Welcome - Philip Martin, UC Davis; William B. Gould IV, ALRB
Philip Martin is a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis.
William Gould is Chairman of the Board and head of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Martin: We are here today on the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the agricultural labor relations law, and I first want to thank all of you for coming, and all of the speakers who have come today. Forty years is sort of half of a human lifetime, but remember, 1975 was forty years after the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act. And so what we are doing today, is talking in four panels about the impacts and current status of some issues in the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. You know, some of you were here last year, in this same room, and we talked about changes in the agriculture, changes in the farm workforce, and the water story, the drought. This year we're going to spend the first session talking about changes in agriculture and in farm workers over the last forty years, and then we're going to have three sessions on the agricultural, various aspects of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. So I want to start by thanking our sponsors, the four sponsors are listed on the screen, and I want to thank the speakers and thank all of your for being here. We've tried to design the program so that there will be time for questions in each of the sessions, so please do have questions. This room has a lot of people, but it also is a room in which you're not too far from the speaker. Just two or three housekeeping details: there's coffee and snacks outside. We will have a break. There are bathrooms in various parts of the building, but I know there are some if you go to the right, back there. If you have any questions, Stephanie at the back or one of the other people will be happy to help you. With that, let me say just two words on changes and then I will turn to Bill Gould.
The, the main message that I get from going back and re-reading much of what was written right after the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act is it's really hard to predict the future. We say in economics it's easy to become famous without ever being right if you're trying to predict the direction of the stock market or things like that. And that saying would probably apply to many of the predictions made about what would happen under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Just one example, Varden Fuller, who was the really great farm labor economist, between the 1940s and the 1970s; the executive director of the President's council, of President’s Commission on Migratory Labor in 1951; the professor whose entire Ph.D. thesis is contained in the LaFollette hearings of nineteen, whatever, the forties, he predicted there would be contracts covering seven thousand farms, and half of the farm workforce, within two decades of the ALRA being enacted. He was wrong. That was, and he said, that's a conservative assumption, because he was writing against people who predicted ninety percent of farm workers would be covered by contracts, back in 1976 and 1977. So, we don't know the future. We do know what's happened in the last forty years, and we tried to shed or put some structure on things that have happened in the last forty years in the farm labor market, and in the ALRA. So with that I should say I am Phil Martin, a professor here in Ag and Resource Economics, and now I want to introduce Bill Gould, who is Chairman of the Board and head of the ALRB agency. Bill.
Gould: Thanks very much. Thanks Phil. Thank you. Thanks, Thanks Phil and it’s really been, I really want to thank you for, for your valuable contribution putting this conference together. It’s been a pleasure to work with you, and to, no matter whether you’re here in California or in Burma or some other place to jointly get this conference on the, on the track. I want thank, I want to say, you know, welcome all of you on behalf of the board, hank you very much for your interest in coming. I want to thank in particular those representatives of our agency, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, who have come here from the central headquarters in Sacramento and in the regional offices, and to thank them again for their commitment to the public interest as reflected in this 1975 statute, which is designed to promote freedom of association and the collective bargaining process, amongst the, the, amongst workers in the farms. And I don’t know whether he’s here or not, but he is going to be here. The Secretary of Labor, Governor Brown’s Secretary of Labor David Lanier. I don’t see him anywhere. David, are you here? No I guess not. But he will be here and I thank him for attending.
This an exciting and challenging period that we are in at the Board, and that people who are involved in the farms, whatever their status, are the face, now. As Phil has said, a lot has changed in this forty year period. I came to this Board after being chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in the Clinton years. Governor Brown, asked me to come back and to, to this kind of assignment and deal with the a framework that is predicated upon in substantial part the National Labor Relations Act with certain big exceptions to the rule. This is the National Labor Relations Act and the National Labor Relations Board, are, the product of the great depression. They were designed to produce a, a new deal constitution in the workplace to allow workers and unions to have the opportunity to shape their destiny along with the employers with whom they have a relationship, and the act established this independent expert agency, the National Labor Relations Board, quasi-judicial, designed to to be expert and designed to enforce our orders where one party resists them. Now, its based upon the National Labor Relations Act which celebrated the 80th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act and I was just last week at a conference with the current members of the board and the chairman celebrating, and the board’s general council celebrating, the 80th anniversary of the of that, of that statute.
Really, this statute and the National Labor Relations Act, this Agricultural Labor Relations Act, in my judgement, have always had their basic origins in, 1215: Magna Carta. Magna Carta, which is, for which we’re celebrating the 800th anniversary of the, which established for the first time, on a ever so limited basis, the basic rights of individuals vis-a-vis authority. Gompers, Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor, talked about the concept of Magna Carta in connection with labor legislation, and this is what was reflected in the National Labor Relations Act and the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Now, the National Labor Relations Act, as we all know, contains many imperfections.
One of its imperfections is particularly relevant to our discussion today, and that is its exclusion of farm labor from its coverage. There are a number, many exclusions in the National Labor Relations Act, but one of the most prominent of them is agricultural labor and that is why, and of course that was because the Congress was able to really ignore those who were at that time politically impotent in our society: black labor, Mexican labor, Chinese labor, Filipino Labor, whose rights were not recognized by the statute. And so we had in the 1970s as the result of the upheavals which followed the civil rights revolution, this new statute, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, promoted, signed into law by Governor Brown who called it at its, at its time, his greatest accomplishment in his first term in office. Much has changed over this forty year period. And much as, as Phil Martin has indicated, the script has evolved in a way that no one could have, could have foreseen. Phil Martin has written, ten years after the enactment of the 1975 statute about the fact that the board held nine hundred elections in the first decade of its existence. nine hundred elections. I became chairman of this agency thirteen months ago, and in that period of time, under a statute through which the sole basis of organizing is filling representation petitions with the board, not one single representation petition has been filed with our agency.
Now when I spoke last fall at the Harvard Law School about this and indicated that at that time, no representation petitions had come forth, one of the people in the audience said, "Oh, perhaps that’s because the employees are, the agricultural laborers are satisfied with their conditions - that they’ve improved so appreciably."
And of course we see every day that the unfair labor practice charges that are filed with us, which for the, which in every instance, in most instances do not involve unions, but involve workers gathering together to engage in concerted activity to protest what they deem to be unfair conditions, we see that that is not the case. We see that I went to the Coachella Valley, just last year. We see farm workers who are not simply living in their cars, but are living four to a car, where a mats are spread out next to the cars in which they live. The most wretched conditions, half a century after Edward R. Murrow first called attention nationally to this issue in his documentary, "Harvest of Shame." So I, I welcome you here today. We, we, we look to an examination of these past four decades as a lesson, knowing in all humility, how difficult, as Phil Martin has said, to predict the future, on hoping, as Santayana said to learn from the past, so that we can help shape a better future. Thank you very much.