September 22, 2015
By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel
The United Farm Workers were celebrating Sept.17 after a California judge citing unfair labor practices voided an election held in 2013 at Gerawan Farming Inc., one of the nation’s largest growers of nectarines, peaches, and grapes. "The misconduct created an environment which would have made it impossible for true employee free choice when it came time to vote," wrote Mark Soble, an administrative law judge for the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Soble held that Gerawan had given employee Silvia Lopez time off work to campaign against the UFW, that Lopez physically blocked workers from the Central Valley farm while she was collecting signatures on a petition to reject the UFW, and that she had unlawfully received $20,000 from a fruit growers association affiliated with Gerawan to finance the anti-union campaign. The dispute goes back to 1992, when the UFW began to represent farmworkers at Gerewan but was unable to negotiate a contract. Gerawan’s lawyer says the company expects to appeal the ruling.