Your story on a Western Innovator published July 19 strongly suggests that signing a United Farm Workers contract is the best way to show trust and respect for farmworkers. That would come as a big surprise to nearly all farmworkers who worked under the union.
In California now fewer than 1% of farmworkers are represented by UFW because virtually every vote in the last few years has been to decertify rather than certify the union.
Dairy farm employees recently gathered near Sunnyside in Eastern Washington in mid-July to hear from Sylvia Lopez and Francisco Cerritos. Sylvia is a farmworker at the Gerawan farm in the Central Valley. After years of having 3% of her paycheck taken by the union while receiving no help from them, she led the 5,000 farmworkers there to participate in a union vote. For five years the California Agricultural Labor Relations board under control of the UFW refused to allow the votes to be counted. Finally, under court order they were counted and 90% of workers voted to leave the union. In past years when workers voted, it was to vote the union out, not in.
Mr. Cerritos informed the dairy farm employees gathered about the inner workings of the UFW. For over 10 years he served as a UFW “submarine” infiltrating farms targeted for union action. But he discovered that employees working for these farms were treated much better than he and his fellow UFW employees, so he started a union of UFW workers and was promptly fired. He sued on behalf of other employees and won a $1.3 million settlement for back pay and missed breaks.
In Washington, the UFW is not bothering to ask workers if they want union representation. Instead they try to force farmers to sign contracts by filing legal action, getting the media to broadcast their false accusations, and pressuring major dairy customers. Mr. Cochrane may believe that a union contract shows a commitment to his employees. We wonder if his employees agree. California farmworkers definitely do not.
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