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Alejo.jpgAssemblyman Luis Alejo, a long-time supporter of the United Farm Workers Union, is taking heat from the union and its members for refusing to vote for a bill that would make it easier for the UFW to obtain contracts with growers.

Alejo, a Watsonville Democrat, startled observers at an Assembly Labor and Employment Committee last Wednesday when he refused to vote for the union-backed measure, Senate Bill 25, which is being carried by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Without his vote, the bill failed.

The day after the hearing, the Salinas Californian newspaper reported, a group of UFW members and their supporters demonstrated outside Alejo's Salinas office - and were countered by another group of Alejo supporters.

Alejo said he was to meet with UFW officials on Tuesday to discuss his concerns with the bill, but the union cancelled the meeting. UFW spokesman Marc Grossman said in an email Monday that the non-meeting with Alejo resulgted from a scheduling misunderstanding, and added, "The substance of SB 25 - whetehr or not farm workers' votes for a union in secret ballot elections are respected - is what is most important. We are confident Assemblymember Alejo has been fully briefed on the policy goals of SB 25 by the UFW in advance of the Assembly Labor Committee vote this Wednesday."

The measure, which has been approved by the Senate, would make to easier to refer contract disputes to a mediator, but farmers say it would undercut collective bargaining. The UFW and Steinberg say SB 25 would close a loophole in the state's mediation law.

Amended at 2:42 p.m. to include comments from UFW spokesman Grossman.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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