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Pictsweet found guilty of illegally firing mushroom worker who backed UFW

by Farm Worker Movement Thursday, Jan. 17, 2002 at 9:09 PM

Pictsweet found guilty of illegally firing mushroom worker who backed UFW

errorNews from the Farm Worker Movement(www.ufw.org):

Pictsweet found guilty of illegally
firing mushroom worker who backed UFW

An administrative judge with the state Agricultural Labor Relations
Board (ALRB) has ruled that Pictsweet Mushroom Farms illegally fired
mushroom picker Fidel Andrade in retaliation for his support of the
United Farm Workers and for engaging in other activities protected by
California's farm labor law. The judge ordered Andrade be offered his
job back and that he be reimbursed for all lost wages and other losses
"suffered as a result of his unlawful discharge."

After three days of testimony during hearings on Oct. 30, 31 and
Nov. 1, 2001, Administrative Law Judge Douglas Gallop concluded in a
31-page written decision released on Jan. 10, 2002 that state
prosecutors "established a prima facie case" that the firing of Andrade
violated provisions of the act that make it an unfair labor practice for
an agricultural employer to "interfere with, restrain or coerce" workers
in the exercise of their rights under the law.

Pictsweet claimed Andrade was fired for physically assaulting a
supervisor during an altercation at the Ventura mushroom plant. But the
judge concluded that the same supervisor "had earlier shouted at Andrade
and pointed his finger at his [Andrade's] face," according to the
written judgment. "That afternoon, [supervisor Augustine] Villanueva,
apparently still angry about the morning [finger-pointing] incident,
threw mushrooms into Andrade's basket at a time Andrade's face was
inches away. When Andrade protested this, Villanueva chose to escalate
the confrontation by returning to Andrade's work area, and by again
shouting at him and pointing his finger.

"In response, Andrade made one, brief physical contact, causing no
injury. Under these circumstances...it is concluded that Andrade's
response was in line with Villanueva's provocation and, therefore,
[Pictsweet] may not rely on it" in defending its decision to fire
Andrade.

Gallop, the ALRB judge, also cited "the cursory treatment" given by
Pictsweet to an anti-UFW worker who admitted referring to the "killing"
of union supporters, other management personnel's "sarcastic reference"
to union supporters as "know it alls," the "general tarring of union
supporters as treating the foremen like 'garbage' and the mocking
conduct" of management in issuing Andrade an earlier warning letter. All
these and other events "tend to show animus toward union sympathizers,
and a predisposition to blame them in disputed cases of misconduct."

The judge also referred to a Pictsweet "employee handbook
discouraging employees from seeking redress through the union and
encouraging direct dealing [with the grower], the latter arguably
constituting" a law violation. And Gallop noted that Pictsweet "again
arguably violated the act...by refusing to recognize union-designated
employee representatives."

Gallop ordered that Pictsweet rescind the firing, offer Andrade his
job back with seniority, pay him all lost wages and other benefits, post
notices about workers' rights and arrange for an ALRB agent to read and
distribute the notice to employees on company time and answer their
questions outside the presence of Pictsweet officials.

On Sept. 4, 2001, ALRB prosecutors issued a complaint against
Pictsweet over Andrade's firing. A separate detailed nine-count
complaint was issued against Pictsweet on June 26, 2001 by prosecutors
with the ALRB for a host of labor law violations, including bad faith
bargaining and illegally acting to get rid of the union. A hearing
before another judge on that complaint is set for Feb. 14 in Ventura.

Negotiations have gone on since late 1999, with Pictsweet refusing
to respond to the workers' basic demands, the UFW states. The Cesar
Chavez-founded union has contracts protecting about 70% of the mushroom
workers on California's Central Coast.
- end -

For more information on the Farm Worker Movement visit our web site at http://www.ufw.org and/or subscribe to the Farm Worker Movement list serve by sending an e-mail to UFW-subscribe@topica.com. To unsubscribe send an e-mail to: UFW-unsubscribe@topica.com.
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