The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975

The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975

UFW demonstrators shout and raise their fist at a rally at the California State Capitol. Several UFW flags are visible. Sacramento, 1975. Photo by John Kouns.

The Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 (ALRA) established the right to collective bargaining for farm workers in the state of California. In 1974, a labor law bill written by César Chávez and John F. Henning was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Alatorre. But Governor Ronald Reagan opposed it and killed the Bill. The election of Jerry Brown as governor made it possible for him and César Chávez to agree on a framework and a strategy to pass the legislation. A new bill was introduced on April 9, 1975, by Assemblyman Howard Berman and Senator John Dunlop. Governor Brown negotiated a deal with the UFW, the growers, and the Teamsters on May 5, and he signed the bill on June 5. 

Assemblyman Richard Alatorre speaks at a UFW rally in front of the California State Capitol. A woman holds and extends a UFW AFL-CIO flag next to him. Sacramento, 1975. Photo by John Kouns.

Before the ALRA was signed, tension had been building since growers in Salinas Valley signed contracts with Teamsters in July 1970 that allowed the Teamsters to organize into unions. E & J Gallo Winery also decided not to renew their contracts with the United Farm Workers and instead signed with the Teamsters; the UFW wanted to hold elections to see if the farm workers wanted to be represented by the Teamsters and not the UFW. Violence erupted on the picket lines against UFW supporters and farm workers, leading to injuries and the deaths of Juan de la Cruz and Nagi Daifullah. The UFW’s march to Modesto in protest of Gallo in 1975 helped gain momentum for legislation in support of farm workers. By 1975, growers wanted peace from the pressures of the UFW and were willing to negotiate. 

The general counsel of the UFW, Jerry Cohen, speaks into a microphone at a rally at the California State Capitol. Sacramento, 1975. Photo by John Kouns.

Although the ALRA provided a legal framework in which a union could thrive, it also diminished the power of the farm worker movement by bringing it under the law. With the passage of the ALRA, workers had minimum wage guarantees, unemployment insurance, and industrial safety requirements. However, they could also petition for elections, organize, and negotiate contracts with or without the approval of the UFW or César Chávez. In the years following the passage of the ALRA, UFW offices became more unorganized, and the Union lost key members and leadership.


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