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Agricultural Law 
eAlert Newsletter

July 2015

  

A WIN-WIN FOR FARMERS AND FARM WORKERS:
Mediator Imposed Collective Bargaining Agreement is Unconstitutional

 

O n May 14, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the State of California, Fifth Appellate District, in a unanimous three-judge decision, ruled that the state imposed collective bargaining agreement under the  "Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation" ("MMC")(Labor Code section 1164  et seq .) on farm companies and agricultural unions is unconstitutional.  Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd.  , 236 Cal. App. 4th 1024 (Cal. App. 5th Dist. 2015).  The court stated the MMC statute violates equal protection principles and constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority.

 

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is an independent state body created to execute orderly processes for protecting, implementing  and enforcing the respective rights

and responsibilities of employees, employers and labor organizations in the agricultural community.    In 1992, the ALRB certified the United Farm Workers ("UFW") as the exclusive bargaining representative for the employees of Gerawan Farming, a family owned farming business founded in 1938 with currently more than 5,000 direct-hire employees and over 6,300 farm labor contractor employees.  After initial negotiations with Gerawan, the UFW "disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades."  Twenty years went by without contract negotiations between Gerawan and UFW until October 2012 when UFW demanded reopening negotiations.

 

From January to March 2013, Gerawan and UFW held ten or more bargaining sessions.  After those failed bargaining negotiations, at UFC's request, but under Gerawan's protest, the ALRB imposed the MMC process.  Gerawan argued, among other things, that UFC abandoned its status as the employees bargaining representative by its absence for nearly 20 years.   The ALRB dismissed the abandonment claims and proceeded with the MMC process.  The ALRB swiftly appointed a mediator and approved and imposed a mediator-drafted contract in November 2013 to bind the workers and employer.  In the meantime, Gerawan's employees held a vote in November 2013 to decertify the UFW.   In response, the ALRB impounded the ballots alleging misconduct relating to the election - never to release the results. 

 

The appeals court found that the trial court abused its discretion by disallowing Gerawan's abandonment claim.  The court reasoned that the ALRB's purpose is to protect the employees' right to choose.  The court found that a union that had little or no contact with employees for over two decades is unlikely to possess an adequate working knowledge of the employees' situation and their wishes. 

 

Gerawan also raised various constitutional violations, among them was the charge that the MMC statute violates the constitutional requirement of equal protection of the laws.  Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I of the California Constitution, all persons who are similarly situated with respect to the law should be treated alike under the law.  By design, the MMC allows the mediator to set different minimum wages for the same class of industry - here, the agricultural industry.  This fatal design is unconstitutional because it allows for unequal treatment of employers within the same industry without a rational reason.   


The appeals court also found that the MMC, enacted in 2002, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority because it fails to provide adequate direction for the implementation of the policy.  Mainly, the mediator's goals were not clear, such as the priority of raising workers' wages or improving working conditions.   Further, the MMC did not have a process to address and avoid mediator bias.

 

As expected in late June 2015, the ALRB and the United Farm Workers of America, as a real party in interest, filed petitions for review with the California Supreme Court.  The high court of California may grant review as this 5th District decision is in conflict with the 3rd District decision in Hess Collection Winery v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd., 140 Cal.App. 4th 1584 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 2006).
 

Thank you

We would like to thank our friends, colleagues and clients for your kind words, stories and sympathy during the mourning of our friend Lewis Janowsky.  While he is dearly missed, It gives us much comfort to know that you are thinking of us as we grieve.

 

R & J Attorneys Trade Their Pens for Hammers Once Again

 

Patricia Rynn and June Monroe spent Memorial Day weekend, along with their spouses, volunteering to build a home for a deserving family in Tijuana, Mexico.  Pat and her husband, Jimmy Parker, helped raise more than $8,000 and organized more than 40 volunteers of all ages to build a new home for a qualified family in need.  We're hoping the next build will include all R&J employees and friends!  For more information on the organization visit corazon.org or look out for future announcements about Pat and Jimmy's future builds. 

 

   

Rynn & Jano wsky,  LLP Is Pleased To Announce Jing Tong As Its Newest Associate


 

Jing Tong has experience representing employers in employment law matters including defending employers in wage and hour class actions, assisting employers in developing their employee schedules and reviewing employee handbooks and arbitration agreements.  


Ms. Tong graduated from the University of California Irvine in 2007, cum laude, with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science.  Ms. Tong went on to receive her law degree from Loyola Law School.  During law school, Ms. Tong externed for the Honorable Judge Richard Fruin at the Los Angeles Superior Court.  Ms. Tong also participated in the VIS International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court competition in Hong Kong, where her team was awarded for their memorandum.


Jing is a valued addition to the R&J family.    


Jing Tong


 

Rynn & Janowsky, LLP | rj@rjlaw.com | http://www.rjlaw.com


 

Contact our team of attorneys to assist you with your 

agribusiness legal needs:


 

  • PACA Administrative & Civil Actions
  • PACA Rights & Compliance
  • Growing, Marketing, & Supply Contracts
  • Secured Transactions
  • Employee Handbooks
  • Defending Employee Disputes
  • Employer Compliance
  • Employment Contracts