SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown, whose signature more than three decades ago gave agricultural workers the right to unionize by secret ballot, vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have made it easier for farm laborers to organize.
The proposal has been the top legislative goal for years for the United Farm Workers, whose founder, Caesar Chavez, had strong ties to Brown. It would have allowed the union to bargain for employees without holding an election -- by simply collecting signatures from a majority of workers on cards saying they wanted representation.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar measures four times during his seven years in office. Supporters of the latest bill had been hopeful that Brown would approve it.
In his veto message Tuesday, Brown cited his work with the union 36 years ago.
"I am not yet convinced that the far-reaching provisions of this bill ... are justified," Brown wrote.
Union leaders reacted angrily.
"To us it's a real clear decision," UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said. "This governor has decided to side with the rich against the powerless."
The veto highlights the diminishing clout of the UFW. Membership has dwindled from about 26,000 a decade ago to just over 5,200 last year, according to statistics that the union provided to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The pressure on Brown to sign the bill, SB 104, by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), was intense. For nearly two weeks, UFW representatives flooded the Capitol, urging Brown to approve the measure.