Biden approves bill to help organize farm workers, putting pressure on Newsom

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In a customary foray into California state politics, President Biden weighed in on Sunday in support of a bill now on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk that would make it easier for farm workers to organize.

“I wholeheartedly support California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act,” Biden said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

“Farm workers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America’s tables during the pandemic,” he said. “In the state with the largest population of farm workers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to unionize.”

So far, Newsom has not signed Assembly Bill 213, which was written by Assembly member Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) and passed by both the Assembly and Senate last month. Newsom vetoed a similar measure last year.

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Newsom representatives could not be reached on Sunday. But last month, a spokesperson issued a statement that the governor is “eager to sign legislation that expands farm workers’ opportunities to gather and be represented,” but that the governor did not support the bill as it stands.

The proposed law gives farm workers choices in how they vote in union elections, including voting by mail. Currently, the state is holding secret union elections at a polling station designated by the State Council for Agricultural Labor Relations.

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Union officials said the changes are needed to protect farm workers from harassment and deportation for supporting a union. But Newsom’s spokesman said his office “can support an untested mail election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election, and is based on the assumption that the government cannot effectively enforce laws.”.”

Biden’s action came just over a week after the United Farm Workers completed a 335-mile march from UFW headquarters near Delano to the state capitol to try to pressure Newsom to pass the bill. to sign.

In 2020, the UFW approved Biden as president, largely in hopes that he would help undocumented “Dreamers” and implement other immigration reforms and worker protections.

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“A Biden presidency could help establish the same rules that prevent farm workers from dying or getting sick from extreme heat that the UFW won in California,” UFW President Teresa Romero said at the time.

In March 2021, the White House responded when First Lady Jill Biden visited Forty Acres in Delano, the historic birthplace of the United Farmworkers, and met with relatives of César Chávez.

As The Times reported at the time, introductions were made by Julie Chávez Rodriguez, the director of the White House Bureau of Intergovernmental Affairs and Chávez’s granddaughter.