesar Chavez died, the UFW has become a racket.

Ever since its 2012 return, the UFW has been working in cahoots with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to impose a contract on Gerawan workers. The ALRB says it is doing this to “protect” them.

Protect them from whom? With no UFW to negotiate for them, Gerawan workers were able to earn the industry’s highest wages in stone fruit and grape fieldwork. They have been making the highest wages since well before the UFW came back looking for money after missing for twenty years.

Right now the current California minimum wage is $9.00 an hour. Gerawan workers make $11.00 an hour without a contract.

We know of three companies with UFW contracts that call for wages of $9.00 an hour.

  • San Joaquin Tomato pays $9.02 an hour.
  • Pacific Triple-E pays $9.02 an hour.
  • Papagni pays $9.00 an hour.

The workers at all three companies are forced to pay the UFW’s 3% fee of $.27 per hour, dropping all of their wages below the California minimum wage. After the UFW takes its cut, San Joaquin Tomato and Pacific Triple-E workers actually receive $8.75 an hour and Papagni workers receive $8.73 an hour. All of these workers would be making more money if they had never joined UFW in the first place.

ALRB’s “protection” is more like a UFW protection racket. The employers still pay the $.27 an hour toward the workers’ payroll, but the farmworkers never see it.

Before the farmworkers get their paychecks, the money is diverted – by contract – to the UFW bank accounts. The UFW uses that money to pay its many vice-presidents and consultants in their air conditioned offices.

Maybe these are the workers that the ALRB is actually “protecting.” Forcing a contract on us will bring the UFW the money it needs to keep all those vice-presidents happy in their air-conditioned offices. It will protect them from having to really work.