Premium Joomla Template by HostMonster Reviews
3d slider slice box

The Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the Trojan Horse

Bryan Little, Farm Employers Labor Service

September 23, 2017

Most of us are familiar with the legend of the Trojan Horse. The Roman poet Virgil relates in the Aeneid the story of a fruitless 10-year siege laid by the Greeks at the ancient city of Troy. The Greeks made a great show of sailing away with their entire army, leaving only an apparent peace offering in the form of a giant idol of a horse. The Trojans brought the “gift” into their city, and after nightfall a small force of Greek soldiers secreted in the horse emerged. They opened the gates of the city and aided their comrades, who had sailed back under cover of darkness, in capturing Troy. This tactic ended that iteration of the Trojan Wars with a victory for the Greeks. In modern times, a Trojan horse describes a trick or stratagem that causes the unsuspecting to invite a foe into a protected place.

In recent years, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board has undertaken efforts to “educate” workers about their rights (particularly their right to engage in “protected concerted activity”) guaranteed by the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. In an abortive effort to provide worker education, the Board tried in 2015 to grant itself through regulation the right to take “educational access” in much the same way the Board grants labor unions the right to trespass on farms and ranches to "meet and talk with employees."

After recently opening an office in Santa Rosa, the ALRB has contacted area agricultural employers to invite them to an “open house,” an apparent effort at community outreach hoping to shed the Board’s adversarial image. In the same communication, Board staff also requested “ag tours” for the ostensible purpose of learning more about agriculture, “on a friendly basis and with no intention behind it … to see the workers in action and get an idea what their duties are like.” In fact, in their communications Board staff describe the tour they want as “kind of like a wine tour but except in this case we would just like to tour the fields and see the workers in action, without distracting them or making them stop their duties at work.” Undoubtedly, these “wine tourists” would come armed with ALRB business cards and pamphlets like this one and this one, intended to encourage workers to file unfair labor practice charges and infused with a distinct anti-employer tone.

The Board staff’s efforts to deceive the unwary about their intentions is concerning. FELS suggests that agricultural employers should be aware of the likely purpose of this seemingly innocent “outreach” effort, and be particularly wary of requests for “wine tours,” “educational tours,” or any other effort to gain access to farms under the guise of seeking to learn more about agriculture. Your reward for “educating” Board staff could be a flurry of unfair labor practice charges, brought to you by the Board staff’s “Trojan horse” outreach.