The United Farm works of America (UFW) has recently been the target of criticism in the news media, Liberals grown weary of prolonged struggle have predicted the Union's defeat at the hands of the ruthless and efficient Teamsters. From the right have come claims chat farm workers are prosperous rather than oppressed and that the union hurts those it is supposed to help. These agruments, we believe have been adequately replied to by supporters of the UFW. But most recently attacks against the union have come from another sources: the Gallo Corporation itself. The E&J Gallo Winery the largest wine producer in the United States has mounted an enormous advertising capaign to counteract the boycott of Gallo products launched by its striking workers in 1973. The facts that Gallo presents, without substantiation, distort or ignore a number of important points that we feel should be made clear.
The most immediate issue at stake between the UFW and Gallo is that the UFW is demanding free representation elections for Gallo's workers. The union has advanced a standing offer to Gallo. The strike will end if Gallo allows such a vote among the peak harvest labor force, conducted by an impartial third party. Yet the Gallo corporation refuses. The justification offered by Gallo, that the "employer is vulnerable to lawsuits and boycotts by the losing union," ("Condensed Report of the Gallo-UFW-Teamsters Negotiations," published by Gallo, 1974), seems rather flimsy in view of the fact that Gallo is already being boycotted. A more straightforward explanation was given by more straightforward explanation was given by more straightforward explanation was given by Robert Deatrick, Gallo's industrial relations manager, at the time of the Teamster takeover. "An election just delays things." ("Gallo Chronology," published by the UFW, 1974.) James Smith, the Teamster area supervisor, has said, "The Teamsters are not going to go to any Mickey Mouse elections of any nature." (The modesto Bee, June 18, 1973.)
It is true that both growers and Teamsters have supported California state bills providing for elections. But the bills have been designed to cripple democratic unionization. Each of them has contained one or more of the following restrictions: (1) No strikes at harvest time (which is the only time that a strike can be effective); (2) No boycotts (boycotts are an important weapon for a union just starting to organize); (3) Election times to be chosen by the employers (so that the growers can hold a vote when only full-time workers are present. Full-time workers are usually a minority, and are better paid than seasonal laborers).
The reason for Gallo's opposition to free elections is fairly simple. If elections are held, the UFW will gain recognition as a representative of Gallo's workers and will once more start to make demands that Gallo does not want to meet. The first contract Gallo signed with the UFW in 1967 brought about significant changes; only then did Gallo raise wages above the minimum industrial wage. The UFW contract contained clauses dealing with the enforcement of federal and California state laws requiring toilets and fresh drinking water in the fields, which previously had been ignored. The contract provided for popularly elected ranch committees to enforce clauses relating to health, safety and pesticide use (the disease rate for California farm workers is more than twice the average rate for all industries).
That is why Gallo turned to the Team sters in 1973. There are striking differences between the Teamsters and the UFW in material benefits to workers, in organizational structure, and in outlook. Mike Bozick, a Coachella grape grower, commented that "the main difference [between the UFW and Teamster contracts] is that we [the growers] can run our business the Western conference of Teamsters is to compare the Teamster-Gallo contract with a UFW Almaden Vineyards contract signed in 1973:
JOB ASSIGNMENT: The UFW contract requires the replacement of the labor contractor system with a hiring hall. Under the labor contractor system, the grower requests a set number of workers, and a contractor selects them on an arbitrary basis. Job security is nonexistent (Gallo fires fifteen to twenty workers a day during peak harvesting time). An official Teamster statement says, 'Teamsters condemn all labor contractor, because they are evil corrupt, immoral, inhuman, and barters of souls and human lives." ("Why Does the Teamsters Union Support the Labor Contractor Rather Than the Hiring Hall?" Publication of the Western Conference of Teamsters, 1973). But their contract has a different ring: "The parties understand and agree that subcontracting by the Company is necessary and proper." It makes the employer rather than the union responsible for keeping the records from which seniority is determined. The seniority clause is further weakened by stating that the company may take "ability" into account in laying off and recalling employees.
The UFW instituted the hiring hall, a device used by many unions which allows them to assign jobs on the basis of seniority.
MANAGEMENT RIGHTS: Under the Teamster contract. Gallo has extensive rights to mechanize at will to arbitrarily create new job classifications, to promote and demote workers, and to discharge workers for just cause." The list of just causes is quite long and includes interference with the conduct of the company's business," whatever the might be Almaden is forbidden to install harvesting mechanize as long as the Union can provide personnel must discuss new job classifications with the workers, and has limited disciplinary powers.
WAGES: The UFW scales are higher in all categories, with difference ranging from 10 cents to 40 cents per hour. The UFW also has a standardized procedure for piece rate calculations.
HOURS: The Teamster contract specifically states that no limitation is placed on hours--so that workers can be forced to work seven days a week. The UFW contract insures on day a week as a holiday.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Almaden has a management-labor health and safety committee, and is required to provide protective clothing and tools, first aid supplies, toilet facilities, and cool drinking water. The contract states that "Workers will not be required to work when to do so would endanger their health and safety." The Teamster contract does not deal with any of these issues.
BENEFITS: Many of the benefits are similar in the two contracts, but UFW contracts are more comprehensive, and the teamster contracts extent only to full-time workers have a credit union. Gallo workers do not. Almaden workers have a medical plan administered by a special staff, which covers 80 per cent of medical cost. Gallo workers also have a medical plan, but it operates through a private insurance company and covers only 50 per cent of costs. The grievance procedure for Gallo workers involves closely spaced deadlines for complaint filling, making it difficult for workers to use the process. The UFW procedure gives the workers more time.
CHILD LABOR: Gallo has never denied that it hires workers between the ages of 12 and 16. The corporation attempts to obscure the issue with the statement that "we do provide jobs for local college or high school students." The UFW forbids child labor in all contracts.
CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT: The UFW structure includes elected ranch committees to insure that the terms of the contract are carried out. And the Teamsters? This September, the strikebreakers employed at Gallo went out on strike to protest Teamster non-enforcement of the contract.