Card checks, unions and guest workers
July 6, 2011
California agriculture has some real possible tough sledding coming down the pike this summer. Revised card check, E-Verify, new regulations from the State Water Quality Control Board and Air Resources Board, and increased audits by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) just to name a few.
Many of you probably think “way to go” but standing in front of the bull’s-eye most of us in agriculture are thinking of the old Charley Brown song and the part – “Why is everybody always picking on Me?
This Card Check idea is completely out of wack with our American ideals. It passed both the California Senate and Assembly. To his credit, it was just surprising vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle even urged Brown to veto it because they reported it only benefits the union and not the farm workers.
This one-sided law would have allowed unions to wait in the fields, go to homes, or anywhere else farm laborers conjugate and sign up the people to form a union. Up to now, after petition signup, it has always been decided by the secret ballot process whereby the employee cannot be harassed by either side on which way to vote. That would have all changed with this law because a farmer would have to recognize a union just from the submission of petition cards signed by a simple majority of employees.
You can not tell me that these workers weren’t going to be pressured into signing after encountering these bounty hunters, probably fairly intimidating, who know where they and their families live. There were penalties in this new proposed law for employers if they tried to interfere with farm labor organizing efforts but none for the unions that might intimidate or coerce farm workers into signing up.
Once signed with the farm worker’s address, which is a requirement to be on the petition, this information would also become public record and be on file with the State. That alone might keep some from signing up because ICE would also know where they live. If many of the farm workers in California are illegal, why and how can they even legally sign these petitions?
In any case, it sure puts them into an unnecessary tough position and against everything the Agricultural Labor Relations Law signed by Brown in 1975 has been about – a legal and fair secret up or down vote on union representation without fear or pay back.
This was a short-cut last ditch attempt by the United Farm Workers who have been having trouble signing up workers. Along with E-verify of I-9 employment forms, which is a data bank which has already shown serious flaws, it would have put added pressure on employers to serve as immigration enforcers with nowhere to turn. “
“Damn if you do and damn if you don’t.”
Once again, it brings up the need for secure borders and a guest worker program that brings these workers out of the shadows to work in the fields under the protection of the government.
Along with no guarantees for citizenship, they will be held accountable for taxes, driver’s licenses, insurance, place of residence and work, and not getting into trouble or face a quick ride to the border. It would let them go safely back and forth across the border and in time, for many, have enough money to stay home and start a business like many of the Braceros did decades ago.
Mexico needs these comparatively cash-rich entrepreneurs to come home and start businesses.
It was only after the Bracero program was dissolved, and the border closed, did the workers start bringing their families across the border causing some of the social problems we have today. These farm workers would much rather live amongst their families and friends in Mexico and Central America, even if just seasonally, where their wages ($10 plus an hour here versus $1 an hour or less there) buys so much more. A guest worker program fills the needs on both sides of the border.
Don’t start with me that we would be creating a second class of workers because that is what we have now. With an official guest worker program that would cease and these workers and employers would be held accountable. They would have option to go home anytime they want. Plus, we will know who they are, where they live, who is responsible for them, and tax them to offset their social costs.
With all the unemployment in California, there are very few in that group looking for work in the fields that you drive by daily. I can tell you it is a .001 percent increase if that much. Face it; Americans will not do the work! Without these fine hard working family- oriented workers, your food prices would be astronomical.
Reforma, a Mexico City newspaper, did an article taking information from Mexican state and federal authorities, National Human Rights Commission, and newspaper articles reported that since 2007 at least 100,000 illegal immigrants (more than twice the size of San Luis Obispo) from Latin America were abducted and disappeared on their way through Mexico to our border. There was over 150 in one mass grave near my grandmother’s (Estrada) ancestral home outside of Durango, Mexico.
These numbers do not even take into account the toll of Mexicans trying to cross the border and then disappeared thanks to the cartels controlling the border. Imagine the fear for these people, just trying to feed their families, that are accosted on both sides of the border by these thugs who beat, rob, rape, and kill. Then if they make it through that gauntlet, they still have to cross the hostile desert.
Read Joseph Wambaugh’s true story “Lines and Shadows“ to get an idea of what really happens at the border and this was written 30 years ago! It is time to make sense out of this mess and create at least some sort of a bridge to let in and control these workers of whom we are all so dependent. The sad truth is that nobody has the guts and nothing is going to be done for at least two years because of the upcoming elections. This problem should have been taken up before health care. Look for more of my take as a farmer on immigration.
As many of you know, we have trolley tours in the vineyard usually on Sundays in the summer after Schoolhouse Rock or anytime we can at least fill up half of the trolley. The idea is to get folks out to the vineyard and show them how, why, and what we do to produce fine wines. It constantly amazes me, I guess since our family has been doing this farming gig for over 160 years in California, that some people have never been on a farm nor have any idea where their food comes from.
After reading part of the following Letter to the Editor, we need to promote more farm visits in agriculture because I fear this person is representative of way too many consumers. It started out in part writing about a controversy in San Francisco about the selling of live chickens near Chinatown and generated into this: “To all you hunters who kill animals for food, shame on you; you ought to go to the store and buy the meat that was made there, where no animals were harmed.” – nuff said!
“We could learn a lot from crayons… Some are sharp; some are pretty; and some are dull. Some have weird names; and all are different colors: but they all have to live in the same box.” – Anonymous.
John is a 6th generation California farmer whose family has been continuously farmed in California for 160 years starting in the Sacramento Delta in 1850. John now concentrates on farming 45 acres of wine grapes in the Avila Valley and Paso Robles producing Salisbury Vineyard wines.