Roederer, Inc., as predicted, has now made it clear it will attempt to slowly strangle its vineyard workers’ union. The French-owned winery — the oldest family-owned winery in the world, and certainly among the most prosperous wineries in the world — has apparently adopted what is known in the industry as the “Gallo Strategy.” The Gallo Strategy consists of high-priced lawyers from firms specializing in union-busting keeping the union in court until it gives up and goes away.
In the case of Roederer Inc., the Gallo Strategy means Roederer and its lawyers hope to get the Roederer workers’ uncoerced September vote to join the United Farm Workers into generally union-hostile courts before Republican-appointed judges. The company’s first step will be to get their complaints heard by the five-member, union-hostile, Republican-appointed Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Gallo’s workers voted four years ago to affiliate with the UFW, but Gallo’s attorneys have fought the union ever since, seizing every conceivable opportunity to keep the UFW tied up in court as the Gallo brothers simultaneously prevent their underpaid labor from achieving a decent pay and benefits package.
Roederer, with assets perhaps equal to Gallo’s, has decided to stiff its workers. Roederer has also decided to stiff the democratic process claiming, without supporting evidence, that its vineyard crews were “intimidated” into voting to join the United Farm Workers on September 21st of this year. As several of Roederer executives and a pair of “labor consultants” — Mexican American thugs who specialize in strike-breaking, and occasionally leg-breaking — stood glowering at workers as they voted that local history-making morning, Roederer workers voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers.
Roederer immediately challenged the election on the vague, and so far unsupported charge, that both the UFW organizers present and the two representatives of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board who supervised the unprecedented vote in Roederer’s vineyards just outside Boonville, had somehow misbehaved.
Five weeks and two strikes later, the ALRB’s executive secretary dismissed Roederer’s charges of an illegally-conducted election without comment. Roederer then had until Monday, October 19th, to challenge the summary dismissal of its challenge to the conduct of the election.
On Monday, October 19th, waiting until the close of the work day, Roederer’s union-busting specialists, Littler-Mendelson, filed the challenge to the election everyone had been expecting.
Rob Carrol, the attorney assigned by Littler-Mendelson to see to it that Roederer’s workers are paid at poverty rates in job conditions not tolerated in the vineyards of France, explained late Monday afternoon why Roederer had pursued what appear to be groundless objections to Mendocino County’s first-ever attempt by agricultural laborers to unionize.
“Yes, we have filed a request for review of the Executive Secretary’s determination with the full five-member ALRB,” Carrol said Monday. “I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that we believe that the evidence we’ve presented, when supported by appropriate case citations, provide a very compelling case as to why a hearing should be granted and that these issues should be fleshed out before an investigative hearing examiner.
Carrol went blandly and patronizingly on, redundantly emphasizing his and his paymaster’s blunt strategies for unraveling a democratic labor election.
“I did have an opportunity to read your article in last week’s paper when I was up at the winery last Thursday,” Carrol said Monday. “I want to make sure that you understand the difference between when the ALRB Executive Secretary rules and what his authority is vis-a-vis the ALRB, the board itself. The main difference is that ALRB executive secretary is the initial person who reviews the declarations and makes an initial determination. But it is not the determination of the ALRB, the actual five-member board, unless it is not appealed. The ALRB has not yet spoken as to the merit of the objections petition and whether or not a hearing should be granted. That will happen as our request for review is considered. As to the Executive Secretary’s decision, he is not a member of the board, he is their secretary. So the board will do the review.”
That simple distinction having been made to his satisfaction, and Carrol and his French padrones having set in motion what is likely to be years of litigation aimed at keeping the people who have made Roederer richer than Croesus in a state of perpetual peonage, Mr. Carrol called it a day.