Oxnard, Calif. (December 17, 2003) —The General Counsel of California’s Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB) has filed a complaint against the United Farm Workers union for unlawfully ordering mass firings of more than 150 Oxnard Coastal Berry employees who refused to join the union.
With the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Francisco Alzazar, Bertha Ambriz, Bertha Andrade, Ella Carranza, Alma Rose Arredondo, and Manuel Mena filed the class-action unfair labor practice charges against the UFW union in June 2001. Coastal Berry, which employs approximately 750 workers, is the world’s largest strawberry producer.
“These employees so disdained the notion of joining and supporting the UFW union, that they decided they would rather lose their jobs,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “Though the wheels of justice have moved far too slow, we are encouraged that the ALRB has finally decided to take action to defend these victims.”
In May 2000, by order of an ALRB packed with three one-day appointments by Governor Gray Davis, UFW union officials gained monopoly bargaining power over employees at Coastal Berry. In March 2001, Coastal Berry entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the UFW union. Within days, UFW officials demanded that all Coastal Berry workers join the union and sign payroll deduction cards that would have allowed union officials to seize dues from their paychecks. More than 150 workers refused to comply with the UFW union’s illegal ultimatum and were fired at the union officials’ demand.
The ALRB complaint states that UFW union officials unlawfully demanded that the berry pickers pay full union dues as a condition of employment, violating several Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Chicago Teachers v. Hudson. UFW union officials also unlawfully failed to inform employees of their rights to object to paying for non-collective bargaining activities (such as politics), and the right to challenge the union’s fee calculations before an impartial decision maker.
Foundation attorneys are seeking full remedies (including back pay) for their clients and all employees similarly situated. If the union’s officials do not settle the case, they will now face a trial.
California State Senator Tom McClintock (R-19th District), whose legislative district includes Oxnard, weighed in on behalf of the workers. "The National Right to Work Foundation should be commended for representing the hard-working Californians that have been denied their jobs due to politics. Ironically, the UFW claims to be for workers, yet it turned more than 150 workers away from the fields where they have labored for years.”