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California’s 2023 Employment Laws: Agricultural Union Elections

The 4th entry in these employment law updates addresses agricultural workers and employers. The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 was amended last year to ease the process of unionization for agricultural laborers. Previously, union elections required in-person voting. AB 2183 was partially a reaction to a federal Supreme Court decision, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, that struck down a regulation issued by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) requiring an agricultural employer’s property to be available for labor organization representatives encouraging unionization. The law does not attempt to directly overturn that decision, but it does present agricultural employers with two labor friendly (or employer unfriendly) choices. Employers may still agree to abide by the invalidated regulation and generally refrain from commenting on unions or union representation in a “labor peace compact.” This can be accomplished online.

If an employer elects not to enter into a labor peace compact then the new regulations permit unionization through a simple petition of a majority of the workers. If an employer does join a labor peace compact, agricultural workers may unionize by filing a petition of a majority of the workers permitting a mail-in ballot election. In either scenario, the employer must deliver an organized list of employee information in both electric and paper formats within 48 hours of being served with the agricultural worker’s petition. This deadline does not take holidays or weekends into account and so the 48 hours represents a 2-day clock that begins running the moment the agricultural worker’s petition is served. An employer must post a bond to appeal against most ALRB orders.

Governor Newsom originally objected to AB 2183 but reached an agreement with the United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation regarding its terms. This concord provided that Governor Newsom would sign AB 2183 with “clarifying language to be passed during next year’s legislative session to address Governor Newsom’s concerns around implementation and voting integrity.” This “clarifying language” is embodied in a draft labeled “RN 22 21856.” The draft would have the effect of repealing most of AB 2183 if passed. More specifically, the labor peace compact would be revoked, and the dual alternative election methods would be consolidated into a version of the non-labor peace election relabeled as the “Majority Support Petition,” whereby most of the employees’ signatures would certify a labor organization. However, only 75 certifications in total could be performed through these means until 2028, when the Majority Support Petition procedure would expire.

If you have questions or concerns about how these news reports may affect you or your business, please contact The Burton Law Firm at: 916-822-8700 or email for a consultation.