Governor Gavin Newsom signs bill giving California farm workers the right to vote on union issues by mail

SACRAMENTO– A broadly smiling California governor, Gavin Newsom, joined about two dozen jubilant and enthusiastic farmworkers camped outside the state Capitol on Wednesday to sign one of the most controversial bills before him this year, reversing the course of a measure to help farmworkers organize after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris backed it.

The White House backing put Newsom in a difficult political position after his office announced before Democratic lawmakers sent him the bill that he would not sign it.

But Newsom said he approved the bill after he, United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation agreed to clarify language to be considered in next year’s legislative session to address his concerns about the implementation and integrity of the vote.

The agreement includes a cap on the number of unionization petitions over the next five years and will allow state regulators to better protect worker privacy and safety, Newsom’s office said.

“Sí, se puede,” chanted the farmworkers as Newsom signed the bill, echoing UFW’s longstanding slogan — basically, “Yes, we can” in Spanish.

“California farmworkers are the cornerstone of our state, and they have a fundamental right to organize and defend themselves in the workplace,” Newsom said in a statement after the bill was signed. “Our state has been defined by the heroic activism of farmworkers, championed by such American icons as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong. California is proud to stand with the next generation of leaders continuing this movement. “

The new law will allow agricultural workers who supply much of the country’s fruits and vegetables to vote by mail in union elections as an alternative to physical locations. Proponents say it would help protect workers from union busting and other intimidation, while owners say such a system lacks the necessary safeguards to prevent fraud.

It will give owners the choice between ‘a flawed mail-in voting system or … an unsupervised card verification system,’ the California Farm Bureau Federation said in opposition before Newsom announced the agreement on guarantees. additional.

Newsom vetoed similar legislation last year, as did his two most recent predecessors.

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