SB 104: Providing Farm Workers a 75-Year-Old Protection

Posted on 09 June 2011

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By Dylan J. Anderson
United Farm Workers

Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act." Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference.  If a simple majority – more than 50 percent – of workers signs the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.  

Many workers do not have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. Without SB 104, nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Overexposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.

The only way to fully protect a farm worker in the field is if there is a union representing him or her. A union representative on the field will ensure workers have water, that their health or safety is not in danger – that the people who provide our food have basic conditions everyone should be afforded. But the only way to ensure that workers have union protection is to ensure they have the protection to join a union.

SB 104 provides farm workers the same basic protection of eliminating employer intimidation the National Labor Relations Act provides most other types of workers. By allowing workers to fill out a union ballot in the safety of their home, SB 104 merely brings farmer workers’ unionization standards up to par with the NLRA – which passed in 1935. It is time to provide farm workers the same protections most workers have had for over 75 years.  

Now the bill is going to Governor Jerry Brown. If he does not sign SB 104 into law, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. In an effort to put pressure on Governor Brown to protect farm workers, UFW has created an online petition to gain support (Which can be found here: ). Help provide farm workers this basic labor protection and improve their conditions by signing the petition.


Dylan Anderson is a member of the United Farm Workers Internet Communications team.

You need to stop lying. The NLRA allows voluntary recognition based upon authorization cards, which is not what SB 104 provides. SB 104 allows a union to deny the workers the option of voting in an election if a majority of cards are obtained. For practical purposes, it will eliminate elections. But if card check is so much better than elections, why is it not allowed for decertification under SB 104?

Unions have declined in agriculture and elsewhere as workers learn that the union "representation" does not justify the dues deducted from their pay. Unions like the UFW have failed to demonstrate to workers that there is a benefit to unionization, which is why the UFW represents less than 1% of California farm workers. Instead of working harder to provide something that the workers want, the union will simply change the rules to make it easier to force themselves on workers. Lying and intimidation to get signatures will become the norm, and fraud will be rampant under SB 104. This is why even liberal newspapers like the San Francisco Examiner and the Salinas Californian have urged the Governor to veto the bill.

Cesar Chavez insisted that elections were the only way to determine workers' wishes. He is rolling in his grave.

As of today, without union representation there is no voice for those people that make their living toiling in the fields. Low wages (that is if they pay you), working in the 3 digit degree heat, having pesticides sprayed on you (always accidental of course, and where is the MSDS????), back breaking work for hours, these are all characteristics of a working in the fields. This is not a question of the intent or purpose of unions in this day in age, but merely one how can the state keep its farm workers safe.

Plain and simple, there needs to be some sort of reform so that people who have to work in the fields can do so safely and with dignity. The farm workers are one of many disenfranchised workers of our day, that risk their lives to provide for their family. I know this not because of what I read, but what I have lived. Oh and never in all of my life have I seen a state regulator come and verify that people are working in a safe working environment. (OSHA- WHO?)

This bill is a step in the right direction.

The NRLA falls short when it comes to providing for the specific needs of farm workers ( or many workers for that matter) , this is where the UFW and unions are necessary.

I am watching this Bill closely and hope that Jerry Brown will sign.