WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 14, 2009) – Western Growers Past Chairman Steve Patricio and President and CEO Tom Nassif joined U.S. House of Representatives Republicans today at a press conference on Capitol Hill to discuss the impact the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), if passed, would have on the agricultural industry and rural economies.
The press conference was called by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member; Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Republican Conference chairman; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Republican chief deputy whip; Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), ranking member, Committee on Education & Labor; and Chuck Conner, president & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
With the media on hand, Nassif and the other panelists made the case against EFCA from agriculture’s point of view.
Patricio and Nassif took the opportunity to discuss the formation of the Agriculture for a Democratic Workplace (ADW) coalition. They emphasized ADW’s mission to ensure legislators and the media know agricultural employers, associations and organizations are fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised secret ballot when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union and the opportunity to vote to accept or reject a contract.
“Protection of the secret ballot is fundamental to our cause, and we will fight to ensure the basic American right of casting a ballot in private is defended. The mandatory arbitration provisions of the bill threaten the economic growth and job creation in agriculture and are also unacceptable,” Nassif said. “While field workers would not be subject to EFCA, we must remember that agricultural employment reaches far beyond the farm gate. Many of the workers in the agricultural industry would be subject to the provisions of this legislation. EFCA could adversely impact every segment of the agricultural supply chain, putting further pressure on the ability of farms to continue to operate in the United States.”
“I strongly support a worker’s right to vote his choice under the most basic right of a democracy; a secret ballot,” said Patricio. “I also strongly support that worker’s right and the right of his employer to negotiate in good faith for the wages and conditions they know and understand best. This is a bad piece of legislation and an insult to our democratic principles. This bill should not be allowed to see the light of day.”
Western Growers is a founding member of ADW (http://www.coalitionforagriculture.org/), which is active in the leadership of the broader coalition working to defeat the EFCA. The bill was introduced in both Houses of Congress in March 2009; however, a number of Senators have reconsidered their support as constituents have become more vocal about the potential threat to the secret ballot in union elections.
Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose nearly 3,000 members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and nearly 70 percent of the fresh fruit and nuts grown in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s fresh produce. For more information, visit www.wga.com.