Over the last 25 years a limited number of labor and employment attorneys have turned their attention and representation to employers in the vineyards and on the bottling lines of California Wine Makers. The nature and type of work done in the combined vineyard and bottling work creates a complex interaction with at least two agencies with different laws and jurisdictional power. Vineyard workers are covered by the State Of California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), and the bottling workers are covered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Other agencies regulating wages and hours of work and many other employer employee relations will be discussed in following publications. For now, the ALRB and the NLRB are enough for a preliminary commentary. The counsel of this firm have represented California Wine Makers in all of these competing matters and we welcome our readers. We seek to unravel some of the mysteries.
Much of the effort expended in the unions gaining representation of the vineyard workers follows political efforts by the two labor organizations with any sort of ability to organize the workers in the vineyards, while other more traditional labor organizations may be involved in organizing bottling workers. The vineyard workers present a unique sort of hybrid work force, coming under the ALRB, with its rules and regulations allowing for maximum exposure of the workers to the union’s organizing efforts. The ALRB process reasons that the nature of the work, the extent of the disperse and seasonal work force, justifies almost unlimited access to the Vineyard properties for organizing, and protects the rights of union access to the employees over the property rights of the Vineyard owners. Attempts at interference with these efforts by employers generally put Vineyard owners under the oppressive and onerous ALRB processes and litigation efforts. The unions will often bring other agencies of the State into play to further their efforts, if thwarted in any way by Vineyard employers.
The bottling workers fall into the Federal jurisdiction of the NLRB, which provides for union organizing with some different rules, though the ALRB claims to derive much of its structure and process from the NLRB. Most employers have a sort of understanding of the NLRB processes, though with the newly appointed and approved NLRB Board in Washington, DC, those rules and decisions are heading quickly to the favor of unions and organizing.
With this thumbnail sketch of the complex and double dipped process facing many of the California Wine Makers, it is no surprise that confusion exists over just what should be done when the union comes to the door or the gates, and what law applies, and who is in charge anyway. On top of these concerns, employment law dealing with the usual hiring, discipline, and firing decisions, with or without union involvement, are impacted by the various decisions of the State and Federal courts in the employment arena. Many employers suffer from the paralysis brought on by decisions reported in the media and broadcast with various pundits on the air and over the net about the wild and overblown judgments in the courts, following employer actions towards their employees. These rules and issues are altogether different from the ALRB and NLRB dilemmas, and require their own chapters. This too will follow.
In these pages to come, we plan to take this network of laws, rules, regulations, political impacts and strategic efforts apart in a piece by piece effort to bring some sense to the vineyards. We know that you would rather be discussing pressing matters like “prune to the vine,” and so would we. But, for now, let’s get on with our background and strategic analysis. Inquiries and problems you may face are welcome in our comment section.