California Implements Significant Changes to the Agricultural Labor Relations Act


Effective January 1, 2012, California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) was amended in ways that will likely help unions to organize agricultural employees in California and obtain favorable labor contracts with agricultural employers. Specifically, the ALRA has been amended to: (1) permit the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), if it finds that an agricultural employer committed significant misconduct affecting the result of a union election, to issue an order requiring the employer to recognize and bargain with a union even if a majority of the employees voted against union representation in the election; (2) require the ALRB to process election objections and challenged ballot disputes within an expedited timeframe; (3) enable the ALRB to obtain injunctive relief more easily; (4) shorten the time within which the ALRB may compel mandatory mediation/interest arbitration of a first collective bargaining agreement; and (5) prevent an employer’s appeal to an appellate court from stopping commencement of the ALRA’s mandatory mediation process. These changes place significant new weapons in the hands of unions seeking to represent agricultural employees.


SB 126 was sponsored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – the same legislator who sponsored SB104, which would have required an agricultural employer to recognize a union solely on the basis of a “card check.” After Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 104, Steinberg introduced SB 126 as a “compromise” to the card check legislation. Governor Brown signed SB126 on October 9, 2011.

SB 126 includes several changes to the ALRA. Specifically, SB 126 contains the following amendments.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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