"We will let Gov. Newsom know our desire and courage to stand up for what is right for farmworkers and the labor movement," said labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.
Up against both the imminent close of California's two-year state legislative session and opposition from Gavin Newsom, Golden State farmworkers and their supporters on Monday implored the Democratic governor to sign a bill that would make it easier for agricultural laborers to vote in union elections.
"A.B. 2183 would give farmworkers the ability to make decisions at home, on their own, and on their own time."
In a 26-10 vote on Monday, California state senators approved A.B. 2183, a United Farm Workers (UFW) bill the union says will safeguard against supervisor intimidation during union elections.
The measure now goes back to the state Assembly. If passed before the end of the current legislative session--which expires at midnight Wednesday--the bill faces stiff opposition from Newsom, who, according to a spokesperson, "cannot support an untested mail-in election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election and is predicated on an assumption that government cannot effectively enforce laws."
Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year. The California Chamber of Commerce, as well as dozens of agriculture industry groups, also oppose A.B. 2183.
However, UFW president Teresa Romero--who last week finished leading a 335-mile march for A.B. 2183 through California's scorching Central Valley to the state Capitol in Sacramento--said Friday that "protection for farmworkers is key."
"They are mostly undocumented, family members work at the same farm, and the moment that they start saying that they want a union or asking for their rights, they are fired," she told KXTV at the completion of the 24-day march last week. "That cannot continue to happen."
Backers of the bill rallied and staged around-the-clock vigils in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, and Sacramento, where demonstrators chanted, "Sign the bill" during a large gathering at the end of the march.
Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-29), who co-authored the bill, explained to KXTV that "A.B. 2183 would give farmworkers the ability to make decisions at home, on their own, and on their own time."
"Farmworkers typically vote on a grower's site, under the watchful eyes and influence of that grower or the labor contractor," he added, "so there's a real question of whether that vote is their own, absent of coercion or pressure."
Labor and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who co-founded UFW with Cesar Chavez half a century ago, addressed the crowd at the end of the march Friday.
"Today we march in support of this important bill. We will let Gov. Newsom know our desire and courage to stand up for what is right for farmworkers and the labor movement," the 92-year-old said, according to People's World. "Let me say this: March today, but go back to your communities and march to get out the vote."