SACRAMENTO, CA - A political ad featuring a narrator with a heavy Spanish accent criticizing the United Farm Workers union is being slammed by farm labor advocates as dishonest.
The TV spot now running in Sacramento suggests the speaker is a farm worker disillusioned by the direction taken by new UFW leadership. A similar ad is running on Sacramento radio stations.
"It's a lie," said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, author of the legislation being attacked in the TV and radio campaign. "To use the voice of a reputed farm worker to say the bill is not in the interest of farm workers is just not true."
The ad campaign is actually sponsored by Gerawan Farming, a major Central Valley family peach and grape grower that employs 5,000 workers.
Spokesman Dan Gerawan said the family spent $75,000 buying TV and radio time in Sacramento, Salinas and Los Angeles to battle SB 25.
Gerawan Farming claims SB 25 would replace bona fide labor negotiations with state-mediated contracts, forcing farm workers to pay three percent of their wages to the UFW without having a voice in the process.
Gerawan said his family already pays higher wages than the industry standard and 1,000 employees have signed a petition to dump the UFW.
"The employees told me they don't want to pay this three percent. They said they want their right to vote," Gerawan said.
But a complaint filed last week by the chief counsel of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board claims Gerawan Farming has pressured workers to sign the petition.
The complaint, to be heard by an administrative law judge, accuses Gerawan Farming of "unlawfully interrrogating workers about their union activities and support," and claims the family "has unlawfully corced, interfered and restrained its agricultural employees in the exercise of their collective bargaining rights."
Dan Gerawan strongly denied the allegations.
"Why would I dignify that with an answer? Of course not," he insisted.
UFW spokesman Marc Grossman said the political ad and the ALRB complaint offer clear evidence that Gerawan Farming thinks it knows what's best for its employees.
"Gerawan Farming's use of a narrator who speaks with a Spanish accent reflects a paternalism that is affirmed by the complaint just issued by the state of California," Grossman said.
The UFW says SB 25 is aimed at growers who use legal loopholes to deny farm workers union representation or to avoid implementing union contracts.
Steinberg bristles at the suggestion that he's trying to strip farm workers of their rights.
"I hear somebody trying to claim that I am anti-farm worker. And nothing could be farther from the truth," he said.
SB 25 has already cleared the state Senate and passed an Assembly floor vote Monday by one vote.
Senate spokesman Mark Hedlund said the measure will face a concurrence vote back in the Senate because of minor changes made in the Assembly.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net