September 29, 2022

Governor Gavin Newsom Signs AB 2183, Guts Secret Ballot Process for Farmworkers

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 28 signed AB 2183, gutting the secret ballot process for farmworkers and submitting misleading “clarifying language” that is supposed to ensure worker protections.

After a photo op staged at the Capitol, Newsom’s office distributed a press release explaining why the governor signed the current year’s bill with the caveat that more work will be done on the legislation in 2023. It is unclear if the Governor will have the support of the legislature in the future over the promised clarifications to the bill.

In part, the Governor’s press release states: “The supplemental agreement between the Newsom Administration, UFW, and the California Labor Federation includes a cap on the number of card-check petitions over the next five years, and will allow the ALRB to adequately protect worker confidentiality and safety. This additional agreement would be codified into law with a bill next year that would be supported by both the administration and the union. The agreement will be codified with additional legislation next year backed by the union and the administration. [sic]”

AB 2183 also limits employers’ ability to challenge the submitted ballot cards, forcing employers to post a bond, and includes a presumption of retaliation if an employer disciplines, suspends, demotes, lays off, terminates, or otherwise takes adverse action against a worker during a labor organization’s representation ballot card campaign.

In a statement released by Western Growers, Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said, in part:

“It is shameful that Governor Newsom invoked the name of Cesar Chavez in signing AB 2183. Instead of advancing the labor icon’s movement, as the Governor claimed, California has officially unraveled Chavez’s legacy, striking at the heart of his greatest political objective and accomplishment: the right of farmworkers to a state-supervised secret ballot election. 

“Chavez fought for passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, making California the first state in the country to give farmworkers the right to unionize. For Chavez, the key to that law – like American democracy – was the guarantee of free and fair elections shielded from intimidation and coercion by any interested party. 

“AB 2183 will unleash a relentless campaign of union pressure and harassment targeting California farmworkers, less than two percent of whom have voted in state-supervised secret ballot elections to pay the UFW three percent of their wages.”