Teamsters Win New Pro-Worker Laws in California
California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed three bills that will strengthen the state’s labor laws by protecting workers from employer retaliation.
This is a huge win for Joint Council 7, which led the legislative battle to get the laws passed. It’s also a big victory for workers like Marquez Brothers employees, who have faced harsh retaliation since they voted to become Teamsters last year.
Doug Bloch, political director of Joint Council 7, said the trio of laws are the strongest labor protections for immigrant workers in the country. “Under these laws, immigrant workers who speak up now have new legal protections,” Bloch said. “That's because these laws put civil and criminal penalties in place for employers who threaten workers with immigration enforcement.”
The three laws prohibit immigration-related retaliation and clarify that threatening to expose workers’ immigration status is extortion.
“The lobby days and work that many locals did with their legislators on the ground made a huge difference, along with the high visibility of the Teamsters in the Prop 32 fight last year and the DRIVE contributions we make,” Bloch said. “This is a real testament to all of our Joint Council 7 locals and members who have stepped up in politics.”
Marquez Brothers is a perfect example of why these laws are necessary. The cheese company has been ruthlessly intimidating workers at its Hanford, Calif., plant since they joined Local 517, refusing to bargain and launching a campaign to get the union decertified.
“Marquez Brothers is one of the largest distributors of dairy products serving the Latino community in North America. After their workers organized a union, the company responded by bringing in a law firm that touts its ability to advise clients on ‘union avoidance’ and ‘maintaining a union-free workplace.’ One strategy they excel in involves a classic union-busting strategy: delay and decertify.”
Marquez Brothers used the decertification petition as a legal justification to withdraw union recognition from the workers. In the year since they first organized, Marquez workers have faced a constant campaign of harassment and intimidation. In March, workers traveled to Sacramento to testify at a legislative hearing on employer intimidation, only to be followed by company management and attorneys. One of the workers was fired shortly after the hearing. She was one of 20 union supporters fired since they organized. Others have quit in the face of a constant barrage of harassment.
The state’s new laws put abusive companies like Marquez Brothers on notice, calling their behavior exactly what it is: criminal.
Bloch says the legislative victory once again puts California on the cutting-edge of pro-labor reforms. And it also shows that when Teamsters mobilize, they win.
This victory wouldn’t have happened without the brave sacrifices made by Marquez Brothers Teamsters who lost their jobs during the campaign. With their trips to the state capitol and talking to the press, they won strong support from state legislators and showed why these anti-retaliation laws needed to be passed.
“When companies are able to bully workers on immigration issues in order to suppress their wages and working conditions, it drives down standards for all workers. So this is a big win for all California workers,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “And in a time when we find ourselves fighting off anti-worker legislation in so many states, it’s refreshing to score a victory for worker-friendly laws.”