As Pick Justice Action was working to champion the rights of farm workers, I was surprised to see the San Diego Farm Bureau extend an olive branch (or bouquet of flowers rather) to one of the chief opponents of farm workers rights legislation, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. This decision by the San Diego Farm Bureau came as a surprise to many as these issues are too critical to farm workers across the state to continue supporting politicians that vote against workers.
Gratefully, transparency regarding a politicians record is easier now than ever before, with social media often providing real-time updates on legislative action and a quick Google search detailing how an elected official voted. But due to the overwhelming amount of information available, important votes and decisions can often slip through the cracks in the media and public’s attention.
That is where Pick Justice Action comes in. We want to let farm workers know that despite Gonzalez-Fletcher championing herself as a steadfast advocate for their rights; her voting record and her unwavering support for organizations like the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) show otherwise.
We can see a clear example of this when a legislative package was introduced last year that would have given farm workers additional rights and legal protections.
One of these bills would give farm workers a voice when it comes to approving non-negotiated, government-written union contracts, before these contracts are forced upon them. We saw in the Gerawan Farming case exactly why this bill was necessary, when the United Farm Workers (UFW) union disappeared from the farm for over 20 years and then came back and tried to force a contract on the workers that would lower their take home pay.
Another bill would have required a judicial review before the ALRB could throw out workers’ votes to decertify a union.
Why anyone would oppose a check and balance on a bureaucratic, unelected organization with outsized power is beyond me, especially given that the past has proven why this bill is needed. The ALRB tried to throw out the decertification votes of Gerawan farm workers, and would only allow the votes to be counted after their actions were overturned by a state appellate court and the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case. In total, the ALRB wasted $10 million in tax dollars attempting to silence the votes of farm workers.
Despite history showing that these additional protections for farm workers is sadly needed, Gonzalez did not feel like farm workers deserved them and voted against these bills.
Worse yet, when I went to the State Assembly Committee hearing to testify in favor of these bills, I was shocked to see Gonzalez not only vote against these common sense bills but she also appeared, in my opinion, to be dismissive and rude to the farm workers who were in attendance and in favor of the bills.
After that day, it became clear where her loyalties lie, and it isn’t with the farm workers. Instead, she stood steadfastly by the UFW union bosses- the same union who intimidated farm workers, held phony counter protests against actual farm worker protests, and fought to have the farm workers’ votes thrown out, because she knew that if their voices were heard, the UFW would be voted off the farm. In the end, 83% of workers voted to decertify the UFW.
Instead of sending flowers and sympathy to Gonzalez, the San Diego Farm Bureau should have extended that sympathy instead to the farm workers that she left behind. Gonzalez deserves to be called out for her anti-farm worker record and the people have a right to know exactly how their politicians vote. And that is what Pick Justice Action will continue to work towards, in hopes that no more elected officials in Sacramento will blatantly oppose protections that farm workers need and deserve.