California farm workers voted by massive margin to leave union (but nobody told them)

Fasten your seatbelts for one of the strangest union stories to come over the transom in a while. Back in 2013 (which is five years ago, for those who skipped math class), out in Fresno, California, the workers at farming corporation Gerawan Farming held a vote to determine whether or not they would decertify their membership in United Farm Workers (UFW), the union which had been representing them. The vote was held, and then… nothing. The union refused to release the results and even convinced a court arbiter that they could do so. They went on acting as the worker’s collective bargaining organization until May of this year.

Finally, after the case was heard in a state appeals court, the union was forced to release the results. It turns out that the workers had voted 1,098 to 197 to leave the union. And UFW had simply sat on the results, ignored the vote and continued collecting dues from them. (Free Beacon)

California farm workers voted out their union by a 5-1 margin in 2013, but state regulators withheld those results until a federal court ordered them released.

Employees at Fresno-based Gerawan Farming voted overwhelmingly to cut ties with the United Farm Workers union in a decertification election five years ago. The extent of the union’s defeat, however, was not known until Tuesday when the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) finally released the results. The ballots cast showed that 1,098 employees voted to leave the union, while only 197 voted to stay—a margin in excess of the 640 ballots the union sought to disqualify, which played a major role in the ALRB decision not to tally the vote.

Gerawan said allowing the public and workers to know the results of the secret ballot election gives a clear picture of a workforce at odds with union leaders, leaving “no doubt what our employees want.” The company called on the ALRB to affirm the right of its workers to decertify UFW as its collective bargaining representative.

At this point, the issue still isn’t settled because all the court decision did was force the union to officially tally the votes and release the results. The court pulled no punches, saying that the union’s decision to withhold the results, “would appear to be either arbitrary or punitive (or both).”

For their part, the union claims that the election was “tainted” because anti-union workers were allowed to campaign on site during work hours while pro-union workers were not. (The company appears to dispute this claim.) But either way, there’s not much in the way of campaigning that could produce such a warped result. It was a five-to-one margin of victory in favor of kicking the union out and finding new representation. How in the world do you find the solid brass cojones to take those ballots and stuff them down a hole for half a decade?

Particularly given recent Supreme Court rulings defining the rights of workers to control their membership, dues, and political speech, one has to wonder if a lawsuit isn’t in order. If the union kept collecting dues for five years after losing the election so badly, shouldn’t the workers be entitled to have all of that dues money returned to them? Perhaps with interest?

We’ve seen thuggish behavior from unions before, particularly when dealing with lower skill level, low wage workers. But this is like something out of a mafia movie. Rather than union representation, what they need right now is a good lawyer.