Jerry Brown 2.0: Friend or Foe of Farmworkers?
Once a labor champion, "Gov. Moonbeam" pulled a Governator on a farmworker union bill. Will he do the same on a nasty pesticide?
Back in 1975, a young, newly elected California governor named Jerry Brown signed into law a historic bill recognizing the right of his state's farm workers to unionize. Nicknamed "Governor Moonbeam" for his new-age tendencies, Brown might have been a bit spacey, but he didn't waver in standing up to his state's powerful agribusiness interests.
In the decades since, the protections offered by that law have eroded. Farmworkers say field bosses use intimidation to keep people from voting to form unions. The United Farm Workers have been pushing for years for new protections that would make it easier for workers to cast their votes without being under the noses of the bosses. Advocates have managed to push such a bill through the California legislature four times in recent years. And each time, Arnold Schwarzenegger—unapologetically carrying water for the state's powerful agribusiness lobby—vetoed it.
Now The Arnold is gone, and that '70s-era governor is back—again deciding the fate of legislation that would improve the lot of the thousands of people who work in California's fields. But this time, Jerry Brown came down on the side of the bosses. On Tuesday, he vetoed the the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.
He had signed the original 1975 act at a press conference with much fanfare. Jerry Brown 2.0 rejected the 2011 bill hidden away in his office, accompanying the veto with a weasely memo (PDF). In that sad document, the onetime-firebrand wrings his hands over the possibility of "drastic changes" to the state's farm-labor law.