Wednesday, June 29, 2011

California Latino farmworkers abandoned by Brown?

Intimidated by agribusiness, Brown vetoes reforms that would have protected farm worker's rights to petition for a union.
By Carlos M. Alcala (Special to the Journal On Latino Americans)

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Ignoring pleas from the Latino legislative caucus and farm workers, Governor Jerry Brown abandoned the Latino community and instead vetoed SB104,"The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act," which contained electoral reforms for free elections. Capitulating to the dictates of Agribusiness, Brown vetoed historic farm worker election reforms that would have corrected widespread election intimidation tactics and other improprieties against farm workers under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). Brown who once had a legacy that included walking proudly in stride with Cesar Chavez, today shuffles behind the growers.

Late last night, after his veto of "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act,"Governor Brown attempted to explain his veto by telephone to the UFW’s President, Arturo Rodriguez. Governor Brown refused his invitation to come out of his office to explain the veto to the throngs of waiting farm workers gathered outside the Governor’s office. Brown refused to address the farm workers, and eventually dismissively hung up on the UFW President. 

Advocates seeking fair elections for farm worker have consistently argued that California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act is broken and needs reforms to fulfill the promise of democratic elections free of intimidation and firings. The vetoed law would have allowed the state’s 400,000 farm workers the alternative to choose a union in the safety of their own home. If a simple majority, more than 50 percent, of workers sign the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.

Advocates insist that without election reform, farm workers cannot have free elections. Last week, women labor leaders including Maria Elena Durazo, SEIU Secretary Treasurer of Los Angeles, waited for five hours to meet with the Governor. In the end, a mere staffer was the only person who would greet them. One of the women who travelled from Delano to the Capitol each day included 80 year old Josephina Flores who had been shot seven times in 1968 by a grower’s supervisor when she advocated for the UFW. For the last twelve days, she had sported a different UFW tee shirt and talked of the need for free elections. Juan Flores, a Salinas farm worker for D”Arrigo wore the same thread bare UFW baseball cap for twelve days as he manned the human bill board surrounding the Capitol, hoping that his efforts would bring free elections to his farm. Juan explained in Spanish, “Without these protections we can never have free elections with less intimidation.”

Twelve days ago the California legislature passed the "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act" to reform the elections process for farm worker elections. The Governor had twelve days to allow the bill to become law or to veto the bill. Under the current system, agribusiness has used a variety of abusive practices to frustrate elections held at voting sites. These practices have included firing workers sympathizing with the United Farm Workers and employing labor contractors known to be against the UFW. These practices have frustrated the rights of farm workers to unionize. "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act" is a policy change that insures free elections that will not cost the state any more money, and in fact will save the state money by reducing costs.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill four times. Brown, who has been increasingly criticized for retaining Republican appointees and appointing Republican agency directors, followed Schwarzenegger’s lead and also vetoed the bill. The bill was opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association, the California Restaurant Association and the Western Growers Association.

For the last twelve days, farm workers have streamed into Sacramento in support of "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act," SB 104. For twelve days, hundreds of farm workers have lobbied their Legislature to fast in support of the "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act." On the sidewalk leading to the Capitol, a humble altar with a statue of the Virgin De Guadalupe surrounded by colorful flowers and red and black UFW flags waving in the wind set the back drop for the human billboard of women, children and men who travelled as far as six hundred miles from the fields of the Imperial Valley to press their case to their legislative representatives and their Governor. They held UFW flags and placards scrawled with words of support. They wore signs stating that they were “fasting for fair treatment of farm workers.” Passing cars honked in approval. Grassroots support for the farm workers runs deep. Twenty five thousand farm workers submitted post cards supporting the bill. Another 65,000 persons signed petitions of support for the bill.

The handiwork of UFW organizers including Lucy Boute, Roman Pinel, Patty Aviles, Giev Kashkooli of Los Angeles was evident everywhere. The UFW team coordinated daily activities for thousand of farm workers while simultaneously finding many new supporters. UFW Regional Directors from Salinas, Oxnard, Delano, and the Imperial Valley brought thousands of workers to Sacramento.

