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.


California Court of Appeal Affirms Trial Ruling that Lead Paint Manufacturers are Liable for Causing Public Nuisance

On November 14, 2017, the California Sixth District Court of Appeal affirmed in principal part a groundbreaking trial court ruling that three paint manufacturers – Conagra Grocery Products Company, NL Industries, Inc., and Sherwin-Williams Company – had created a “public nuisance” by marketing lead paint for interior residential use throughout the first half of the 20th century, despite having actual knowledge that exposure to lead resulted in critical health dangers, especially to children.  The trial court’s remedial order required the three companies to contribute $1.15 billion to an abatement fund that will be used to identify and clean up lead paint hazards in older-stock housing in counties across California.  The companies challenged that ruling on numerous grounds under state and federal law, which were almost uniformly rejected by the Court of Appeal in its 137-page decision.  Most notably, the Court of Appeal concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that the lead paint companies knew of the hazards of using lead paint on housing interiors at the time that they marketed lead paint for that purpose.

Although the Court of Appeal narrowed the scope of the trial court’s ruling in one respect, ruling that the companies were liable only for housing built before 1951, most of the housing at issue was built before that date.

The Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP acted as Special Appellate Counsel on the appeal, working in conjunction with lead trial and appellate counsel from the Santa Clara County Counsel’s office.