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Legislation to allow farmworkers seeking union representation an alternative to secret-ballot elections passed the Assembly on Monday.

The measure, Senate Bill 104, cleared the Assembly by a vote of 51-26, with Republicans opposed. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not yet announced whether he will sign it.

Proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the bill would let farmworkers bargain collectively if a majority of employees submit petition cards to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

Provisions also would stiffen penalties for employers who seek to thwart farmworkers' efforts to unionize. The bill was sponsored by the United Farm Workers union.

Supporters say SB 104 is needed because employers wield too much power and can coerce farmworkers into voting against collective bargaining. Opponents say the bill violates a fundamental precept, secret-ballot elections, and could lead to intimidation of farmworkers by union leaders.


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