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Tri-Fanucchi Farms v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board

Filed 11/27/17 (this opn. follows companion case S227243 also filed 11/27/17) IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA TRI-FANUCCHI FARMS, ) ) Petitioner, ) ) S227270 v. ) ) Ct.App. 5 F069419 AGRICULTURAL LABOR RELATIONS ) BOARD, ) ) Respondent; ) ( UNITED FARM WORKERS OF ) AMERICA, ) ) Real Party in Interest. ) ____________________________________) In 2012, Tri-Fanucchi Farms (Tri-Fanucchi) refused to bargain with the United Farm Workers of America (the UFW), the labor union that its employees had elected in 1977 as their bargaining representative under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (the ALRA or the Act). Tri-Fanucchi argued that the union had abandoned its employees for more than two decades and thus forfeited its status as bargaining representative. Consistent with its longstanding practice, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (the Board or the ALRB) rejected the employer’s abandonment defense and determined that Tri-Fanucchi’s refusal constituted an unfair labor practice under the ALRA. The Board then ordered Tri- Fanucchi to pay make-whole relief under Labor Code section 1160.3, which is 1 intended in part to compensate employees for employer-caused delays in the collective bargaining process. (All undesignated statutory references are to the Labor Code.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the Board’s rejection of Tri- Fanucchi’s abandonment defense. But the Court of Appeal reversed the Board’s make-whole relief award, reasoning that Tri-Fanucchi’s litigation “furthered the broader purposes of the ALRA” because no appellate court had expressly ruled on the abandonment issue presented here. For the reasons set forth in Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Nov. 27, 2017, S227243) __ Cal.5th __ (Gerawan), we hold that the Court of Appeal correctly rejected Tri-Fanucchi’s assertion of an abandonment defense. As we explain in Gerawan, the ALRA does not permit an employer to “unilaterally declare that it will refuse to engage with the union because it believes the union has abandoned its employees.” (Gerawan, at p. __ [p. 44].) As to the issue of make-whole relief, we hold that the Court of Appeal did not accord the Board sufficient deference and improperly exercised the Board’s remedial authority. We thus reverse in part the Court of Appeal’s judgment. I. Tri-Fanucchi is a farming business located in Kern County. It employs approximately 35 permanent employees and hires several hundred seasonal employees through various labor contractors. On October 21, 1977, after a secret ballot election, the Board certified the UFW as the exclusive bargaining representative of Tri-Fanucchi’s employees. Several days later, the UFW initiated collective bargaining negotiations. Tri- Fanucchi responded by refusing to bargain, purportedly to seek judicial review of the union’s election. The following year, the UFW filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that Tri-Fanucchi’s refusal to bargain violated the ALRA. The charge was dismissed after Tri-Fanucchi reversed its position and agreed to begin 2 negotiations. (See Tri-Fanucchi Farms (1986) 12 ALRB No. 8, p. 2 (hereafter ALRB 1986 Decision).) Some initial bargaining sessions occurred after the UFW was certified. But between May 1979 and July 1981, “no communications between the parties took …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court