Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have allowed California farm workers to seek union representation using a card-check system that was opposed by the farming industry.
Although the California Assembly and Senate passed the legislation after a summer of wrangling over details, Schwarzenegger spiked the bill, saying it “unnecessarily compromises the workers' right to privacy protected by the existing secret-ballot process.”
If Schwarzenegger had signed it, it would have given farm workers a new way to unionize—through a secret- ballot election overseen by a neutral mediator.
Had the bill become law, it would have allowed workers to file a petition with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) asking for a mediated election. The ALRB then would have obtained a list of workers from the employer, shared it with the union seeking representation, appointed a mediator to oversee the election and notified employees of the employer named in the petition and the rules of conduct for the election.
Under the bill, employees then would have mailed or delivered their ballots to the ALRB asking for immediate representation or for a traditional ballot box election. If more than half of the eligible employees voted for representation, the mediator would have asked the ALRB to certify the election immediately. If more than half of the eligible workers asked for a ballot box election, the mediator would have asked the ALRB to hold an election.
The bill was backed by the United Farm Workers. Opponents included the Agricultural Council of California, California Grape & Tree Fruit League, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Association of Winegrape Growers, California Grocers Association, California Chamber of Commerce and Western United Dairymen.