Labor activists and politicians in California reacted with anger Wednesday after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for the state's largely Hispanic farmworkers to join a union.
"What never changes in politics is power. Gov. Brown accepted the arguments made by the powerful agribusiness lobby and rejected the cause of powerless farm workers," United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said in a statement.
It was shortly before midnight Tuesday when Brown signed the veto of SB 104, the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, a measure sponsored by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
California Assembly speaker John Perez, also a Democrat, called Brown's decision a step backward and said it showed the governor put the interests of growers ahead of those of the workers.
Around 100 farmworkers were joined by activists and politicians Tuesday night as they waited outside Brown's Capitol office to find out whether he would sign or veto SB 104.
The bill would have allowed farmworkers to form or affiliate with a union via a petition, rather than through an election held in the workplace, where employees could be subject to intimidation by bosses.
In his veto message, Brown said that while he was sympathetic to the motivations behind the bill, he feared SB 104 could adversely affect the framework of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
"I am not yet convinced that the far-reaching proposals of this bill - which alter in a significant way the guiding assumptions of the ALRA - are justified," the governor said.
"The governor missed a historic opportunity to help the hardest working people in California improve their standard of living and working conditions. I will continue to fight for their cause," Sen. Steinberg said after Brown's veto.
Previous versions of SB 104 passed the legislature only to be vetoed by Brown's Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.