Documents uncovered by GV Wire show that a controversial labor board member knew about a major Fresno County fruit producer, contradicting his alleged statements that he had no knowledge of the company.
Ever since Isadore Hall’s appointment and subsequent confirmation to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) this year, Gerawan has fought to bar him from making any decisions on its cases. The fruit grower claims Hall is biased. Yet, Gerawan’s legal maneuvers to have Hall disqualified have failed to gain favor among the three-member ALRB.
In May, the ALRB denied Gerawan’s motion, which claimed Hall could not fairly judge Gerawan cases before the board because of bias. The evidence was based on anonymous testimony of a man who claimed Hall made disparaging remarks about the ag company whose future he could impact. As part of that declaration, Hall allegedly asked, “Who was Gerawan?”
A month later, Gerawan filed a similar motion to reconsider disqualifying Hall based on bias. That too was denied. The major difference was that the once anonymous source claiming Hall’s bias was revealed to be a Madera County farm executive.
Hall voted both times in denying the motions to recuse himself. Officials at Gerawan tell GV Wire they are considering their next legal move.
Through a Public Records Act request, GV Wire received documents showing communications with state Senate President Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) and Hall prior to his confirmation hearings in March. These were the letters referenced in Hall’s June decision not to recuse himself from the Gerawan cases.
In that Administrative Order denying Gerawan’s attempt to block Hall from deciding cases involving the grower, Hall wrote:
“After being appointed to the Board, I became aware that there were unwarranted attacks, including videos, being made against me on social media, but I did not — and do not — attribute any of these videos to Gerawan Farming, and to my knowledge Gerawan Farming is not responsible for those videos. Also, while the declarant here alleges I inquired of him “who was Gerawan” on the eve of my confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee on March 1, 2017, I was familiar with Gerawan Farming at that time. I was appointed to the Board on January 13, 2017. On January 27, I received a letter from Senate President Pro Tempore, Kevin de León, concerning my confirmation process and requesting responses to various questions, including several pertaining specifically to Gerawan Farming. I responded to those questions by letter dated February 10, 2017.
“As a large agricultural producer, I understand Gerawan Farming has contributed greatly to the economic fabric of the State of California. To be clear, I harbor no bias or hostility toward Gerawan Farming. In my deliberations on case nos. 2012-CE-041-VIS, et al., and in all other cases that come before this Board, I will consider only the record before the Board and applicable legal precedent.”
In a letter dated Jan. 27, 2017, de Léon asked Hall 14 questions about various issues the ALRB would face. Some seem like typical queries for a job interview: What do you see as the major challenges facing the ALRB today? How has your work experience (in the Legislature) prepared you to perform the duties of your current position? What do you hope to accomplish?
Other topics in the written questions and answers included the ALRB plan to expand regional offices, effects of workers speaking neither English nor Spanish, budgets and the slowdown of election certifications.
Hall’s answers seemed typical: full of humble bragging and cliches (“separate the wheat from the chaff”).
Other highlights included:
- When asked about what he hoped to accomplish, Hall replied in a Feb. 10, 2017 letter: “I want to protect our farmworkers from the federal government, including our undocumented farmworkers.”
- Hall wrote that it is is unlikely that undocumented workers will want to organize and engage in union activities. He estimates that 60% of farmworkers are undocumented.
- De Léon also asked about the cases Gerawan Farming has before the board:
Q: What is the stauts of the Gerawan Farming case focused on MMC (Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation) statute that is now before the California Supreme Court? If the court decides against the Board and finds the MMC process unconstitutional, what impact will this have on the contract dispute resolution process?
A: Oral arguments in the case are expected to be scheduled in the next couple of months. The process established by the MMC statute would no longer be used if the court ultimately finds the MMC statue unconstitutional.
Q: The Board also is facing a number of appeals from Gerawan Farming on unfair labor practice and election litigation cases. To what extent has this increase in the litigation from a single employer affected the operations of the Board?
A: There are eight cases before the courts involving Gerawan Farming. Given that I have only recently been appointed, I do not have a good frame of reference from which to compare. I will say though that the eight separate cases pending throughout the courts does have an impact on the staff, which has the responsibility to defend the Board in these cases. This takes away from their other responsibilities. The Board is doing everything possible within its resouces to meet deadlines and fulfill its responsibilities.
The state Supreme Court will hear Gerawan’s case regarding a contract imposed by the United Farm Workers and enforced by the ALRB on Sept. 5.