Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Union Sells Out Cesar Chavez’s Legacy

The shocking campaign by labor leaders to end secret ballot elections for working Americans has taken a strange turn out in California, where United Farm Workers officials are lobbying hard for SB 180, a bill that would steal the right to real elections for those working in the fields. The Los Angeles Times has the story this morning.

The paper reports:

In the 1970s, United Farm Workers founder Cesar E. Chavez fought in dusty fields and the halls of government to give agricultural laborers the right to cast secret ballots to form unions at California’s farms, ranches and vineyards.

Now, those who came after Chavez want to change the rules, and that has farmers and business groups up in arms.

Of course, this campaign has nothing to do with principles, and everything to do with trying to build membership (and dues):

The debate over farmworker union elections comes at a tough time for the UFW. Total membership, reported by the union to the U.S. Department of Labor, decreased to 5,500 in 2006 from 26,000 a decade ago.

This has left longtime UFCW watchers rightly mystified:

Don Villarejo, the former director of the California Institute for Rural Studies in Davis and a UFW volunteer activist in the mid-1970s, recalled that the union fought hard to include the secret ballot in the state law that guaranteed the rights of farm laborers. He said the UFW alleged that the rival Teamsters union had intimidated people by competing with the UFW and winning a series of sweetheart contracts that helped employers keep the UFW at bay.

“The UFW contended that the secret ballot was the only way people could be protected from intimidation by outsiders,” Villarejo said. “You have to scratch your head and say, ‘What’s going on?'”

Seems like a fair question to us.

Categories: Center for Union FactsChange To WinEnding Secret Ballots