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It is possible to argue that what is wrong in California is the administration of the ALRA, not the law itself. That it is the bias of the Board and its staff that is the core of the problem. But it can be more convincingly argued that as long as the law itself gives farm labor unions in the state dangerously precedent-setting power, it is the law that is the core of the problem and it is the law that ultimately must be changed.
Three Clemson University economists, Rex Cottle, Hugh Macaulay, and Bruce Yandle, argue in Lubor and Property Rights in California (the new book referred to earlier):
One can view the CALM [California ALRA] as an attempt to extend the NLRA to agricultural workers. But if viewed in a historical context of codetermination, the CALM becomes much more than a law allowing fair labor practices within that state. Indeed, the CALRA can be viewed as a movement to socialize the agriculture industry and to redistribute profits from farmers of land and capital to organized labor.
If someone asks you who wrote the labor law: the answer is Cesar Chavez,” declared a union official at the union’s 1982 convention. And the role of Chavez and the UFW in shaping and pushing through the ALRA in 1975 (and defeating numerous legislative attempts to reform it) is widely acknowledged. Whether or not codetermination was the intent of Chavez and the UFW in securing the passage of the ALRA, the effect of the legislation is certainly to take California agriculture a long way down that road. And that effect, in fact, is not inconsistent with the goals of Cesar Chavez and many of his supporters.
Proponents and opponents of codetermination represent two conflicting sets of philosophical and economic ideas:
whether the right of ownership (private property), freedom of contract (voluntary exchange), and limited government (government enforcing the rules as umpire, not making the rules as dictator) are the appropriate principles of political organization.
Consider, then, Chavez’s belief that the grower is rich at the expense of the oppressed worker. For example, speaking at the UFW’S convention in 1981 he declared:
I would not take one cup of coffee from a grower. . . . There’s not a good one. I hate them. A few presents, a little talk, then the noose. That’s how capitalism works.
And consider that Chavez, in image, deed, and rhetoric, is the perfect student of the socialist Saul Alinsky, under whose apostles he studied and worked for over a decade before embarking on his career as a farmworker union leader at the age of 35. He cut his social-organizer’s teeth on the words of Alinsky, a self-professed radical:
Radicals want to advance from the jungle of laissez faire capitalism to a world worthy of the name of human civilization. They hope for a future where the means of economic production will be owned by all of the people instead of just a comparative handful.
The radical places human rights far above property rights.
And consider that among Chavez’s close allies and biggest supporters are Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, whose California political machine, the Campaign for Economic Democracy, is the organized expression of the socialist escape from the “jungle of laissez faire capitalism” and private property.
We’ve got to establish a socialistic economic structure that will liwit private, profit-oriented businesses. Ultimately we must concern ourselves with pulling out by its roots the decadence that controls our culture, the profit motive that controls our culture. But you can’t do that unless you have power.