H2A Farm Labor


Ag leaders are concerned about a California farm labor union law that could also impact farm operations across the rest of the U.S.

It’s called the California Ag Labor Relations Voting Choice Act or Card Check for short.

Bryan Little, Director of Labor Affairs for California Farm Bureau, says California’s Card Check program allows labor unions to petition to unionize a farm operation by collecting signatures on cards or petitions and turning them into the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. If they have enough signatures, the board certifies the labor union.

“That’s a radically different approach to trying to ascertain the wishes of employees to be represented or not from what we have traditionally had for the last 60 years,” Little said.

Previously, signing a card would have signified interest in having a secret ballot election, but now, those elections are gone and a simple signature on a card counts as a vote to unionize. While Card Check is currently only legal in California, vice president of advocacy & government affairs at AmericanHort, Matt Mika says other states should take notice.

“New York just passed it and the other state that’s on the list would be Michigan. So, any of your larger pro-Union states are looking at this,” he said. “Folks in the Midwest above the Mason Dixon line, you’re going to see more of this.”

Mika has worked with a California farm that is undergoing the process. It started with a single worker who signed a card check.

“And, according to California law, if there is a meeting of the whole facility, this place had 79 employees…I think it was an HR meeting where they were going over safety and stuff…well because that person was out there, they were able to file a petition to unionize,” Mika said. “No one else complained. One person. And so they’re going through the process.”

The United Farm Workers (UFW) celebrated the passage of California’s law and is working on actions in New York.

“For generations, farmers have had a protected right to join a variety of their own organizations.  Shouldn’t farm workers also have protected rights to join their own organizations?  The California Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act protects farm workers’ rights to join their own organization of their choosing,” wrote Elizabeth Strater, Director of Strategic Campaigns, United Farm Workers in an e-mailed statement. The UFW declined an interview request.