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MY. Munoz: The union produces manufactured witnesses. . . . we tell the union that we need witnesses for this; they produce witnesses, and they tell us exactly what they need to say. Some of them may be legitimate.
It is hardly surprising, in the light of this record, that California’s farmers have been complaining bitterly about pro-UFW bias in the ALRB. The UFW has consistently been the initiator of over 90 percent of the unfair labor practice charges that the ALRB deems worthy of following up with legal complaints. And once complaints are issued, growers hold little hope of ever proving themselves innocent of UFW charges, regardless of the facts.
It would be impossible to list all the unfair labor practices of which a grower can be found guilty. I interviewed one grower who, to comply with the ALRB requirement that he provide the union with a list of all his employees along with their current home addresses and phone numbers, had xeroxed the information from his employee payroll cards. He was served a ULP charge because three of his employees had listed a post office box as their residence address. He called the three employees into his office, but they refused to give him a home address, explaining that they didn’t want to have their families harassed or intimidated by UFW organizers. At the grower’s request they appeared in front of ALRB officials and explained their refusal. The ALRB agents stuck by their issuance of a ULP.
In contrast, ULP charges against the UFW are frequentlydismissed. One ex- ample occurred in connection with the 1981 Cattle Valley Farms strike when the workers were picketing Peter Solomon because they wanted out of the UFW.
The law explicitly protects such worker activities (not just union activities) from surveillance, particularly intimidating surveillance. Yet while these workers were picketing the entrance to the farm, a car of UFW union men pulled up and one man leaned out of the window and started taking pictures. One of the workers grabbed his camera and took pictures of the UFW man taking pictures of their “protected” activities. These pictures were deemed not to be sufficient proof of “unlawful surveillance” in the ALRB’S investigation of a ULP charge filed against the union by the workers. Yet the union has made several ULP charges against Solomon for unlawful surveillance, and these have been deemed worthy of going to trial even though they are based solely on allegations that Solomon or one of his supervisors was seen near the workers when they reportedly were talking about union affairs.
That the ALRB has promoted the UFW even at the expense of farm workers is most evident in “decertification” cases, where employees are attempting to opt out of the UFW.
The ALRB conducts an extensive, multi-language worker education effort. In interviews with field workers, I have found that to many of them the ALRB agents are not unlike the FBI, INS, Uncle Sam-the United States Government, all in capital letters. so when ALRB agents come into the fields to conduct “worker education” meetings on how they can join a union (usually at harvest time, when the crews are at their yearly peak, including illegals), many of the workers take this as government telling them to join the union.
The ALRB’S effort to communicate is ostensibly designed to assist workers not only in voting in a union but also in voting out a union should they become disillusioned with the union’s efforts and authority over them. Yet in a 68-page English/Spanish handbook distributed by the ALRB to farm workers, 23 pages are devoted to describing how to vote in a union, but there is not even one sentence on how to vote out a union.
I have interviewed a number of farm workers who had attempted to decertify the UFW. Invariably there is an air of tension during the interviews despite my promising not to use their names.
In one such interview there were about 20 workers (most spoke at least some English, some spoke it quite well), and I asked them to start at the beginning and tell me how they went about trying to get a decertification election held.
We went down to their office [the local ALRB officeJ to get the paper so we could get the names signed on it [signatures on a petition to have the ALRB hold a decertfication election], and they said they didn’t have them, that we should come back in a few weeks. We did and they got us the paper and [we] got the names on it. When we went back, they told us we had used the wrong paper. But we used the one they gave us. They gave us a different one to do over again, and then they asked us why we wanted to get out of the union and who else wanted to and questions like that.
There was mutual agreement, “Yeah, that’s right.”
Their story did not surprise me-I had been told of it in other interviews, and other reporters have turned up the same pattern. (In a bizarre incident recently, Neal Templin of the Imperial Valley Press reported the complaints of farm workers at a citrus ranch that the local ALRB office had refused to hold a decertification election despite their filing of a petition. The day after the article was printed, the UFW filed a ULP charge against the reporter, claiming that he was an “agent” of the employer and was attempting to interfere with the workers’ rights.)
I asked the ALRB how many decertification elections have actually been held in nearly eight years under the ALRA. There have been only five or six. It is my guess that UFW intimidation accounts for this as much as ALRB foot-dragging.
After the workers I was interviewing had described their attempts to file a petition, one of them added: “UFW guys there [in the ALRB office]-they’re always in there. They drive around with them [ALRB agents] in their cars [state cars] all the time.”