The California State Legislature has passed AB 616—first in the Senate on August 26th and then in the Assembly on September 1st with a final vote of 52 Ayes, 19 Noes and 8 Abstentions. The bill now heads to the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
AB 616 is the latest incarnation of card check legislation, which undermines the secret ballot election process that has been at the core of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) since its inception. The ALRA guarantees that employees have the opportunity to express their choice with respect to union representation through a secret ballot election held at a time and place convenient to those employees under the supervision of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
AB 616 erodes this guarantee and raises the risk that union representation and the economic consequences for employees of being required to pay dues and obey union rules could be imposed on employees who do not wish to have union representation.
In response to the passage of AB 616 by the California State Legislature, Western Growers President & CEO issued the following statement:
“It is both ironic and shameful that a body of elected leaders would act to strip farmworkers of their own democratic protections in the union election process, including the right to a secret ballot vote overseen by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Despite misleading claims to the contrary, AB 616 is not a simple, benign shift to mail-in ballots. Rather, this bill aims to circumvent the democratic process entirely.