Gerawan Farming is a family-owned farming operation based in Fresno, California. They’ve been in business for decades, becoming a successful and highly-staffed enterprise. Their wages are extraordinarily high; they haven’t had any problems with the state employment agencies. They even have a program to train their employees in English in partnership with Fresno Pacific University. They offer employees the ability to send their children to attend private Catholic school.
But now they’re under assault from the United Farm Workers union.
Twenty years ago, the UFW started a local at Gerawan. It was certified by the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board, but then became completely inactive, failing to negotiate with management or serve its members. For two decades, employees at Gerawan didn’t even know they were supposedly unionized. By now, 95% of all employees at Gerawan weren’t even working at Gerawan when the union was certified.
This year, the UFW has resurfaced, demanding union dues from Gerawan’s workers, who had no idea they were union members. When the Fresno Bee asked where the union had been for the last two decades, UFW claimed that they had abdicated their responsibility because Gerawan forced them out. There is no evidence to support that claim, and so Gerawan is suing the UFW for defamation.
Their defamation case is strong. The UFW took to the pages of The Business Journal to accuse Gerawan of violating union law. But no such violations have ever taken place, forcing the UFW to back down and claim they were misquoted. As Gerawan points out in its legal complaint, “The Union has been unwilling to explain its nearly two-decade absence. It has not met its obligation to the Gerawan workers. It abandoned them. Its leadership was asleep at the wheel.”
But when it comes to getting rid of the absentee union, California law favors the UFW, even when they do nothing for their members and show up at whim to bilk them of their hard-earned dollars. The current legal process forces employers into mediation or arbitration with the union, as adjudicated by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The mediator/arbitrator can simply impose a solution from above, including hiring and wage practices. The ALRB then approves the solution. The employees have no say at all in the labor agreement.
It’s no wonder businesses are fleeing states like California. With labor practices like this, it’s a wonder any business can turn a profit – or any worker can sleep safely at night knowing that their paycheck won’t be robbed by a union, swooping from the sky to grab its unearned piece of the pie.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). Follow him at Twitter @benshapiro.