Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.
Who Does This Act Help?
Workers at a vineyard in California have been unhappy about their working conditions for some time. They have been working on forming a union. It has been a challenge because their employer is against this union. Several of the workers have noticed strange cars sitting in front of their homes with the occupants watching their homes for hours on end. One worker wore a newly-designed union button to work one day and was sent home for the day. The employer told the worker not to come back wearing the button the next day. Every worker has been called into the main office and asked questions about the union they are trying to form. Now, the workers are thinking about not forming a union at all. Is there anyone that can help them?
The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 in a Nutshell
The workers could make a call to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) of California. This is the state agency that is tasked with ensuring the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 is adhered to. If employers fail to adhere to the law, the ALRB can step in to enforce it. The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 was created so that farm laborers would be able to advocate for better working conditions and salaries if needed. It gave the laborers a voice, the ability to choose their own union leaders, and protection from coercion or threats from their employers.
There are several key points in the act that are important. They state what rights employees have and what the employers' responsibilities are. In addition, they outline what remedies are available if an employer crosses the line and does something that the act prohibits them from doing.
Employees have many rights under the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. Below is a list of some of these rights, which have the ultimate goal of ensuring employees have safe working conditions and the ability to assert themselves if they do not.
Rights of employees:
- The right to form a union
- The right to go on strike
- The right to picket
- The right to elect a Board
- The right to recover lost wages
Employers have particular responsibilities under the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. Below is a list of some of these things that the act prohibits, which have the ultimate goal of ensuring employers adhere to the law and provide their employees with the opportunity to form unions and participate in concerted activities. Additionally, unions are prohibited from certain actions under the act as well. This helps to protect employees from their employers and the union, so the protection afforded them is two-fold.
Employers are prohibited from:
- Threatening or coercing employees in an effort to keep them from participating in union activities
- Spying on employees or conducting surveillance of them
- Question employees about the union
- Prohibit employees from participating in union activities during their lunch breaks or other breaks
- Denying access to union organizers or refusing to provide a list of current employees to the Board
If employers have done something that the act prohibits, the employees have the ability to seek remedies. Some of the remedies provided in the act are as follows:
- Reinstatement for workers that were wrongfully discharged as well as payment of backpay lost
- Giving union organizers access to employees on the employers' property so the organizers can talk to those employees about the union
- Posting information about the employers' unfair labor practice and reading the posting to employees
- Placing bulletin boards on the employers' property where union communications can be shared
What Has Changed Since the Act Was Enacted?
One major change took place, effective in January of 2002. This was the creation of the Agricultural Employee Relief Fund. When an employer owes money to an employee due to monetary relief that was ordered, but the employee cannot be located for two years after the order, the money owed is deposited into this fund. The money there can be used to pay other employees whose employers were ordered to pay monetary relief but did not.
Since the act was created in 1975, there have been other changes. For example, the cash receipts from farm marketing has risen to $27 billion (up from $8.6 billion). Perhaps this is a reflection of employers claiming monies paid to workers so it could be claimed on income taxes. If employers are having to pay laborers more than previously paid, they have to record this somewhere. Additionally, the average number of employees that were reported by agricultural employers to Unemployment Insurance has risen from 280,000 workers to 500,000 workers. This may indicate a pattern of workers finally receiving benefits not previously afforded to them. Unfortunately, the act has not promoted farm laborers to a higher status regarding hourly and annual salaries. Additionally, controversy still exists over governmental roles in regulating farm labor.
The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 was put into place for the benefit of farm laborers in California. It gave these workers the ability to fight against bad work conditions and low wages, by specifying the rights of employees and the responsibilities, including prohibited actions, of employers.
Anyone having a complaint about unfair labor practices that violate the act can reach out to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which regulates farm labor in California and enforces the act. There are remedies available if an employer violates the act.
A few things have changed since the act was enacted to include a sharp increase in revenue from farm marketing and a rise in agricultural employees being reported to Unemployment Insurance. Controversy still exists over governmental roles in regulating farm labor, and farm laborers have not promoted in regards to pay.
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