Biden endorses bill to help farmworkers organize, putting pressure on Newsom

Joe Aguilar of Sacramento waves a United Farm Workers flag in front of the state Capitol.
Joe Aguilar of Sacramento waves a United Farm Workers flag outside the state Capitol after the union finished a 24-day march on Aug. 26.
(Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee)

In an unusual foray into California state politics, President Biden weighed in Sunday in support of a proposed law, now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, that would make it easier for farmworkers to organize.

“I strongly support California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act,” Biden said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

For the record:

10:28 a.m. Sept. 5, 2022

An earlier version of this story described President Biden’s statement as a “usual foray into California state politics.” It should have read “unusual.”

“Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America’s tables during the pandemic,” he said. “In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union.”


So far, Newsom has not signed Assembly Bill 2183, which was written by Assembly Member Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) and approved by both the Assembly and the Senate last month. Newsom vetoed a similar measure last year.

Representatives for Newsom could not be reached Sunday. But last month, a spokesperson issued a statement that the governor is “eager to sign legislation that expands opportunities for agricultural workers to come together and be represented” but that the governor did not support the bill in its current form.

The proposed law allows farmworkers choices in how they vote in union elections, including voting by mail. Currently, the state holds secret ballot union elections at a polling place designated by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

The UFW march to Sacramento is aimed at pressuring Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign legislation making it easier for the union to organize laborers.

Aug. 20, 2022

Union officials said the changes are necessary to protect farmworkers from intimidation and deportation for supporting a union. But Newsom’s spokesperson said his office “cannot support an untested mail-election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election, and is predicated on an assumption that government cannot effectively enforce laws.”

Biden’s action came a little more than a week after the United Farm Workers completed a 335-mile march from the UFW’s headquarters near Delano to the state Capitol to try to pressure Newsom to sign the bill.

In 2020, the UFW endorsed Biden for president, largely in the hope he’d help undocumented “Dreamers” and implement other immigration reforms and worker safety protections.


“A Biden presidency can help enact the same rules preventing farmworkers from dying or becoming ill from extreme heat that the UFW won in California,” UFW President Teresa Romero said at the time.

In March 2021, the White House reciprocated when First Lady Jill Biden visited Forty Acres in Delano, the historic birthplace of the United Farmworkers, and met with family members of César Chávez.

As The Times reported then, introductions were made by Julie Chávez Rodriguez, the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the granddaughter of Chávez.