The Teamster organizing struggle at Taylor Farms in California moved to the state capitol yesterday where workers helped push forward a bill to make companies responsible for workers hired through temp agencies.
AB 1897 passed the Committee on Labor and Employment on a party-line vote in a defeat for the 25 corporate lobbyists who tried to paint the bill as a "job killer." Lawmakers, including Republicans on the committee, highlighted Taylor Farms as a "bad apple" whose abusive labor practices make laws like AB 1897 necessary. The California Labor Federation and Teamsters from Locals 439 and 601 stood with Taylor Farms food processing workers who traveled to Sacramento to lobby in support of the legislation.
|Teamsters with Assemblymember
Roger Hernandez, author of AB 1897
AB 1897 would hold companies accountable to the temp agency workers they hire -- workers who they constantly deny responsibility for yet depend on for labor. The law will require companies to ensure that the temp workers they use are getting fair pay and a safe work environment, and that the agencies are paying their fair share in taxes.
Taylor Farms workers know firsthand how exploitative the labor contracting system is. At its plants in Tracy, Calif., the company hides behind two staffing agencies, SlingShot and Abel Mendoza. The agencies, which staff up to two-thirds of the facilities, allow the company to get away with serious labor violations. One young worker with SlingShot has worked at Taylor Farms for 10 years -- he started working there on the onion line when he was 9 years-old.
When workers are injured, the company and temp agencies deny being the "employer of record" so workers can't get compensation. Taylor Farms pays Abel Mendoza $14 per hour for each worker but Abel Mendoza pays the workers only $8 per hour, costing already impoverished workers over $10,000 a year.
The temp labor contracting scheme also allows companies like Taylor Farms to crack down mercilessly on workers who try to organize. When Taylor Farms workers tried to join Teamsters Local 601, the company retaliated with a non-stop fear campaign run by paid union-busters who threatened and harassed workers, especially immigrant workers. The company got rid of pro-union workers by making the agencies fire them.
All of this made it easier for the company to effectively steal the election when workers held their vote on union representation, forcing the NLRB to impound ballots while it investigates Taylor Farms' extreme misconduct.
By making companies like Taylor Farms responsible for all of their workers, including "temps," AB 1897 will make it harder to violate workers rights with impunity. Teamster friend Roger Hernandez, a California assemblymember for the 48th District, authored AB 1897 with Taylor Farms workers in mind -- similar to his anti-retaliation law signed by the governor which was inspired by Marquez Brothers workers' fight for Teamster representation.
While the NLRB investigates charges against the company, Teamsters and Taylor Farms workers are expanding the campaign for union representation in Tracy by reaching out to allies, the media and political leaders.
|Teamsters, Taylor Farms workers at the state capitol|
AB 1897 now moves to the Appropriations Committee. As the labor contractor system has moved from the fields of the Central Valley into the food processing facilities -- and as corporations throughout the economy increasingly adopt this employment scheme -- laws like AB 1897 are becoming more urgent than ever.
Taylor Farms workers and the Teamsters plan to continue holding up Taylor Farms as a poster child for temp labor abuses.