(AP) — The California farm labor board has upheld a court ruling that one of the nation's largest fruit growers interfered as employees were deciding whether to reject union representation.
The decision Friday by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board marked the latest victory for organized labor in the decades-long fight.
The board unanimously affirmed the ruling by Administrative Law Judge Mark Soble to set aside a 2013 election held by workers at Gerawan Farming Inc.
The board found Gerawan allowed employees who favored breaking from the United Farm Workers to gather signatures during work time to hold an election and unlawfully granted a wage increase during the decertification campaign to win the favor of workers.
The company hires thousands of people annually to harvest nectarines, peaches and grapes in the Central Valley.
It said it will appeal the farm board's decision.
"Gerawan is confident that this undemocratic decision will not stand," the company said, adding that it would welcome a new election supervised by board chairman William Gould.
"We truly want the workers to have a say since the last time they were asked their opinion was in 1990," the company said.
The dispute between Gerawan and the union dates back to 1992, when the UFW began to represent the workers but didn't negotiate a labor contract. Union leaders have said they backed off at the time because they were overpowered by Gerawan.
They recently returned to take on the company and represent its workers.
The UFW's national vice president Armando Elenes said the farm board decision shows there was illegal behavior.
"The decision speaks for itself," Elenes said. "Now we just want Gerawan to implement the workers' contract."
The state Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether the contract can be implemented.