Agriculture

Newsom pushes back on Biden pressure to sign UFW election bill

Any inclination that President Joe Biden’s decision to vocally back a controversial union election bill to help the United Farm Workers would sway Gov. Gavin Newsom seems to be fading quickly.

Monday, in an interview with Nexstar’s Eytan Wallace, Newsom pushed back on the bill, which would drastically reshape union elections for farmworkers.

“Governor Brown vetoed that bill, I vetoed that bill, and its one of a few hundred on my desk that I’ll be taking a look at in the next couple of weeks,” Newsom said when initially asked about Assembly Bill 2183.

Wallace followed up with a question on the move by President Joe Biden to publicly back the bill and implore Newsom, who already noted his veto from 2021, to sign the 2022 version.

“President Biden weighs in on a lot of issues, and we’ve had many chances to dialogue on a lot of issues,” the Governor responded.

Despite that, it doesn’t appear that the national pressure campaign from Biden, who has taken Newsom’s subtle shadow presidential campaign for 2024 personally, is swaying Newsom to sign the bill.

“That bill, on my desk with a few hundred others, we’re going to take a good look at it. Governor Brown took a look at it, made a decision. I did last year, we offered many amendments to UFW and I hope they’ll take a look at those amendments.”

If enacted, the bill would allow farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections rather than just on grower property. Union officials and bill supporters argue on-premises voting promotes cynical voter suppression through abuse and intimidation by foremen, supervisors and labor contractors. 

Opponents argue in the opposite direction, claiming that the elimination of the secret ballot could create real-world instances of worker intimidation and coercion by UFW organizers with no oversight from state regulators.

The legislation has become a high priority after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a decades-old rule allowing union organizers to trespass onto farm property to recruit members as a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling and Newsom’s first veto on the union voting bill, the farm worker union has seen its membership fall to “statistically zero.”

UFW officials have sought to rally Washington allies, from Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–San Francisco) into pressuring Newsom to sign the bill he’s previously vetoed.

Watch the segment

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.