Gerawan’s Victory Over the UFW Underscores the Absurdity of AB 2751
Last month, agricultural employers everywhere watched as the Agricultural Labor Relations Board finally tallied the workers’ votes from the 2013 decertification election held at Gerawan Farming. Two weeks later, the ALRB cemented Gerawan’s triumph over the United Farm Workers by affirming the 1,098 to 197 vote to decertify the union as the farm workers’ bargaining representative. Unfortunately, while Gerawan’s victory over the UFW took center stage last month, Governor Brown used the time to deliver agricultural employers an enormous blow by signing Assembly Bill 2751 into law. This new law greatly insulates the ALRB and its decisions from judicial oversight, and requires employers to comply with ALRB orders which might later be invalidated by a court of law.
The new law requires “immediate implementation” of ALRB orders except in limited circumstances. Any employer who appeals the validity of a Board order will now generally have to comply with the order during the appeal. In other words, AB 2751 requires employers to comply with ALRB orders which might later be overturned by a court of law. For good reason, this was not always the case. Previously, when an employer sought judicial review of an ALRB order, enforcement of the order was delayed until the court’s review could be completed. If, upon judicial review, the ALRB’s decision was upheld, then the employer would be required to implement the terms of the order. On the other hand, if the order was invalidated, then the employer would be relieved of the underlying obligations. In theory and in practice, this procedure made sense. After all, there is no reason that an employer should have to comply with an order that the employer has good reason to believe a court would invalidate. Gerawan’s case illustrates this point well. Had AB 2751 been law in 2013, Gerawan could have been required to immediately implement an ALRB-imposed contract with a bargaining representative (the UFW) that its workers had just indicated—by way of the 2013 decertification election—that they did not want to represent them in the first place. In this way, AB 2751 is absurd and counterproductive.
What This Means for Employers:
Overall, this new law will make it more difficult for agricultural employers to seek judicial review of ALRB orders. Except in limited circumstances, employers will be required to immediately comply with ALRB orders regardless of whether the orders might be invalid. If ever there was a time to be represented by experienced labor counsel when dealing with the ALRB it is now. Employers must be extremely strategic in how they go about challenging the validity of any ALRB order. If your company is in the process of responding to the ALRB, please contact Barsamian & Moody at (559) 248-2360.
The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should neither be interpreted as, nor construed as legal advice or opinion. The reader should consult with Barsamian & Moody at (559) 248-2360 for individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation.