Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, “The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.” Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference. If a simple majority – more than 50 percent – of workers signs the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.
Many workers do not have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. Without SB 104, nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Overexposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.
The only way to fully protect a farm worker in the field is if there is a union representing him or her. A union representative on the field will ensure workers have water, that their health or safety is not in danger – that the people who provide our food have basic conditions everyone should be afforded. But the only way to ensure that workers have union protection is to ensure they have the protection to join a union.
SB 104 provides farm workers the same basic protection of eliminating employer intimidation the National Labor Relations Act provides most other types of workers. By allowing workers to fill out a union ballot in the safety of their home, SB 104 merely brings farmer workers’ unionization standards up to par with the NLRA – which passed in 1935. It is time to provide farm workers the same protections most workers have had for over 75 years.
Now the bill is going to Governor Jerry Brown. If he does not sign SB 104 into law, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. In an effort to put pressure on Governor Brown to protect farm workers, UFW has created an online petition to gain support. Help provide farm workers this basic labor protection and improve their conditions by signing the petition.
[Photo By Ansel Adams]