Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vetoed a bill sponsored by United Farm Workers (UFW) that would have added a vote-by-mail option for ballot card elections. He said the bill contained various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to collecting and reviewing ballot cards.
“Significant changes to California's well-defined agricultural labor laws must be carefully crafted to ensure that both agricultural workers' intent to be represented and the right to collectively bargain is protected, and the state can faithfully enforce those fundamental rights,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.
He directed the labor department to work with the Ag Labor Relations Board on new policies for lawmakers to consider instead.
The decision drew immediate praise from Western Growers CEO Dave Puglia, who argued the bill would have dismantled the secret ballot election for farmworkers.
“Gov. Newson has sent to Sacramento lawmakers the clear message that card check has no place in California,” said Puglia in a statement.
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said this shows that “strong-arm organizing tactics and coercion have no place in California agriculture.”
Emily Rooney, president of the Agriculture Council of California, said she was "pleased the governor recognizes that preservation of the secret ballot and third-party oversight are critical functions within our election process.”
Interested in more coverage and insights? Receive a free month ofAgri-Pulse West
Meanwhile, UFW had organized a 260-mile march from Farmersville to Sacramento to urge Newsom to sign the bill. After the veto, the workers were instead “marching toward the French Laundry” in hopes of meeting with Newsom.
“It's a tough battle,” the group wrote in a petition to its members. “As you can imagine, nearly all the associations of growers and agribusiness are lobbying against this bill.”
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, a co-author on the bill and staunch labor advocate, said she was "truly devastated" by the veto and called it the most important union organizing bill on the year.
"Denying farmworkers the right to organize and join a union in the same manner we allow all public sector workers in California to do so is abhorrent," she tweeted.