The Coasts Are Not Clear: NY, CA, And The Dreaded ‘Card Check’

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Hospitality, Labor Relations Ink, Legal, States, Union Organizing, UNITE-HERE

The East and West Coast labor labs are cooking again, and unions hope to gorge themselves on the results. 

The California-based United Farm Workers are plotting such a feast, given that the now-ailing union once boasted 60,000 members nationally and then fell to a mere 6,000. In New York, however, the union is celebrating the unionization of five farms, where the UFW recently scooped up 500 new members. 

The union can thank a fairly new New York law, the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, for these results. The law makes farm-worker organizing much easier by allowing unionization via the ”card-check” process. Notably, farm workers are excluded under the NLRA, so this New York law could be a game changer in more ways than one.

The effect is spreading, too. Not only has the UFW scooped up five farms (including orchards), but two other unions are seeing their own New York successes. The United Food and Commercial Workers and Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union recently added 125 members from vineyards and a dairy farm. 

The UFW isn’t done with their New York plans, but California is also back in their sights. A new Golden State law similarly brings card checking to farm workers, and the UFW comms director went on record to credit New York for providing “a good preview” of what the union plans for California.

More California updates are coming in fast:

  • The state supreme court will consider Proposition 22, which allows gig companies to treat drivers as independent contractors. Prop 22 answered Assembly Bill 5, which required app-based workers to be treated as employees. The eventual legal outcome of these warring bills could affect whether Uber, Instacart, and more can feasibly continue to do business in California.
  • Up to 800,000 fast-food franchisees are considering their future in California if the so-called “FAST Act” wins voters’ approval in 2024 after a referendum prevented the law from immediately going into effect. Not only would FAST hike the fast-food minimum wage to $22 for franchise workers, but the law would create an unelected board through which workers could bargain as though they were unionized. The financial fallout could be devastating.
  • The L.A. hospitality industry saw thousands of workers go on UNITE HERE strikes at 60 hotels over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Hotel chains are also fighting a possible 2024 ballot initiative to tack a 7% fee onto all guest rooms to build a housing assistance fund for hospitality workers. The union forecasts future strikes at the original 60 hotels and 41 more.

Doing business in California isn’t easy, but the public sector isn’t smooth sailing either. SEIU members went on a silent march in search of 30% pay raises for state employees amid a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. 

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