labor

The top attorney at California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board has a new job. On Wednesday Governor Jerry Brown appointed  Sylvia Torres-Guillen to a new job as special counsel in his office.

Torres-Guillen had served as general counsel for the ALRB since 2011. In recent years the board has been at the center of controversy over a case involving Fresno’s Gerawan Farming and the United Farm Workers union, including a disputed 2013 decertification election.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A state appeals court has delivered a legal victory to a Fresno-based fruit grower in a decades old fight with the state’s ag labor relations board and the UFW. But as FM89’s Joe Moore reports, it’s likely not the final ruling.

New Heat Regulations Aim To Protect California Workers

Apr 28, 2015

With summer approaching, the state California is implementing new rules to protect outdoor workers. Revised heat safety regulations from Cal-OSHA take effect May 1st. Among the regulations, workers must have easy access to free, cool water. And supervisors and workers must also be trained to recognize and react to signs of heat illness.

Amy Martin is Chief Counsel of Cal-OSHA. She says the rules also require that shade be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, which is five degrees cooler than the previous requirement.

New Scrutiny For Brown's Retiree Health Care Proposal As Labor Talks Begin

Mar 18, 2015
Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

A new report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office criticizes California Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed overhaul of state worker retiree health care benefits – just as labor negotiations are getting under way. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento. California faces more than $70 billion in unfunded retiree health care for state workers – and the governor says it’s time to act. Here’s Brown in January on NPR. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The labor conflict that has clogged west coast ports in recent weeks has the Valley’s citrus industry on edge. FM 89’s Jason Scott reports.

Agricultural products from the Valley that should be making their way to countries like China, Japan, and Australia are sitting on the docks of west coast ports due to a labor dispute. While the ports reopened Tuesday, their shutdown over the weekend has caused a slowdown that has growers worried.

Robots Could Be Headed To Central Valley Farms

Jan 23, 2015
Steve Fennimore / UC Davis

Robots may soon be pulling weeds on Central Valley farms. At UC Davis researchers have received  $2.7 million dollars from the USDA to study how new technology could replace field labor. 

Automated devices pick cotton. Machines shake nut trees. But, there are a three tasks  for which farmers rely solely on humans. 

David Slaughter: "These include hand weeding, thinning and harvesting."

David Slaughter is the lead researcher working on robotic cultivators. 

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Central Valley farm workers rallied today in Sacramento against what they say is a violation of their rights.

About 20 anti-union farm workers showed up at the state capitol protesting against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says the union and the ALRB are denying employees of Fresno-based Gerawan Farming their rights by forcing them into a union contract. 

In 2013, company employees held a union decertification election, but the votes have yet to be counted after allegations the company interfered with the process.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno has reached an early contract agreement with the union representing Fresno police officers. If ratified by the members of the Fresno Police Officers Association, the deal would extend the current contract to 2017.

It would also include a two percent salary increase in 2015 and another in 2016. The city would pay 75 percent of employee health care costs, with any future increases shared equally between the city and the union. It would also increase the amount current employees pay for retiree pensions by two percent. 

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

Many California agricultural workers aren’t employed directly by farmers, but by labor contractors. Now a new bill in the California legislature would bring about more protections for those workers, but as FM89’s Kerry Klein reports, it’s also the source of controversy.

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California Assembly Committee Passes Farm Worker Sexual Harassment Bill

Jun 25, 2014
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

  A California Assembly committee passed a bill Wednesday that would give the state the power to revoke the licenses of farm labor contractor’s if they hire supervisors who have sexually harassed workers.

Michael Marsh is an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance. He says his office deals with complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault on a regular basis.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Concessions workers at Yosemite National Park held a rally today over concerns that a new contractor could leave some longtime employers out of work. 

The Delaware North Corporation has held the park's exclusive food service and lodging contract since the early 1990's. The National Park Service recently announced that it is soliciting new proposals for the deal. 

Sarah McDermott is with the Unite Here Local 19 union: 

America’s farmers are dying. But it’s not just because they’re aging. In 1978 the average age of the American farmer was 50, today it’s around 58. But there’s another even more troubling issue facing those who grow our food -  farmers taking their own lives.

California Bill Would Mandate Paid Rest Breaks for Farm Workers

Mar 31, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Paid rest breaks would become mandatory for farm workers and other outdoor workers under a bill now in the California legislature. The measure is an attempt to prevent heat related illnesses. From Sacramento, Max Pringle reports.

People who work outdoors are susceptible to dizziness, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Nicole Marquez with the advocacy group Worksafe says farm workers are commonly paid based on how much they pick.

Charismatic,  controversial, courageous and complicated. Those are just a few words that could sum up the life of the late civil rights leader and farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. Now over 20 years after his death, a new biography seeks to provide fresh insight into a man who is an inspiration for millions. The book is called “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez” by Miriam Pawel, who joined us on Valley Edition to talk about Chavez the man and Chavez the myth. 

Cesar Chavez Foundation

In October 1993, the Fresno City Council voted to rename three city streets - Kings Canyon, Ventura and California - in honor of the late farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. The move was part of a campaign by local Latino groups who sought to honor the UFW founder, who had died earlier that year. 

Lionsgate / Pantelion Films

Later this month, the story of the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez hits the silver screen with a biopic by acclaimed director Diego Luna. It’s the first time a major motion picture has been made about the life of the founder of the United Farm Workers Union. It features a cast of Hollywood stars including America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich, with Michael Pena cast as the late civil rights hero. Tomorrow night President Obama will host a screening of the movie at the White House.

Road Trip To Collect Dust Bowl Stories on 75th Anniversary of 'Grapes of Wrath'

Oct 2, 2013
Dorothea Lange / National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics

A group of artists is gearing up for a cross-country road trip that will end in California. It's part of a project to mark the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Steve Milne reports.

The trip starts Friday in Oklahoma, retracing the path the Joad family took along Route 66 in "The Grapes of Wrath" with stops in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

Bill to Increase California's Minimum Wage Passes Legislature

Sep 13, 2013
Valley Public Radio

  A bill that would gradually increase the California minimum wage to $10-an-hour has passed the State legislature and is on its way to the governor. It would be the first increase in the minimum wage in six years.

Democratic Senator Bill Monning says if you’re a Californian subsisting on the current state minimum wage, you’re living a second class existence.

"You are in a second hand economy, second harvest food bank, second-hand clothing, second-hand hand-me-down everything," says Monning.

Minimum Wage Deal at California Capitol

Sep 11, 2013
Valley Public Radio

It looks like California’s minimum wage will go up next year for the first time since 2008.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento on the deal announced today by Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

Under the deal, California’s $8-an-hour minimum wage would rise to $9 in July of next year, and then to $10 in January of 2016.  That’s a faster pace than the original bill that’s been moving through the legislature this year.  But it does not include automatic adjustments for inflation, as was previously proposed.

http://sph-publications.berkeley.edu/

As the House and Senate continue to struggle to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform, one University of California, Berkeley professor is working to bring new insights into a significant group of undocumented immigrants here in California and throughout the west – those who pick the food we eat every day.

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