Western Growers, joined by a coalition of California-based agricultural associations, filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal in support of Gerawan Farming Inc.’s petition for a writ of review. The writ raises statutory and constitutional challenges to the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (“MMC”) statute, and asks the court to vacate the Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s (“ALRB”) orders which compelled Gerawan into MMC and which would impose a contract on Gerawan (and its workers) with UFW.
The case underscores the draconian and unintended consequences of the MMC law on growers and agricultural employees alike. UFW abandoned Gerawan employees for nearly two decades before suddenly reappearing and demanding that Gerawan enter into its first union contract. Thousands of Gerawan’s workers protested the imposition of an ALRB-ordered contract and organized two decertification drives to oust UFW. An election was held on November 5, 2013, but the ALRB issued an order impounding the ballots.
The amicus brief argues that the MMC statute is unconstitutional because the legislature usurped the judiciary’s powers by turning a mediator into a private judge, and that it violates due process of law. The brief further argues that the ALRB’s order requiring Gerawan Farms to engage in the MMC process was improper because it dispensed with the crucial good-faith collective bargaining requirement of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in favor of binding interest arbitration.
“Using the [MMC statutes], the ALRB has rewarded a union that abandoned the employees in the bargaining unit and refused to engage in sustained, good-faith, collective bargaining,” the brief states. The brief notes that, “the Board then locked the employees out of the MMC process, ruling that they could not even see what the wayward union was doing (or not doing) on their behalf. Finally, the Board allowed the ‘mediator’ to become a private judge exercising the sovereign authority of the State of California. With this power, the private judge imposed an order on [Gerawan] dictating how it will run its business and imposing significant economic sanctions on Gerawan.”
The brief was drafted by John Eastman and Anthony Caso (Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law); Robert Roy (Ventura County Agricultural Association); Carl Borden (California Farm Bureau Federation); and Jason Resnick (Western Growers). Joining Western Growers were the following organizations who signed on to the brief: California Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Council of California, California Citrus Mutual, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, Nisei Farmers League, and Ventura County Agricultural Association.
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