Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teamster election disrupted by spitting, swearing, gun-wielding goons

Gun-toting goons hired by Taylor Farms so disrupted a Teamster representation election last week that the NLRB impounded the ballots.

Taylor Farms, the largest supplier of fresh-cut produce in the country, hired 12 union busters to run a vicious campaign against the 900, primarily Latino workers.

During the two-day election, according to the Teamsters,
...the company deployed a goon squad of supervisors and lead workers to intimidate workers and restrict their movement during the voting period. The company stationed armed guards in full view of workers who were voting and called police who parked their squad cars in front of the facilities, adding to the climate of fear during the election. 
Meanwhile, company goons spat on union t-shirts, yelling obscenities and threats at union organizers and workers. One report claims a plant manager called terminated pro-union workers telling them they would be rehired if they came in and voted no against the union. 
Other reports suggest that workers were sent to vote twice under different names or to vote for workers on vacation. 
This extreme hostility by the company and its likely violations of the law forced the NLRB to intervene as final ballots were being cast on Friday evening. The Board removed ballots to a more secure location at its offices in Oakland while it investigates the company’s unlawful conduct.
The Teamsters  filed claims covering hundreds of Unfair Labor Practice violations by the company, including the retaliatory firing of union supporters, threatening workers around immigration status and telling immigrant workers they could not vote.

Ironically, the attack on Taylor Farms workers comes almost exactly on Cesar Chavez's birthday. Caitlin Vega notes in the Labor's Edge blog:
The struggle of the workers at Taylor Farms is exactly la causa that Cesar Chavez devoted himself to. That every worker has the right not just to dream of a better life but to stand up for one. That those who work with their hands to get food to our tables deserve also to feed their children. They are fighting not for themselves, but for their co-workers, for their families, and for a better future. They too are leaving a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

It is discouraging to see that the labor contractor system that Cesar Chavez fought to abolish has instead multiplied. But Cesar would not lose hope, even in the face of employer intimidation of workers and interference in their right to a free and fair election. As he said in a speech in 1984, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”
Si se puede!