Fresno County Mediation Laws Causing Friction Among Agricultural Employers
A farming company located in Fresno County, California, is suing the state over what it claims is unfair requirements of mandatory mediation with the United Farm Workers union. Gerawan Farming Company, one of the largest U.S. tree fruit companies, highlighted in their lawsuit filed in Fresno County Superior Court that mandatory mediation with labor unions is unconstitutional.
In this particular case, Gerawan was surprised that the United Farm Workers union recently resurfaced after being non-operational for 20 years. However, the company agreed to negotiate with union leaders over the workers’ contracts. Over the span of 10 negotiation sessions, Gerawan thought that progress was being made; however, on March 29, 2013, the United Farm Workers union filed a request with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to compel Gerawan into mediation.
The law in question concerning mandatory mediation was created in Fresno County in 2003 to solve disputes between agricultural workers and employers in cases for which the employers would not negotiate the terms of a contract. Within the legislation, when provisions are met in which employers will not bargain in good faith, mediation must be compelled. In those mediation proceedings, the mediator is given full power to determine the terms of the contract, including salary, vacation and working conditions for the employees.
The president of a Fresno-based agricultural packing and shipping company, Dan Gerawan, expressed the views of many employers in the area when he said, “It's an outrage that my family and thousands of our employees do not have a right to object to this agreement. It will be imposed on us whether we want it or not."