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UFW Wins Contract With Gallo

Union: Three-year pact, in the making since 1994, affects only about 450 workers in Sonoma County.

September 02, 2000|JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Legislature increased funding for the principal farm worker housing program to $45 million this year, from the level of $3 million or lower at which it had hovered for more than a decade.

Earlier in the legislative session, farm workers lost a battle when the Assembly failed to approve a law that would have made growers fully liable if middlemen mistreated or underpaid field hands.

But a compromise version of a bill by Assemblywoman Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) passed last month. It would require greater efforts by farmers to ensure that labor contractors are licensed. It also would increase penalties for unlicensed contractors and support for district attorneys to enforce the new rules.

The Legislature also approved a measure requiring farm labor contractors to post a bond of up to $75,000 to guarantee the wages of their employees. Previously, a bond of only $10,000 was required.

Davis has not said whether he will sign those bills, which still have detractors in the farming community.

However, today the governor is expected to sign a bill by Assemblyman Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield) that will outlaw the sort of wood benches in farm vans that experts have said increase the risk of injury to workers as they are transported to and from the fields. Thirteen workers riding on such benches died last year in one crash.

Labor economist Martin said that none of the advances this year has been revolutionary, but that each is helpful for farm workers. The union has succeeded, at least, in keeping public focus on the issues, he said.

"The UFW is trying a lot of new things," Martin said. "I think, from the union's point of view, they will be more successful. But, like many things in agriculture, it is two steps forward and then one step back."

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Times staff writer Miguel Bustillo in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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