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Newsom changes course and signs Biden-backed farmworker bill

Newsom made no mention of the fact that he said he could not support the bill in its current form just before it passed late in the legislative session. His office said it has reached a “supplemental agreement” with the UFW and the California Federation of Labor on future legislation that would allow labor regulators to “adequately protect worker privacy.”

The agreement with the governor’s office eliminates a provision of the bill that would allow union elections by mail. In its place, workers will be allowed to join the UFW by signing a card, a system long sought after by organizers.

Newsom previously said he opposes mail-in voting for security reasons, although California uses it to allow the public to vote in statewide elections.

The agreement would also set a ceiling of 75 certified union elections per year.

The fate of Assembly Bill 2183 has captured national attention in recent weeks after Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats supported the measure.

The outpouring of support came after a spokesperson for Newsom’s office released a statement last month that said the governor could not “support an untested mail-in election process that lacks key provisions to protect the integrity of the election”. His office released this message the night before thousands of marches organized by United Farm Workers reached the Capitol. newsom refused to meet personally with the union the following day.

The embarrassing rebuke from the highest levels of the Democratic Party landed as Newsom wades further in national politics, clashing with Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida.

State law requires farmworkers to vote by secret ballot in person at a designated polling place, a system backed by Chavez and UFW leaders when farmworkers were first guaranteed the right to unionize in 1975. to state law is necessary because the number of agricultural workers covered by collective agreements has fallen since the peak of the 1970s.

Less than 1% of California’s 800,000 farmworkers are unionized, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a fact the bill’s supporters associate with workers’ fears of being kicked out for supporting union efforts. . The share of undocumented agricultural workers has risen from 13% in the mid-1970s to over 70% today.

Farmers and business groups opposed the bill, dismissing it as an attempt by UFW to increase membership.

“The California Farm Bureau is deeply disappointed with Governor Newsom’s decision to sign the flawed union organizing legislation,” California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said in a statement. “Farm Bureau stands with California’s agricultural workers and will continue to defend their right to make unconstrained choices when it comes to union representation.”

The Democratic governor argued that while he supports expanding union access in agriculture, mail-in voting rules should reflect federal standards set by the National Labor Relations Board. This system requires that employers be notified in advance of the election date, which supporters of the bill say would put undocumented workers at risk of deportation before voting.

AB 2183, as currently drafted, will give agricultural companies the option of signing an agreement not to interfere with a union’s attempt to organize and allow postal elections, or to be subject to a process in which workers could vote simply by signing a union representation card. This first option will be deleted once the planned amendment is adopted.

Newsom had little publicly revealed his thinking before signing the bill. Just three hours earlier, at a press conference in San Francisco, he had deflected questions on the subject.

“I have four hundred bills on my desk and I have less than 72 hours,” Newsom said. “And so we’ll be working on these many other bills, and then the next one, when I get back to Sacramento.”


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