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October 2022: Governor Newsom Signs Law Expanding Farmworker Union Rights

27 Oct

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Update Applicable to:
All employers with agricultural employees in the state of California.

What happened?
On September 28, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2183 (AB 2183) into law, making it far easier for California workers to organize into unions in the state.

What are the details?
Introduced by Assembly member Mark Stone (D-Monterey), AB 2183 overhauls the union election process for farm workers.

Elections are held by secret ballot and conducted by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). A polling area is designated, and each employee presents identification to get a ballot and marks their ballot in the privacy of a polling booth. The employee’s choice is kept secret, and ballots are placed in a sealed box opened under the supervision of ALRB staff and observers when voting is finished.

What’s new?
Pursuant to AB 2183, a union may organize without holding a polling place election. Instead, the new legislation permits unions to solicit employees to sign a card authorizing the union to represent them in collective bargaining. This majority sign-up process is called a “card check.”  

Originally, AB 2183 also outlined a secret mail-in ballot provision. This was eliminated by a “supplemental agreement” (RN 22 21856) between the Newsom administration, United Farm Workers (UFW), and the California Labor Federation. The supplemental agreement is expected to be made into law next year.

In a card check election, the union would present authorization cards to the ALRB, along with a petition for a non-labor peace election. The Board will investigate and review to determine whether the union should be certified. No mail-in vote or in-person secret ballot vote is required.

What about the “cap”?
Card check certifications are limited to 75 through January 1, 2028. After that, AB 2183 is repealed. The organized labor plans to replace it with something similar or more union friendly.

Question the Board? Pay a bond.
AB 2183 outlines a mandatory mediation and conciliation process for employers and unions who reach a stalemate in the bargaining process after certification. During that process, a mediator issues a report to the board that resolves the dispute. The parties can ask the board to review the report. However, suppose an employer opts to seek judicial review of the board’s final order. In that case, it must post a bond with the board for “the entire economic value of the contract,” meaning the difference between the employee’s existing wages and economic benefit in the contract. There are strict time requirements for posting the bond, which creates additional procedural hurdles, and the cost of the bond itself may be cost-prohibitive.

For more information, please see the links below:

Assembly Bill 2183 (AB 2183)

Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB)

RN 22 21856

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links above and make their staff aware of this new law.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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