Tue, Aug


GUEST COMMENTARY - Last night a crowd of farmworkers, UFW leaders, and Democratic legislators gathered in front of Governor Jerry Brown's Capitol office, awaiting word on whether he would sign SB 104, a bill that would help farmworker safety and prosperity by allowing them to organize unions via card check.

The UFW pushed it after a rash of heat-related deaths in the fields in recent years, deaths that could have been prevented if more farmworkers had unions to protect them.

Brown had played up his connections to Cesar Chavez and the UFW during the campaign, and notably signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975 recognizing the right of farmworkers to organize unions.

The governor's office had been silent on the bill, not giving any indication what he would do. As the midnight deadline for action approached, the crowd grew, especially after the legislature approved the budget, hoping for good news.

Instead they received a shock as Governor Brown vetoed SB 104, siding with big business over farmworkers. Brown's veto message doesn't really give any explanation for the veto, except that it changes the ALRA which, apparently, Brown wants to keep taking credit for even after its shortcomings have been revealed:

SB 104 is indeed a drastic change and I appreciate the frustrations that have given rise to it. But, I am not yet convinced that the far reaching proposals of this bill--which alter in a significant way the guiding assumptions of the ALRA--are justified. Before restructuring California's carefully crafted agricultural labor law, it is only right that the legislature consider legal provisions that more carefully track its original framework.

The process should include all those who are affected by the ALRA.

In other words, Brown wants something that will make agribusiness happy - the same people who have shown no concern over farm worker heat deaths, who are happy to continue to pay workers poorly.

This is one of the problems you get with bringing back a former governor to office. Brown basically thinks nothing has changed in 36 years and that despite the proven shortcomings of the ALRA, it is fine and doesn't need to be fixed, especially if it makes agribusiness sad.

Of course, Brown pulled s--- like this all the time when he was governor in the 1970s and 1980s, vetoing or opposing legislation that his allies strongly backed. It infuriated Democrats and helped give an opening to the right. More of that crap is the price we paid for beating Meg Whitman.

If all-cuts budgets and vetoing labor legislation is what we're going to get from Governor Brown, let's hope he decides on only one term, and lets California move on to better leadership in 2014.

(Robert Cruickshank blogs at Calitics.com where this column was first posted.)  -cw

Tags: farmworkers, agribusiness, UFW, Agricultural Labor Relations Act, ALRA, Governor Brown, Cesar Chavez, SB 104, veto

Vol 9 Issue 52
Pub: July 1, 2011