Governor Newsom Signs AB 2183, a Law That Expands Union Rights for Farmworkers

Joining a union offers workers several benefits. It empowers workers to fight for better pay, retirement security, and safer working conditions. Forming a union empowers workers to combat harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. In simpler words, when workers form a union, they give themselves a voice.

Many workers are forming unions today, including doctors, nurses, digital news staff, home health care aides, and farm workers. And when it comes to farmworkers, those in California have a new law they need to know. Governor Newsom signed a new bill in September 2022 that expands union rights for farm workers.

The signing of AB 2183 surprised some labor groups and agricultural leaders as the Governor had, sometime before signing the bill, indicated that he was not going to sign it. After facing pressure from union members, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Governor Newsom had no choice but to get on board. The Governor also saw it fit to sign AB 2183 after he, the California Labor Federation, and United Farm Workers (UFW) worked on language to be passed during 2023’s lawmaking period to address his worries around implementation and voting integrity.

For weeks, the Governor of California faced pressure nationally and locally to sign AB 2183. Union members and their supporters had undergone a 335-mile, 24-day pilgrimage from Central Valley to the capitol, where some camped. Adding to this pressure, the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, released a statement urging Governor Newsom to sign AB 2183 into law. Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also joined the President in urging Governor Newsom to sign the bill into law. 

Understanding AB 2183

California farmworkers have had the right to unionize for many years now. Assembly Bill 2183 does not give farmworkers in California the right to unionize. Instead, Assembly Bill 2183 creates new methods for people who work on farms to vote in union elections. According to the new law, farmworkers can now vote in union elections by mail. Farmworkers can also drop off their ballot cards at the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board. Before AB 2183, the law in California allowed farmworkers to unionize in secret ballot elections.

Cap on the Number of Card-check Petitions

The agreement between UFW, the Newsom Administration, and the California Labor Federation includes a cap on card-check petitions over the next half a decade. The Newsom Administration, the California Labor Federation, and UFW agreed to limit the number of card-check unionizations the labor relations board can certify to 75 for the next half a decade. 

Some People Are Against AB 2183

Not everyone was happy about the passing of AB 2183. Opponents of the bill are farm, commerce, and retail groups. For example, the farm bureau said that AB 2183 would strip farmworkers of the ability to express their feelings about unionization. According to the farm bureau, this is provided by the secret ballot election process. 

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you are a California farmworker who needs help with an employment-related matter or help understanding more about AB 2183, please reach out to a California employment lawyer near you.