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by La Huelga
Sunday, Sep. 15, 2002 at 11:43 AM
Farmworkers and their supporters are turning up the heat on Gov. Davis, who is threatening to veto an important bill. A report from an S13 action, with audio clips.
“Firma la ley! Firma la ley! Firma la ley!”
Farmworkers, United Farm Workers staff and their supporters stormed the barricades at Governor Gray Davis’s Los Angeles office Friday afternoon, urging the governor to “sign the bill.” (See below for audio clips.)
The group of about 50 people urged Davis to finally approve legislation that would force California growers to negotiate in good faith after their workers vote for union representation.
Carrying signs and chanting, they didn’t exactly get a warm welcome. Only after half an hour of negotiations with the governor’s staff and police were several delegations granted an audience with two staffers.
The rally started at about 11:30 a.m. outside the downtown building at 300 S. Spring St. where the governor keeps his regional office. At noon, 30 of the ralliers marched to the front doors, where they were blocked by law enforcement. Police put up wooden barricades to hold all but one of the doors shut. The group chanted, clapped and stood patiently but not quietly in line for half an hour while union representatives negotiated with the gov’s staff.
Davis’ office is normally open for drop-in visits from constituents.
Eventually, two staff members agreed to meet these constituents, but only in small groups. The first group included four farmworkers, three UFW staff and volunteers, one of Cesar Chavez’s granddaughters Julie Rodriguez, and a couple of supporters, including former L.A. City Controller Rick Tuttle.
The director of the governor’s L.A. office told the demonstrators that they were “preaching to the choir,” and insisted that Governor Davis has not made a final decision on this bill. After about an hour, this group left and the next one went in.
Before 1975, farmworkers in the U.S. did not have the right to organize unions because they are exempt from the federal National Labor Relations Act. That changed in California when Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). Gray Davis was Brown’s chief of staff at the time.
Since then, however, many California growers have refused to negotiate in good faith with the UFW after their workers voted for union representation. By dragging their feet, they’ve kept the union out and undermined the law. Tuttle referred to a phrase in Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech when he called the ALRA an “unredeemed check.”
The bill on Governor Davis’s desk would require some growers to go into mediation when they reach a stalemate in their negotiations with the union. In other words, this law would force growers to negotiate in good faith and give the quarter century old ALRA some teeth. The UFW originally wanted to force all growers who drag their feet into binding arbitration, but compromised with this mediation alternative. Growers who oppose both versions of the bill never offered a counter-compromise.
Organized labor statewide rallied in support of this legislation just before Labor Day (see http://www.la.indymedia.org/news/2002/08/18781.php), calling this “the number one labor issue right now in California.”
The governor has until September 30 to make a decision on this bill. The UFW is turning up the heat until then. To find out more about what’s going on and to get involved, go to www.ufw.org.
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