Hundreds of parishoners at Holy Cross Church located in the barrios of Broderick and Bryte welcomed the farm workers to their church on Sunday. Two days later, the women from Holy Cross, Frances Luna, Goya Villarreal, Martha Nakano, Cecilia Cornejo, Zury Magana, Elisa Rodriguez, and Blanca Valdez were cooking delicious brisket burritos for the farm workers. Angelica Tellechea and Norma Alcala of the Democratic Party’s Chicano Latino Caucus spent the night cooking for over 150 farm workers. A few days later, ladies from Guadalupe Church were also cooking meals for the farm workers.

Father Steve Avella of Marquette University, Father Antonio Medeiros of Holy Cross parish, Monsignor Edward Kavanaugh of St. Rose Church, Father Kiernan of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and Father Lino of Guadalupe parish took turns presiding over daily prayer vigils.

Giev Kashkooli, the UFW’s Vice President and Political Director, had great hopes that Brown would sign the Act due to strong legislative support. Twenty seven legislators including Assemblyman Luis Alejo, California Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg (author of SB 104), Assembly Speaker John Perez, and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, joined the fast. Bill Camp, a prominent labor leader also fasted in support of the bill. Supervisor Jim Provenza of Yolo County and City Councilman Mark Johannessen of West Sacramento joined the fast. Numerous Democratic Party heavyweights such as Nancy Pelosi and California’s Latino caucus had urged Governor Brown to sign the historic bill. There had even been indications that the Latino Legislative Caucus might stall the budget until the farm worker election reforms were approved. The Governor needed every Democratic legislator’s vote to pass the budget. Any one of the Democratic Party legislators could have abstained from voting on the California budget to force the Governor to allow reforms to the ALRB to proceed, but none did so. Rather, all Democratic legislators voted for the budget only hours before the Governor vetoed "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act."

Despite one thousand farm workers who had prayed at Masses outside Jerry Brown’s office, Brown last night explained the reasons that this time he was joining with agribusiness. Neither the fast, nor the prayers, nor their pleas were enough to overcome the political clout of the growers. The Governor simply succumbed to pressure from the growers. Although few growers count themselves in Brown’s political base, it was the growers for whom Brown cast his veto of "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act."

None of this was sufficient to overcome the influence of growers who supported Republican Meg Whitman. Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman in the 2010 gubernatorial election with the assistance of California’s Latino voters who voted overwhelmingly for Brown. According to some exit polls, as many as eighty percent of the Latino voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election voted for Brown. California’s farm workers are also overwhelmingly Latino. Brown’s veto drives a stake directly into the heart of his Latino base.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez reflected, “What never changes in politics is power. Governor Brown accepted the arguments made by the powerful agri-business lobby and rejected the cause of powerless farm workers.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for Wonderful Blog !


    Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and grocery chain magnate Charles E. Butt ( HEB ) hired one of Austin's most powerful lobbyists to oppose the "Sanctuary Cities". Bob Perry is Texas top Republican donor. Last year, he gave some $7 million, $2.5 million to Rick Perry.

    Lawmakers said business interests worried that the law would allow police to harass their workers. The construction and retail industries employ thousands of immigrants in Texas and across the nation.

    The testimony of high level law enforcement officials throughout the state and opposition by key Republican frunders such as the Butt family of HEB convinced key Repulicans in the house to block the bill in the house.

    Business lobby helps scuttle immigration curbs in Texas
    Business interests and law enforcement opposed bill
    Texas legislation less restrictive than Arizona's
    By Karen Brooks

    Some excerpts :


    Two powerful Texas businessmen joined the lobbying against the bill, legislative sources told Reuters.

    Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and grocery chain magnate Charles E. Butt hired one of Austin's most powerful lobbyists to oppose the legislation.

    Bob Perry has long been known as the top Republican donor in Texas. Last year alone, he gave some $7 million to political candidates, mainly Republicans, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. Some $2.5 million of that went to Governor Rick Perry. Bob Perry is not related to the governor.

    Butt, who owns the H-E-B grocery store chain, donated close to $1 million to political candidates on both sides of the aisle last year, according to the commission.

    "They had real reservations about it," Bill Miller, the lobbyist hired by the influential businessmen, told Reuters. "They wanted some changes made, and we expressed the reservations they had about it to members, which kind of slowed it down,"

    Miller would not say what those concerns were, and calls to homebuilder Perry for comment were not returned late Wednesday. But lawmakers said business interests worried that the law would allow police to harass their workers. The construction and retail industries employ thousands of immigrants in Texas and across the nation.

    Another factor in the bill's demise may have been opposition from Texas law enforcement groups.