LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Farmworkers and their supporters are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a bill that would allow them to vote by mail in union elections after he vetoed the bill the first time.
Eriberto Fernandez said he saw his parents endure injustices as a young child as they sacrificed so much for so little.
"I would see my parents come back, covered in dirt, covered in mud, exhausted, thirsty," Fernandez said of his parents, who worked in the fields picking grapes in the extreme heat or cold.
Fernandez sometimes joined them himself in the arduous harvesting after school.
Today, he fights for the rights of his parents and other farmworkers through the United Farm Workers Foundation, where Fernandez is the Government Affairs Deputy Director.
At the end of August, hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their supporters participated in a pilgrimage. They traveled more than 300 miles from Delano to the state Capitol in Sacramento in support of Assembly Bill 2183, or California's Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act.
If passed, AB 2183 would allow workers to vote on union matters and their rights off their work site and from the comfort of their homes, just like with other state elections.
"What we need to make sure, is that when farm workers want to unionize to improve their working conditions, to collectively bargain with their employer for improved conditions, that they do so without retaliation. That they do so without any sort of firings, or ICE being called on them, or them getting somehow intimidated when they're actually showing up and exercising their right to vote for a union," Fernandez said.
This past Sunday, President Biden issued the following statement in support of AB 2183:
"I strongly support California's Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (AB 2183), which will give California's agricultural workers greater opportunity to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America's tables during the pandemic. In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union. I am grateful to California's elected officials and union leaders for leading the way.Government should work to remove - not erect - barriers to workers organizing. But ultimately workers must make the choice whether to organize a union.Unions transform how we work and live: higher wages, better benefits, like health insurance and paid leave, protections against discrimination and harassment, and a safer and healthier workplace. Unions built the middle class. And, unions give workers a voice. Workers' voices are heard and heeded. Organizing or joining a union, that's democracy in action. And it's especially important today for Black and Brown workers whose voices have long been silenced through shameful race-based laws and policies.It is long past time that we ensure America's farmworkers and other essential workers have the same right to join a union as other Americans."
Regardless of the heat wave, there are vigils forming throughout the state, including in Oxnard and L.A., all in support of the rights of those who grow the food we put on our tables.
"To make sure that people like my parents are honored, they're treated better, they're respected and that they have dignity in the workplace," Fernandez said.
Newsom has until Sept. 30 to give the bill his signature. Anyone wanting to support is asked to call the governor's office or their state assemblymember or senator and let their voice be heard.