San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

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By Craig W. Anderson

In a result redolent of irony, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills recently ruled against the United Farm Workers, ordering the UFW to pay more than $800,000 in back pay, overtime and penalties totaling about $1.2 million to about 50 of its own California employees.

"This decision illustrates how the UFW is looking out for itself and the union bosses and not those who work for the union," said SJFB President Andrew Watkins. "This decision should cause workers represented by the UFW to reconsider their union participation."

"Shameful" says plaintiff
Plaintiff Francisco Cerritos, who filed the legal action for himself and other workers, said, "It's shameful that a union that says it protects the human rights of farmworkers has been violating the rights of its own employees. It's a product of the new management of the UFW. They no longer represent the workers."

Court records show Cerritos was fired from the UFW in 2013 after he'd organized the UFW employee union "La Union Es Para Todos" (The Union is for Everyone).

Union's original intent
The UFW began as a union dedicated to protecting farmworkers from wage abuses and the workers in question made a case for their not being paid overtime for their work and receiving defective pay stubs. 

"It's ironic on some level," said Ana Toledo, attorney with Noland Hamerly Etienne & Hoss, the firm that represented the UFW employees. "For us it was a case about holding an employer accountable for compliance to California labor law."

Negative affect on UFW
The ruling could have a significant negative affect on the financial condition of the UFW. Based on the most current figures available from the U.S. Department of Labor the UFW reported $3.5 million in assets in 2015 against $1.2 million in liabilities with a collective bargaining membership of 7,007.

Appeal in the works
"We will appeal," said UFW Vice President Giev Kashkooli who had no comment on how the payments and penalties could affect the UFW's financial situation but did accuse Cerritos of receiving funding from "outside agents" to create trouble for the UFW. 

"They always say that about anybody who does anything against them," Cerritos said. SJFB first vice President Jim Ferrari said, "The union always blames someone else for their problems to deflect attention from what's really the case."

Self-important UFW
"The UFW acts like it's representing the majority of farm workers but they're not," said Joe Valente, former SJFB president. "It's a union with less than 8,000 members that purports to speak for the 400,000 to 650,000 total farmworkers in the state who aren't members."