UFW, Unions & Organized Labor, Wages, Working Conditions

UFW Negotiates New Contract with Gallo

From PressDemocrat.com, “UFW negotiates new contract with Gallo” by Nathan Halverson, 28 Mar 2011.

The United Farm Workers has negotiated a three-year contract with E&J Gallo that will boost pay for 370 Sonoma County vineyard workers.

The contract, which is expected to be signed today, is the latest victory for the local UFW chapter that appeared to have been ousted from Gallo vineyards less than two years ago.

“It’s emotional,” said Casimiro Alvarez, UFW’s regional director in Santa Rosa. “We are happy because we’ve been working hard with the workers to explain to them the importance of the union contract.”

The new contract includes a hike in the base pay and a bonus for workers, replacing the one that ended this month.

The former contract was approved by Gallo vineyard workers in May 2007 and overturned just two months later by employees who were frustrated with a 2 percent union fee on their wages.

The vote cost the UFW its largest contract on the North Coast and threatened to weaken its influence in Wine Country.

But in November 2009 a state labor board reinstated the UFW, ruling that Gallo illegally sought to influence the 2007 election and hindered the union’s efforts to communicate with workers.

A previous decertification vote in 2003 was also thrown out by the board, which found the company had allowed its labor contractors to aid in a petition drive that triggered the union’s ouster.

Both sides found common ground in the new contract.

The new contract provides workers a range of benefits, including vacation time, holidays and a $600 annual bonus.

“We are pleased that Gallo and the UFW were able to work together to enter into a three-year contract that was ratified by our employees,” Matt Gallo, vice president of coastal operations for Gallo, said in a statement Monday.

The new contract mirrors the former contract in many regards, but includes an increase in the pay structure.

The minimum pay for the least experienced workers increases 2 percent, from $9.82 an hour to $10.02 an hour. Those with more experience and skills, such as tractor operators, also had their base hourly rate increased. The base pay of the highest hourly tier will be almost $16 an hour under the new contract.

Workers will also receive extra pay if they are asked to work in the rain, Alvarez said.

Gallo and the union began negotiating the new contract on March 2 and reached a tentative agreement on March 16. A few days later workers voted to accept it, Alvarez said.

“Now we are going to sign the permanent agreement on Tuesday,” he said.

Read at: PressDemocrat.com, “UFW negotiates new contract with Gallo” by Nathan Halverson, 28 Mar 2011.

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