A group of farmworkers marched 335 miles from the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) headquarters near Delano to the State Capitol in Sacramento. The three-week march was aimed at pressuring Governor Gavin Newsom to sign a bill that would allow farmworkers a choice, including vote-by-mail, in how elections are held in unionization drives.
Currently, farmworkers can vote to join the UFW only if they do so at a polling place designated by the Agricultural Relations Board, making them subject to retaliation, the union argues.
“When farmworkers vote they are subject to reprisals, and in some cases they lose their jobs just to practice their rights to vote like any citizen can do during a given election day,” said Eriberto Fernandez, a representative of the UFW Foundation.
“What we want is for farmworkers to be able to cast their ballots in secret, from their homes, like any voter.”
New ways of voting sanctioned by Assembly Bill 2183 would change that. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year.
The UFW believes that if farmworkers are allowed to vote in secret, more will join the union and get representation.
“And this is what big agribusiness doesn’t want to happen,” said Fernandez. “If [farmworkers] have representation, they will have basic rights such as health benefits.”
The march started on Aug. 3 in Delano and ended on Aug. 26 in Sacramento.
As marchers and supporters gathered in front of the Capitol on Aug. 26, Governor Newsom released a statement explaining that he would not sign AB 2183 “in its current form.” However, he said that he is open to negotiate, meaning that if the bill is rewritten he would sign it.
Photos by David Bacon