September 23, 2021

Governor Newsom Vetoes UFW-Sponsored Card Check Bill

Marking one of the biggest victories for California agriculture in the 2021 legislative session, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed AB 616 on Wednesday. Despite misleading claims to the contrary, the UFW-sponsored card check bill would not have effected a simple shift to mail-in ballots. Rather, the bill would have denied farmworkers basic democratic protections in union elections and would have transferred the power of election oversight from the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to the UFW.

“It is important for our members to understand that this veto was the result of a concerted, collaborative effort by a broad spectrum of agricultural organizations and allied industry partners,” said Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia. “We would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following organizations in helping to lead the fight against AB 616: Ag Association Management Services, Agricultural Council of California, American Pistachio Growers, California Citrus Mutual, California Farm Bureau, California Fresh Fruit Association, and California Strawberry Commission.”

In his veto message, Governor Newsom stated, “This bill contains various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of 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.”

Click here to read Governor Newsom’s veto message.

“We commend Governor Newsom for rejecting the most recent UFW-backed attempt to dismantle the secret ballot election for farmworkers. In vetoing AB 616, Governor Newsom has preserved the integrity of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act and protected the rights of farmworkers in choosing whether to form or join a union. Governor Newson has sent to Sacramento lawmakers the clear message that card check has no place in California,” said Puglia in a statement released to the media. 

Click here to read Western Growers’ press statement.

In his CalMatters op-ed, former chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the National Labor Relations Board, William Gould IV, outlined the democratic protections for farmworkers that would have been removed under AB 616:

  • Union organizers would have been able to unionize farmworkers using signed postcards without a subsequent election overseen by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. 
  • Union organizers would have been able to choose which farmworkers get postcards and which don’t, possibly disenfranchising many farmworkers.
  • Union organizers would have been able to fill out and submit the postcards for the farmworkers, only requiring farmworkers to sign their name. The same union organizers could have been the sole witness to a farmworker’s signature without any other independent verification required.