By Sheri Williams
In late September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a hard-fought bill to help farmworkers unionize.
In a surprise visit to farmworkers holding a vigil for the legislation at the Capitol, Newsom put his signature on Assembly Bill 2183. The law, championed by the United Farm Workers and the California Federation of Labor, will help farm workers to form unions more easily.
“This is your victory,” said UFW leader Teresa Romero. “This is an incredible victory.”
Union members marched 335 miles from Delano to Sacramento in the weeks leading up to the signing to raise awareness of the bill. President Joe Biden put out a letter of support urging Newsom to sign, as did Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I strongly support California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (AB 2183), which will give California’s agricultural workers greater opportunity to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” Biden wrote. “Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America’s tables during the pandemic. In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union. I am grateful to California’s elected officials and union leaders for leading the way.”
The union said in a statement that it will work with Newsom and the legislature to make agreed-upon changes that will ease implementation of AB 2183 so that farm workers can participate in elections free from intimidation and deportation beginning next year.
“In this historic time when workers want a union more than ever before, everything we do, including legislatively, must be focused on organizing,” California Labor Federation head Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher told media. “It’s natural that in California, our farmworkers will be leading the way.”
In a statement, Newsom said, “California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace. …Our state has been defined by the heroic activism of farmworkers.”