Demonstrators call on Newsom to approve farmworker union elections bill
Demonstrations were held across the state on César Chávez Day Thursday to support a bill that would allow farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections.
Farmworkers, labor advocates and union leaders are pushing for the California State Legislature to pass the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (AB 2183) bill, and are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign it.
The United Farm Workers Foundation is an advocacy group and immigration legal services provider associated with the United Farm Workers union, which Chávez co-founded. The foundation has supported such causes as liberalizing immigration laws, pesticide protections, heat standards, hazard pay and other worker protections.
Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 with Dolores Huerta. The union merged in 1965 with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the UFW.
A group of about 30 protesters gathered on a corner near Chicano Park Thursday afternoon, one of 13 demonstrations across the state.
Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the UFW Foundation, participated in the San Diego demonstration. She joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about how the the bill would affect farmworkers.
"We really believe that the governor needs to take a look at this proposal and really think about the impact that it would have on farmworkers, given the fact that farmworkers often, when they are trying to vote for a union election, are confronted with intimidation from their employers or from foremen. They're usually voting on the ground at their workplace. Often supervisors or foremen are looking on from not too far away, and so we want to make sure that the governor understands that there is a really important responsibility that he has to take into account that he himself has benefited from voters being able to vote from home in the previous elections," Torres said.
Newsom vetoed a similar measure in 2021. Torres said the reintroduced proposal is similar to last year's bill.
Torres said Newsom declined to meet with the UFW Foundation and farmworker leaders about the bill on César Chávez Day. Newsom is traveling in Central and South America with his family.
Joining the San Diego protesters was National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. "When it comes to casting a vote you should be able to do so without fear of any consequences from supervisors or others that may have that watchful eye over you,” she said.
R. Daniel Hernandez was 12 years old when he started working in the fields of the Imperial Valley. He said, “When people say, 'Thank you, Jesus,' it should be, 'Thank you, Jesús,' because there’s a lot of farm workers helping put food on the table for people. The workers don’t have the same protections. They’ve been slow in coming.”
Chants of "Sí Se Puede" were heard several times during the midday protest while passing drivers honked their car horns in support.
“It’s an affirmative act and expression that no matter what the challenge, we can over come it. Sí se puede: Yes, it can be done," Hernandez said.