Farmworkers Protest Against Union

Workers from "Gerawan Farms" protested in Visalia saying their rights are being violated. The year-long fight is over whether the "United Farm Workers" should represent the workers.

The protest was held in front of the "Agriculture Labor Relations Board" office. The workers say the ALRB is not doing anything about thousands of signatures gathered to get rid of the UFW.

"I'm like the way they treat me at "Gerawan Farms" and I think my co-workers there agree with me, that's why they're here," says "Gerawan Farms" worker Silvia Lopez.

Silvia Lopez is leading the fight to get rid of the UFW "Gerawan Farms." She's been fighting to get a petition that has thousands of signatures counted by the ALRB.

"I'd like to say we're not stupid, we're farmworkers but we're not stupid," adds Lopez, "We know what we want and we know our rights."

Lopez says the problem she and all the workers at the protest have with the UFW is the union was voted in to represent "Gerawan" workers in 1990. She says that the union didn't do anything, until about a year ago when it said that it would take 3% out of workers' paychecks.

"The ALRB and the union are trying to intimidate the workers and that's affecting us a lot," says Lopez, "A lot of people are saying if the union comes in they are going to quit."

An attorney for the ALRB says the petition has not been counted because they believe they have proof that "Gerawan" instigated getting rid of the union and coerced workers.

"ALRB general counsel has issued a series of complaints on behalf of the State of California for a series of violations against the law, series violations of the law," says Arcelia Hurtado, an attorney for the ALRB.

Hurtado also tells KMPH Fox 26 News that the signatures will not be counted until a hearing in front of judge where both sides will present their cases.

"It's in the the public interest for all workers, whether they support the union or they don't support the union, we want them to exercise their rights free from coercion and intimidation," adds Hurtado, "That is our job on behalf of the State of California. We have no say in if union should stay or if the union should go."

The hearing to determine whether "Gerawan" workers can fire the UFW will be on September 29th in Fresno.