LOS ANGELES TIMES

September 12, 2007

 

Farmworker union dues seized to pay off UFW lawsuit

 

By Geoffrey Mohan

 

Union dues from hundreds of farmworkers will be diverted to pay off a $1.2-million judgment against the United Farm Workers over the union’s treatment of its organizers.

Monterey Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Wills on Friday ordered UFW dues that are deducted from paychecks at four companies, including fruit and produce giants Dole and D’Arrigo Brothers, be diverted to pay back wages and penalties to two dozen union organizers who won a lawsuit against the union over unpaid wages.

The cost, which will include unspecified attorney fees, is expected to rise above $2 million — nearly half of the dues UFW collected last year from 9,830 members, according to U.S. Department of Labor records.

UFW has 5,580 members under collective bargaining agreements who pay about 3% of their gross pay in dues. It was unclear how many of those workers are under contract at the companies named in the order, which also included Scheid Vineyards and Balletto Ranch Inc.

UFW spokesman Armando Elenes said the union “can and will appeal” the order.

In March, Wills ruled that the UFW failed to pay two dozen organizers overtime or compensate them for meal time and other intervals over a period of more than four years.

The judgment included $885,000 in back pay and $235,000 in penalties and legal expenses.

Plaintiff Francisco Cerritos was fired from the UFW in 2013, shortly after organizing a UFW employee union, La Union Es Para Todos (the union is for everyone). UFW cited several disciplinary actions in the firing.

Cerritos filed the suit a year later, saying he was misclassified as exempt from certain wage and hourly rules and was owed back wages, according to court records.

The suit alleged that the UFW regularly required Cerritos and 23 other organizers to work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours per week, did not provide paid meal periods after five hours of work and regularly issued pay stubs that did not specify the hours worked.