California Supreme Court unanimously affirms interest arbitration for farmworkers against constitutional challenges in Gerawan Farming v. ALRB.

The California Supreme Court recognized that the main purpose of the 2002 amendments was to enable farmworkers who choose to be represented by a union to obtain the benefit of a collective bargaining agreement.  Although the ALRA was enacted in 1975 to provide farmworkers the right to organize and bargain, by the time of the 2002 amendments, approximately 60 percent of the bargaining units that voted for union representation had never been able to obtain an initial contract.  In the case before the Court, Gerawan Farming employees had elected the United Farm Workers of America as their representative in 1990, but Gerawan Farming had never agreed to a contract with the union.  In addition to rejecting Gerawan Farming’s constitutional challenges to the interest arbitration procedure, the California Supreme Court also rejected Gerawan Farming’s argument that it should be permitted to avoid referral to mediation and interest arbitration by asserting that the union had previously “abandoned” the bargaining unit.  In a related decision issued at the same time, Tri-Fanucchi Farms v. ALRB, the Court unanimously ruled that “abandonment” is not a defense to the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith under the ALRA with a certified union, and that the Agricultural Labor Relations Board did not abuse its discretion by awarding make-whole relief to workers whose employer refused to bargain on that ground.

Altshuler Berzon LLP was co-counsel in the Supreme Court for Real Party in Interest United Farm Workers of America in Gerawan Farming, along with co-counsel Martinez Aguilasocho & Lynch, APLC.