FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A 2013 vote by workers at one of the nation's largest fruit growers has finally been counted, showing employees of Gerawan Farming Inc., California's largest peach farm, chose to oust the United Farm Workers as its representative.
The ballots were counted Tuesday and showed 1,098 votes against the UFW and 197 in favor of the union founded by iconic farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, the Los Angeles Times reported .
The ballots from the 2013 election were impounded by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board after the UFW filed a legal claim saying Gerawan used unfair labor practices in its support of a worker who organized the anti-union fight.
A judge in 2015 ruled Gerawan employee Silvia Lopez unlawfully asked for and received $20,000 from a fruit growers association affiliated with the company, which the judge said also unfairly granted Lopez time off work to lead the effort.
The ballots were counted after a state appeals court judge in May said some charges were not supported by the evidence. He ordered the board to count the votes and reevaluate its finding.
Last week the state Supreme Court refused to review the case, leading to Tuesday's count, the newspaper reported.
Anthony Raimondo, an attorney for Pick Justice, the worker group that fought for three years to have the ballots counted, said the state labor board will have to prove that any influence on workers by Gerawan directly affected the outcome.
"It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, for them to meet the burden to show that the things they said happened affected the way workers voted," Raimondo said.
In a statement, Gerawan called on the UFW and the labor board "to respect the choices of farmworkers, to certify the results of the election, and to decertify the UFW."
Gerawan hires thousands of people annually to harvest nectarines, peaches and grapes in California's Central Valley. It has been involved in a fight with the UFW since 1992, when the union started representing the farmworkers. But after contract negotiations stalled for several years, the union shifted its focus to legal remedies in Sacramento.
UFW spokesman Armando Elenes called the vote a "mockery of justice."
"They always wanted everyone to focus on the vote count because they didn't want anyone to pay attention to how they got there in the first place," he said.
The ALRB will have several weeks to certify the results before taking up the broader issue of the fairness of the election.
Information from: The Fresno Bee, http://www.fresnobee.com