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Jerry Brown agrees to farmworker deal, sources say

September 2, 2011 |  2:26 pm

Farmworker advocates say they have reached a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown that will give state regulators new powers to certify unions for agricultural workers.

The deal was reached after a series of talks involving Brown and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the senator said. Steinberg said he expects the Legislature to ratify these new changes in a bill next week before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

The farmworkers’ union, United Farm Workers of America, has tried for years to pass legislation that would make it easier for agricultural workers to unionize. That legislation was vetoed multiple times by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and again by Brown earlier this year.

Brown’s June veto came as dozens of farmworkers held a late-night vigil outside his office. Brown spoke to United Farm Workers of America President Arturo S. Rodriguez by phone that night explaining his veto and vowing to revisit the issue of farm worker rights later in his term.

The new bill, which will be authored by Steinberg, will give new powers to the state’s Agriculture Labor Relations Board to certify a union if it finds a grower has acted illegally to thwart a union election. It also accelerates timelines for workers to seek binding mediation in disputes with their employers.

Brown administration officials were not immediately reachable for comment.

While the deal announced by Steinberg falls short of the changes union advocates sought in the vetoed bill, Rodriguez said he was pleased with the new accord. “Gov. Brown’s framework put into legislation by Sen. Steinberg is going to be a significant advance in the cause of fair treatment for farm workers,” he said.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento