Supporters’ Misleading Claims About AB 616 and So-Called Mail-In Ballots

The supporters of AB 616 are promoting the bill as a simple change to allow what they call “mail-in ballots” in union elections for farmworkers.

The reality is AB 616 eliminates the current petition and secret-ballot election process overseen by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) and replaces it with a rigged process that effectively eliminates farmworkers’ right to vote and the secret ballot in union elections.

A comparison of the process, protections and safeguards in place for mail-in ballots in elections for public officeholders with the process set up by AB 616 reveals how false and misleading the supporters’ claims are:

Mail-in Ballots in California Elections:

If Assembly Bill 616 is passed:

Voters choose whether to vote by mail or in a private booth at a polling place; both options are available to every voter.

The union chooses whether a polling place election or “ballot card” election is to be held; only the option selected by the union is available.

Every voter receives a secret ballot.

Only some farmworkers receive a ballot: union representatives decide who gets a “ballot card”.

“Ballot cards” aren’t secret: union agents hand them out, fill them out, have farmworkers sign them, and then submit them.

Voters can choose between various candidates and whether to vote Yes or No on propositions.

A “ballot card” has no choice for farmworkers: it states only that the farmworker has picked the union to be his or her collective bargaining representative.

The Secretary of State and county elections officials oversee all aspects of the election process, including voter registration, ballot distribution, ballot collection, and vote counting.

The ALRB has limited supervision and role: unions decide when the election is held, how it is held, who gets to vote; union agents collect, count, and submit those cards to the ALRB.

The Legislature’s own cost estimate shows AB 616 would reduce costs. Why?
Because the ALRB’s supervisory role and the accompanying protection for both farmworker rights and the integrity of union elections is drastically reduced.

Opposed to AB 616

AB 616 is opposed by California family farmers and ranchers and a growing number of other organizations and employers throughout the state.

A partial list of groups opposed to AB 616 includes:

  • African American Farmers of California
  • Agricultural Council of California
  • American Pistachio Growers
  • California Association of Winegrape Growers
  • California Business Roundtable
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • California Citrus Mutual
  • California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • California Fresh Fruit Association
  • California Restaurant Association
  • California Strawberry Commission
    Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
  • Nisei Farmers League
  • Western Agricultural Processors Association
  • Western Growers Association