8 Churchmen Urge Ouster of Farm Labor Board Counsel

Times Labor Writer

Leaders of eight major religious bodies in Southern California on Thursday urged Gov. George Deukmejian to fire David Stirling, general counsel of the California farm labor board, because of his “unacceptable intrusion” into the activities of the United Farm Workers Union.

Kevin Brett, spokesman for the governor, quickly responded that “the governor has no intention of dismissing Dave Stirling.”

The plea was contained in a letter to Deukmejian from Presbyterian, Jewish, Episcopalian, Christian Methodist Episcopalian, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Roman Catholic leaders. The Catholic Church was represented by the recently appointed Los Angeles archbishop, Roger Mahony.


Calls for Stirling’s dismissal were also made by Northern California church leaders two weeks ago.

2 Occasions Cited

The Southern California church officials accused Stirling of violating his role as a neutral executive of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board on two occasions:

- When he wrote a Sept. 24 article for the editorial pages of The Times charging, among other things, that UFW President Cesar Chavez is “zealous, uncompromising, litigious, demanding, and frequently (has a) heavy-handed attitude and style offensive to a great number of people, including farm workers.” In the article, Stirling also attacked the union’s boycott of California table grapes.

- When he traveled to Washington on Oct. 3 “at the public taxpayers’ expense to lobby the board of the United Methodist Church not to endorse the United Farm Workers Union’s grape boycott.”

“It is not the function of the (ALRB) general counsel,” the churchmen said, “to offer a public article denouncing either growers or farm workers, either growers’ associations or farm workers’ associations. . . . (Stirling) has proved publicly that he does not meet the basic requirements for impartiality or objectivity, and we strongly urge you (Deukmejian) to dismiss him.”

Brett defended Stirling’s trip to Washington, saying the grape boycott is directed at the administration of the farm labor law by the governor’s appointees, and the Methodist leaders were “entitled to hear another point of view.”


Signing the letter were Frederick J. Beebe, synod executive of the United Church of Christ; Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis; Los Angeles Episcopal Suffragan Bishop Oliver B. Garver; Bishop Nathaniel Linsey of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Bishop Stanley E. Olson of the Lutheran Church in America; Fred P. Register, conference minister of the United Church of Christ; Bishop Nelson W. Trout of the American Lutheran Church; United Methodist Bishop Jack M. Tuell, and Mahony.