Workers “never” have a right to witness mediation, California says

California farmworkers have “never” had a “right” to witness the labor mediation processes that determine their wages and work conditions.


That’s what a top lawyer for Governor Jerry Brown argued in court.

Pick Justice held a spirited protest outside the courthouse.

Agricultural labor mediation has been and should remain secret and behind closed doors, Deputy Attorney General Nelson Richards told a three-judge panel.

“It has never been a right” for workers to sit in on the labor mediation meetings, and never should be, Richards argued before the Fifth Court of Appeal in Fresno. The process is called “mandatory mediation and conciliation.”

The Brown Administration has fighting farmworkers and journalists who seek to open the labor mediation meetings to workers and the public. That position is the opposite of the governor’s desire for transparency. A state court found the secrecy position to be unconstitutional last year. Wednesday’s hearing was part of the state’s appeals process to stop transparency.

The ALRB is continuing a litigation process begun by disgraced ALRB general counsel Sylvia Torres-Guillen and her regional director, Silas Shawver. Both were sacked for wrongdoing last summer.

A curious coalition – a non-UFW farmworker, employer Gerawan Farming, and news media groups including the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association – joined forces to argue for transparency for workers in being able to witness the process.

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) led the anti-transparency charge for the state government.

“Attorney and law professor Eugene Volokh, who represents a trio of media organizations, including the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, told the justices that mediation meetings function similar to a bench trial and should be open to the public,” the Fresno Bee reports.

The Brown administration and ALRB are fighting to maintain government secrecy in farmworker mediation.