Legislation, Unions & Organized Labor

UFW Beckons Central Coast Marchers for Rally Sunday in Sacramento

From TheCalifornian.com, Sunita Vijayan, 1 Sept 2011.

During a news conference on Thursday in Salinas, Efren Barajas of the United Farm Workers holds up a list of people planning to travel to the state Capitol on 30 buses Sunday provided by the UFW. Conner Jay/Salinas Californian

During a news conference on Thursday in Salinas, Efren Barajas of the United Farm Workers holds up a list of people planning to travel to the state Capitol on 30 buses Sunday provided by the UFW. Conner Jay/Salinas Californian

United Farm Workers union leaders in Salinas are hoping to draw hundreds of supporters from the Central Coast to join them in a march and rally Sunday at the state Capitol.

The UFW is seeking improved wages and a change in the state rules for organizing farmworkers through the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.

The union is pressing the governor to support the legislation, known as Senate Bill 104. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in June, to the dismay of UFW leaders and members who had stood outside his office for hours anticipating a signature for approval.

In 1975, Brown signed the bill that allowed farmworkers to unionize using the secret ballot. But in his veto of SB 104, he said he was concerned it would alter the framework of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. A modified version of the SB 104 and a companion bill are being reintroduced in the Legislature.

This time, the UFW is pulling out one of its more effective tools for rallying public support — the epic march.

Farmworkers began the 13-day, 167-mile pilgrimage up the Central Valley from Madera to Sacramento on Aug. 23. The march ends Sunday at the State Capitol.

Some Salinas-area UFW members have been on the trek, according to Maria Machuca, UFW spokeswoman.

On Thursday, about a dozen UFW leaders and organizers gathered at the union office in Salinas to make final preparations for Sunday’s trip to Sacramento.

The union is providing bus service for the people from the Central Coast who want to join the marchers on the final two-mile leg of the journey on Sunday. They are scheduled to reach the governor’s office at noon.

Efren Barajas, vice president of the UFW, said 30 buses have been chartered to chauffeur an estimated 1,500 farmworkers, their family members and supporters from King City to Salinas to Watsonville.

The purpose of the march is to pressure Gov. Jerry Brown to sign into law two proposals,” Barajas said. “One is the overtime for farmworkers. We want to change it from 10 to eight hours. The farmworkers are the only group who still [must] work 10 hours to get overtime and we think the overtime [rule] should apply to all workers.”

The second proposal, he said, is to make it easier for farmworkers to join a union. The UFW wants to end the long-held secret ballot voting system in the fields, which their leaders claim is being abused by the growers. The union wants to replace it with a “card check” system, which would allowworkers to approve a union simply by signing a petition. Growers object to it because they say it can be manipulated by the union.

Jim Bogart, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, said that, while the UFW has the right to march and express itself, he doesn’t think the bill is a good idea.

Bogart also pointed out a potential issue with one of the proposals. “With respect to changing the overtime law which, interestingly enough, California right now is the only state that has overtime compensation that extends to farmworkers,” he said. “With respect to amending the law … that’s going to harm farmworkers because they’ll be working less hours.” Barajas said he has a list of 2,000 people who have signed up to join the march. He said at least 90 buses are slated to travel from the Central Coast, Napa-Sonoma and Oxnard-Ventura County for Sunday’s event.

“That’s a big effort that we’re making, but that’s also a big change [in the laws] that we want to make,” Barajas said.

Source: TheCalifornian.com, “UFW beckons Central Coast marchers for rally Sunday in Sacramento” by Sunita Vijayan, 1 Sept 2011.

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