California Agricultural Labor Relations Board

Agricultural Labor Relations Board
Board overview
Jurisdiction California
Board executive
  • William B. Gould IV, chairman
Parent board Labor and Workforce Development Agency
Key document

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is an agency of the California state government that administers the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which establishes collective bargaining for farmworkers in the state.[1] The ALRB has two functions: To conduct, oversee, and certify representation elections, and to investigate unfair labor practice (ULP) charges and pursue remedies.[1] Administrative law judges and agency staff adjudicate most cases, with the five-member Board serving as a final arbiter.[1] The ALRB is overseen by the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.[2]

Legal controversies

De-certification of UFW at major fruit farm

In 2013, farmworkers for one of California's largest fruit growers requested the ALRB to supervise an election to decertify the United Farm Workers as their representative, citing the union's failure to act in their interests. ALRB attorneys tried to prevent the decertification elections from taking place. A California state assemblyman representing the Central Valley area accused the ARLB of being a “rogue agency” that is “out of control.”[3] The ALRB's regional director tried to prevent the workers from voting, leading workers to sue the ALRB to force agency to permit them to choose whether or not to be represented by the UFW.

A California Superior Court judge hearing a related case said that “the ALRB seems to be pre-deciding” the farm workers’ election results. “So the Court is very suspect of . . . the ALRB’s position here. It almost seems like it’s in cahoots” with the UFW,” Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton, Jr., said. “You have a responsibility, unlike an advocate for one side, to bring out all of the evidence, not just evidence that is supportive of the UFW,” the judge said. “And it appears to the Court that’s what you’re doing.”[4]

The three-member ALRB ordered its legal team to permit the vote to proceed. After the vote, held on November 5, 2013, the ALRB general counsel prevented the farm workers’ votes from being counted, citing alleged irregularities and employer intimidation. The general counsel backed the ALRB regional director's move to lock the workers' ballots in a safe and did not count the votes. In 2014, a federal court gave the go-ahead for a farm worker to proceed with a lawsuit against the ALRB, for violating the workers’ Constitutional rights.[5]

In May 2014, the ALRB stated that it had no “timetable” for counting the votes, and later began proceedings to destroy the ballots before it could investigate the allegations it raised. News organizations cited the unusual slowness in the investigation, with a lead financial news service suspecting the general counsel's reluctance to count worker ballots that would reject the UFW.[6]

The ALRB's own in-house administrative law judge ruled on September 16, 2015, that the workers' ballots should remain uncounted and should be destroyed. [7]

'En masse segregation of voters'

A federal court found in July 2014 that the ALRB committed an “en masse segregation of voters” to intimidate the workers from de-certifying the UFW, and that ALRB's regional director deliberately “delayed completion of his investigation” of alleged fraud and unfair labor practices in order to prevent a count of the workers’ ballots.[8]

As of May 2015, the ALRB general counsel had not permitted the votes to be counted, and was pressing an ALRB administrative judge to order the farm workers' ballots to be destroyed.

ALRB action ruled unconstitutional

In a separate case, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal ruled in May, 2015, that ALRB violated the law and the "equal protection principles of the U.S. Constitution by seeking to impose a contract on farm employers and workers.[9] ALRB said that it intends to appeal that ruling.


  1. 1 2 3 Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55753-281-8
  2. "Agency Departments and Boards". California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  3. "Gerawan Farming Workers Win Right to Vote on Union Contract",, November 3, 2013.
  4. "ALRB Forcing Unionization on Farm Workers",, October 29, 2013.
  5. "Judge OKs Gerawan Worker Suit Against ALRB to Stop Harassment by UFW", Stephen Frank, California Political Review, August 15, 2014.
  6. "Workers May Have Booted Union - But Nobody's Saying", Jane Wells, CNBC, August 13, 2014.
  7. "ALRB Judge Rules Against Gerawan Farming in Dispute with UFW", Robert Rodriguez, Fresno Bee, September 18, 2015.
  8. "Memorandum Decision, Silvia Lopez v Genevieve Shiroma, Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, J. Antonio Barbosa, Silas Shawver, and DOES-120", United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, July 24, 2014.
  9. "Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Gerawan in Union Vote Case", Robert Rodriguez, Fresno Bee, May 14, 2015.

External links

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