Gov. Schwarzengger on Wednesday rejected the United Farm Workers' top bill of the year, a measure that would have made it easier for the UFW to sign up new members.
Schwarzenegger's action on the 'card check' bill, SB 789 by Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, came a day after a national union coalition poured $1 million into a UFW-backed committee to oppose the governor's own top legislative priority — an overhaul of California's water system.
Although the governor has vetoed similar measures in the past, the timing of the two events was apparently linked. And the governor's veto escalated political tensions in the Capitol as the final days of the 2009 legislative year got under way.
Schwarzenegger said Steinberg's bill violated workers' rights to privacy by "altering an employee's right to a secret ballot." Under card check, sign-up cards are distributed to workers, and if a majority favor a union election, an election can be ordered on an expedited time table.
“I am disappointed that the Governor once again denied farm workers free and fair union elections that would enable them to have more say about the safety of their workplaces," Steinberg said in response to the governors veto. "The veto, coupled with the state’s failure to provide an effective system for protecting the workers, undeniably harms these hard working individuals upon whom California’s agricultural industry depends.”
The $1 million donation came from a group called Change to Win, a national labor coalition that includes the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the farm workers union and others. The transaction was reported Tuesday in financial disclosure reports at the secretary of state's office.
The surprise donation reflects a schism within the Latino community over the proposals now before the Legislature to overhaul California's water system.
In the meantime, the water issue is coming to a boil in the Capitol. The Legislature's Latino Caucus has been supportive of the water projects, which include proposals to build two reservoirs and a canal through or around the delta east of San Francisco. Among the strongest supporters of the projects is the construction industry, which would service the vast public works projects.
A special two-house conference committee is poised to begin deliberations on a package of bills that include the key elements of the water overhaul, including a powerful new commission to run the system, capital projects up to and including the dams and canals, and new environmental protections for the delta.
Among the panel's 14 members are four Latinos – Sens. Dean Florez, D-Shafter and Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima and Assemblymembers Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana and Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.