Among the farmworkers and their advocates who rallied in 13 California cities last week in support of legislation giving laborers more choices in how they can vote in their union elections was Manuel Gonzalez. He told Vallejo Times-Herald the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act is important to him because he’s already faced retribution from his previous employer for union organizing.
“If I vote in front of the supervisor, I’m sure that they’re going to retaliate against me,” he told the outlet. The legislation would expand union election voting, including through mail. “We would like to have the same system as the politicians in California, like last year, when Gov. Gavin Newsom faced the recall and people voted via mail,” Gonzalez continued. “We’re asking for the exact same thing.”
RELATED STORY: César Chávez Day rallies urge Gov. Newsom to support Agricultural Labor Voting Choice Act
Farmworkers have tried to meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom, who disappointingly vetoed a version of the legislation last year. “This year we asked Gov. Newsom to honor Cesar Chavez Day by meeting with the farm workers carrying on Cesar’s work, but our request was declined,” United Farm Workers tweeted last month. Per Cal Matters, Newsom and his family are “on vacation in Central and South America.”
Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos Elections’ The Downballot podcast with David Nir and David Beard
But like The Los Angeles Times reports, farmworkers and their advocates have been pressuring the governor for months for the same right available to many other Californians. “Currently other non-agricultural unions covered by the National Labor Relations Act—the federal labor law that excludes farmworkers and domestic workers—already have alternative voting options during a union election,” Cal Matters said.
Nor has it been lost on farmworkers and advocates that Newsom vetoed a form of voting that helped secure his landslide victory against a right-wing recall last year.
”The governor was voted in by people who voted by mail,” San Francisco Labor Council’s Kim Tavaglione told local CBS affiliate KPIX. “Farmworkers have never been allowed to vote by mail. Big Ag has always fought it.” United Farm Workers (UFW) previously noted “the 50 billion dollar agricultural industry has strong opposition” to the bill. Big Ag won that round, but the fight continued on César Chávez Day in cities including Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose.
As previously noted, Newsom cited “various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards” in vetoing last year’s bill, The Sacramento Bee reported. But UFW Director of Strategic Campaigns Elizabeth Strater calls the legislation “pretty straight forward,” Cal Matters said. “It’s to extend to farmworkers a more modernized, flexible choice when it comes to how they vote under union elections.”
Strater noted to Vallejo Times-Herald the unique circumstances facing many farmworkers, who may have a more difficult time being able to separate their own time from work time.
“Farm employers have a lot of control over what farmworkers do,” Strater told the outlet. “They’re not only working at the worksite, but they may be living in housing provided for by the employer or transported in vehicles owned by the employer. When you have this level of control over someone’s life, it’s obviously a very intimidating thing to participate in a union campaign and say we want a shot at controlling some of our lives ourselves.”
UFW has noted that the reintroduced legislation has garnered even more legislative support. Assembly member and bill author Mark Stone said the bill has the support of 50 lawmakers. It’s an issue of labor rights, but also of fairness. Farmworker and union member Lourdes Cardenas told Cal Matters that Newsom “asked for votes by mail, that’s why he’s still in office. Why can’t we have the same rights?”
Click here to send a message asking Gov. Newsom to support the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. ¡Si, se puede!
Padilla: 'Fundamentally wrong' to deem undocumented workers essential yet deny them protections
Thousands of seasonal farmworkers will get their much-deserved raises after all
'At no point do we stop working,' farmworkers say amid historic heat wave