Farm Board Powers Pruned
In Patty Newman's exposé of power abuse by the United Farm Workers and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in California ("Harvest of Power," Sept. 1983), she noted that the ALRB's power to impose "make whole" remedies may, for growers, be "the most devastating aspect" of California's farm-labor law. When a grower is found guilty of an unfair labor practice such as "bad-faith bargaining," she explained, the ALRB can order him to give back-wages and benefits to his employees, whether they were actually working or on strike. Moreover, the pro-union ALRB can calculate the wages and benefits from the time the charge was filed against the grower until the time the grower is found guilty, often a period of many years. In the interim, workers have moved on, and the UFW can then end up with the grower's make-whole payments. The federal labor laws that govern most employers and union employees in the country do not include any make-whole provisions, Newman noted.
A California appeals court issued a decision in April that may curb some of the worst excesses of the make-whole scandal in California. The case involved eight major growers who had been found guilty of bad-faith bargaining by the ALRB and ordered to pay an estimated $25 million in back wages and damages to workers. The growers contested the board decision in court. They argued that when they broke off negotiations in 1979 with the union and failed to seek a compromise, they were not illegally bargaining in "bad faith" but were instead engaged in "hard bargaining," which is perfectly legal.
If the idea of distinguishing "hard" from "bad-faith" bargaining sounds questionable, it is. The definition of bad-faith bargaining has been "somewhat vague," as pro-UFW Los Angeles Times reporter Harry Bernstein conceded. But at least the court ruled that the growers hadn't violated the law and, as Bernstein noted, the decision "could set a whole new standard" for defining bad-faith bargaining.
The final chapter is not yet written. The appeals court decision could be overturned by the state supreme court, which has a liberal reputation. If the decision stands, however, Bernstein observed, "it could substantially affect hundreds of cases in the future, and dramatically modify the make-whole remedy so furiously opposed by California growers."
Computing Benefits of Home Schooling
Last year, REASON's article "Home Schooling: Up from Underground" (Apr.) surveyed the widespread home-schooling movement in which thousands of parents in the United States are circumventing government school authorities in order to teach children at home. Dr. Raymond Moore of the Hewitt Research Foundation, a major source of information for REASON's article, estimates that "at least 250,000" children are now being taught at home. This estimate turned up in a recent New York Times feature on the progress of home schooling.
Increasingly, technology is facilitating the independence of home schoolers.
As reported in the Times, a number of families are using home computers as a teaching tool. One 11-year-old in Connecticut uses an Apple II about four hours a day for math drill practice, reading, and other subjects and spends two more hours with books and workbook exercises. His six-year-old brother uses both the Apple and a Texas Instruments 99-4A for reading skills and has been running programs since the age of 2.
James J. Alvino, publisher of the Gifted Children Newsletter, is enthusiastic about the potential for computers for talented children especially. He told the Times that computer work "allows them to move ahead at their own pace with virtually no restrictions."
And Christian Murphy of Altoona, Pennsylvania—a student at home—pointed out, "The computer is fun. It teaches you a lot of different things but doesn't shout at you. If you get something wrong, you just try it again; and if you're still wrong, it gives you the answer."
• Appropriate technology. A kind of low-tech version of Sam Cohen's nuclear wall for Israel ("Wall against War," March) can be found in the Sahara Desert. In 1980, the Moroccan government erected a long wall in the mineral-rich Western Sahara to hold off the 12,000-strong Polisario, a guerrilla group trying to establish an independent state in territory claimed by Morocco. Made of an 8- to 10-foot-high mount of dirt and sand, and protected by mines, barbed wire, and a 20-foot ditch, the 700-mile barrier has successfully repelled several Polisario tank assaults on the fortification, with the guerrilla forces suffering heavy losses. The Moroccan government is extending the wall even further.
• Honk if you love dereg. In January REASON reported on efforts to achieve transportation deregulation via the ballot box ("Alaska, Colorado: Grassroots Reform," p. 40). In Colorado, the deregulation campaign has won the endorsement of several key legislators from both major parties. The campaign aims to put an initiative on the November ballot, but it has already achieved a victory by indirection, according to Lori Massie of Coloradans for Free Enterprise. In April, worried state officials enacted legislation that partially deregulates household movers in Colorado (four similar bills died in the legislature last year). "Our campaign has changed slightly as a result. We're now going after different constituencies—cab companies, jitneys, other kinds of ground transportation," Massie noted. "We need to finish the job." Meanwhile, the Alaska initiative to deregulate transportation and abolish the state's Transportation Commission has officially qualified for the ballot.