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Berry Workers Vote to Unionize

July 24, 1998

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) _ A majority of workers at the nation’s largest strawberry producer have voted for union representation, but not for the union that had been trying to organize the workers.

Thursday’s vote in favor of the Coastal Berry Farmworkers Committee, a group of Coastal Berry Co. workers, represents a defeat for the rival United Farm Workers, the union created by the late Cesar Chavez. The Farmworkers Committee received 523 votes, nearly 54 percent, of the 972 ballots cast.

``People here, the people in the fields, we’re tired of being `educated’ by the UFW,″ said Jose Guadalupe Fernandez, a 22-year-old truck driver who is leading the Farmworkers Committee.

The UFW claimed the Farmworkers Committee was funded by growers’ groups opposed to the UFW and accused Coastal Berry Co. management of bully tactics.

``We think that the growers have formed a sham organization,″ UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said after the ballots were tallied. ``When you have foremen and supervisors threatening (workers) with the loss of their jobs, of course you’re going to get this.″

Rodriguez said the UFW would seek to nullify the election. Coastal Berry Co. had been the centerpiece of the UFW’s campaign to organize California berry workers.

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