A Fresno County fruit grower is taking a pre-emptive step against the agency in charge of settling farmer-worker disputes. Gerawan Farming, with offices in Fresno and Reedley, filed a motion to disqualify a newly confirmed board member from deciding their cases.

In a 26-page motion filed with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), attorneys for Gerawan asked the ALRB to remove Isadore Hall from deciding their cases. Specifically, they want to prevent Hall from deciding a case involving Gerawan and the United Farm Workers (UFW), in which an administrative law judge ruled in the union’s favor on April 14.

Gerawan has been in a protracted battle with UFW about the union’s right to represent Gerawan workers. On the agenda for the ALRB’s May 11 meeting, seven Gerawan cases are on the docket.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Hall in January. He was confirmed on the state senate floor on April 20. Hall’s appointment was soundly opposed by farm groups like Gerawan because they feel Hall has a perceived bias against them. As a former state legislator, Hall marched with UFW. Gerawan also accuses Hall of “advocacy on behalf of the UFW and against Gerawan” as reasons he should not be allowed to decide their case.

Even newspapers like the Los Angeles Times question Hall’s appointment, calling it cronyism. Nonetheless, on party lines, Hall won confirmation to the board on a 25-13 vote. His supporters feel he will be an unbiased arbiter, willing to listen to all sides.

The nomination process was contentious to say the least. Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) made numerous accusations against Hall and his supporters. The most egregious allegation involved Hall vowing a vendetta to members of a farm lobbying group if they opposed him.

The ALRB, a 1970s creation during Brown’s first stint as governor, is supposed to have five members. With Hall’s confirmation, the board now stands at three. If Gerawan is successful at having Hall disqualified, the motion argues “the Board cannot adjudicate the Decision for lack of a valid quorum until such time as the Governor fills at least one vacancy on the Board.”

In the motion, Gerawan mentioned Hall’s participation with UFW in a October 22, 2014 march and lobbying the Los Angeles city council to pass a resolution condemning Gerawan in its talks with UFW.

Gerawan’s legal arguments consist of accusing Hall of having a prejudgment with a “high probability of actual bias.” The brief also says that, without Hall, the ALRB would not have a quorum, and thus cannot register any decision, at least when it comes to Gerawan matters. They want the ALRB to stay off the matter until Brown selects another member of the ALRB.

The ALRB full body next meets on May 11 at 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento.

Read the full legal motion

[This version has been corrected to indicate the ALRB currently has three members]

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

Contact David Taub

Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail

This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.

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