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Biden Endorses California Bill That Would Make Unionizing Easier for Farmworkers

While it’s been suggested Newsom may veto the bill, Biden’s statement increases pressure on the governor.

Farmworkers labor in a strawberry field amid drought conditions on August 5, 2022, near Ventura, California.

Labor organizers in California and across the country welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s “unexpected and powerful endorsement of the state’s pending legislation to make it easier for farmworkers to unionize — a bill that’s sitting on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

While Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year and a spokesperson recently suggested he may do the same with Assembly Bill 2183, Biden’s statement on the eve of Labor Day increases pressure on the governor — whom the president supported during a failed 2021 recall attempt.

“I strongly support California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act (A.B. 2183), which will give California’s agricultural workers greater opportunity to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” Biden said.

“Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America’s tables during the pandemic,” he continued. “In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union. I am grateful to California’s elected officials and union leaders for leading the way.”

While the California Chamber of Commerce and agriculture industry groups oppose A.B. 2183, the bill is backed by the United Farm Workers (UFW), which says the measure is intended to protect farmworkers from supervisor intimidation during union elections.

“Farmworkers are grateful,” UFW president Teresa Romero said of Biden’s endorsement. “¡Sí se puede!”

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who left the state Assembly earlier this year to serve as chief officer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, declared Sunday night that it is “time to sign the bill.”

The push for the A.B. 2183 in California comes amid a unionization wave sweeping the country, with workers organizing at giant corporations including Amazon, Apple, Chipotle, Google, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s.

Biden — who’s repeatedly vowed to be “the most pro-union president” in American history — argued Sunday that government should make it easier for workers who want to organize and highlighted the benefits of unionizing.

“Organizing or joining a union, that’s democracy in action,” he said. “And it’s especially important today for Black and Brown workers whose voices have long been silenced through shameful race-based laws and policies.”

According to the president, “It is long past time that we ensure America’s farmworkers and other essential workers have the same right to join a union as other Americans.”