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'Deterioration of Farm Law'

February 03, 1986| Arnold is president of the Western Growers Assn. and

Cesar Chavez, president of the United Farm Workers union, is obsessed with teaching California farmers a destructive lesson. I refer to his article (Editorial Pages, Jan. 10), "Deterioration of Farm Law." His obsession with vengeance is forcing farmers out of business and the real victims are the farm workers whom they employ.

In his most recent blast against California farmers, Chavez has shamelessly attempted to manipulate the public's fears about chemicals and pesticides in hopes of beefing up his union membership and dues income. His claim of pesticide contamination in table grapes is not backed by facts.

In reality, the aging symbol of farm workers' rights is using this issue to cry sour grapes over his lost power, dwindling authority, and waning popularity.

During its first eight years, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act was administered in a one-sided and biased manner, clearly favoring the UFW over growers. In the past three years under the direction of Gov. George Deukmejian, the ALRB has become more evenhanded and productive. Since January 1983, the ALRB has conducted more than 100 secret ballot elections. Contrary to what Chavez claims, the board has collected and distributed a record $1.7 million plus to farm workers in this time.

The "no union" results of the secret ballot elections, and subsequent loss of membership for the UFW, is what has driven Chavez to a desperate pesticide smear campaign he calls the "Wrath of Grapes." According to a recent report by the California Poll, the UFW has lost more than 40,000 members since 1970 when it claimed 80,000 members. The UFW today only represents 3% of the workers in the table grape industry. This drastic decline can not be attributed to Deukmejian since it became evident long before his election.

If Chavez were to spend a greater effort on organizing farm workers and signing contracts, then perhaps he'd have a solid foundation for reaching his goal--the rebuilding of his empire. Since one of the UFW's weaknesses is its inability to effectively organize farm workers and negotiate contracts, Chavez simply does what he's best at, creating publicity as a national folklore hero.

Farmers can work with a union that behaves like a representative of the workers' interests. However, agriculture, and the jobs it provides, can not survive a lesson of vengeance.

DARYL ARNOLD

Irvine

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