Did Lorena Gonzalez Vote Against Farm Workers?

Alexander Martinez
Political commentator on Latino community issues.

Last month, Pick Justice Action launched a six-figure ad buy targeting Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez across TV, radio, print and digital advertising, to highlight what they deem as her anti-farm worker record. This may come as a surprise to some who see Gonzalez as a key pro-worker legislator in the state. She’s even garnering some national headlines to the same effect. But as Pick Justice Action points out, once you look at her record, her pristine pro-worker image gets blurry. 

It all started a few years ago, when the United Farm Workers (UFW) union reappeared on a farm after being gone for over 20 years, and tried to force a non-negotiated, government written contract onto farm workers. The workers had never seen this contract and most were not around some two decades prior, when the UFW first came to the negotiating table and then abruptly left after one meeting and disappeared without providing any rational. 

While imposing a contract on unsuspecting workers is bad enough, this contract would have lowered the farm workers take home pay, forcing them to shell out 3 percent of their weekly paycheck in union dues. Once the workers learned of their options, they quickly organized a vote to decertify the union. Unfortunately, their votes were held in limbo by the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), and wouldn’t be counted for five years. 

Once the votes were finally counted due to a court order, the farm workers had voted 5 to 1 to decertify the UFW. 

During this fight, there was statewide attention as farm workers regularly protested both the UFW and the ALRB, demanding that their votes be counted. Over this same period, Lorena Gonzalez was voting to give the ALRB more power over workers. One such bill, AB 2751, allows the ALRB to force union contracts on workers with no judicial review. It is a mystery why someone who claims to be on the side of workers, and who has opposed forced contracts in the past for other sectors, would support such a bill. 

In addition, Gonzalez has maintained her unequivocal support for the UFW, even when they were actively trying to destroy the votes of farm workers.

In 2018, Assemblyman Jim Patterson introduced a package of bills that would provide farm workers with more bargaining rights, to prevent the UFW from being able to force contracts on workers. These bills, AB 3092, AB 3093, and AB 3094, would have given workers an opportunity to at the very least vote on the government written, non-negotiated contracts and would have required a judicial review before organizations like the ALRB could just throw out the votes of workers. 

These proposals seemed common sense at the time, and would undoubtedly have given workers more power, yet Gonzalez opposed the legislative package, as did the UFW. 

When looking at the larger picture of Lorena Gonzalez’s record, it is surprising to find so many anti-worker votes over the past few years given her public perception. But thanks to the campaign of Pick Justice Action highlighting these inconsistencies, at the very least Californians can get a better picture of who the real Gonzalez is.

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