OXNARD — Hundreds of strawberry pickers returned to the ballot box Thursday in the first day of a runoff election to decide whether the United Farm Workers union or a rival committee will represent workers at the nation's largest strawberry grower.
Officials with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the state agency that oversees union elections, reported that voting went smoothly at fields farmed by the Coastal Berry Co. About 650 Oxnard workers were eligible to vote.
The election shifts today to Watsonville and Salinas, where about 800 Coastal Berry workers are eligible to cast ballots. The ballots are expected to be counted tonight at Watsonville City Hall.
The runoff comes a week after the UFW and the Coastal Berry of California Farmworkers Committee squared off in an election to represent pickers at the company, which farms about 1,200 acres of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties.
The election is the cornerstone of the UFW's three-year campaign to organize the state's 20,000 strawberry workers.