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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | COUNTYWIDE

Berry Firm Broke Law, Union Claims

July 31, 1998|MIGUEL BUSTILLO

The United Farm Workers union is stepping up its drive to prevent the formation of a rival strawberry union at Coastal Berry Co., claiming that the company broke labor law by failing to notify 162 of its workers in Oxnard that they could cast ballots.

The allegation that nearly 15% of Coastal Berry's 1,200 employees never had the opportunity to vote is the latest in a string of complaints by the UFW, which is asking the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to delay certification of a new union, called the Coastal Berry Farm Workers Committee.

"We're asking them to nullify the election for a variety of reasons," said UFW spokeswoman Jocelyn Sherman.

"There are a lot of strong reasons, but this one is written into the [ALRB] law. I don't see how it can be disputed."

The UFW contends that the rival union is an effort by Coastal Berry to undermine the UFW.

The UFW also contends that Coastal Berry managers organized a violent July 1 attack on four pickers in Watsonville and that the same managers intimidated workers into voting for the Coastal Berry union.

Coastal Berry representatives, who have maintained that the election earlier this month was fair, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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