Anthony Raimondo, a labor attorney with McCormick Barstow in Fresno, Calif., offers the following comments on union activities:

“After a quiet winter, organizers from UFCW Local 5 have resurfaced and are organizing dairies in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The union has filed for access at a dairy in Tulare County, and all dairies should be prepared to face similar action.

“First and foremost, dairies need to review their payroll and recordkeeping practices to make sure they comply with applicable laws. All non-exempt employees (most dairy employees other than supervisors) must record the time that they start work, the time they stop for a meal break, the time they return from a meal break, and the time that they finish their shift. Too many dairies continue to pay employees on a salary basis without paying additional over-time. California law prohibits including overtime in a salary, and overtime must be paid above and beyond the employee’s salary any time the employee works over 10 hours in a day, or when the employee works seven consecutive days in the same work week. Remember, to avoid seventh-day overtime, employees must get a full calendar day off during the work week. The union will exploit any errors by the employer to their own advantage, and will press for financial settlements.

“Protocols should be in place to control access at the dairy. Where possible, all visitors should be required to sign in at the dairy office before conducting any business at the dairy. At minimum, “No Trespassing” signs should be posted, and areas such as milk barns, calf care areas, hospital barns, and maternity areas should be posted as “No Access” to protect food safety and to provide safeguards against the spread of disease.

“Too many dairies still do not document discipline and deficient performance by workers. Remember that the worst workers will be those that want the union most, and without a history of documented disciplinary action, it may not be possible to discipline or discharge problem workers.

“Preparation is the best defense to union organizing. Regular meetings with workers to facilitate communication will help to encourage workers to bring their concerns to the dairy manager rather than turn to a union. Most union organizing campaigns are not driven by the desire to increase wages, but rather by feelings of being mistreated and frustration at the perception that workers have no voice. Unions exploit these feelings of dissatisfaction to an employer’s disadvantage.

For more information contact Anthony Raimondo at McCormick Barstow, Ph: (559) 433-1300.

The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion. For individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation, the reader should consult with Anthony Raimondo at McCormick Barstow LLP in Fresno, at (559)433-1300.

Source: Anthony Raimondo, McCormick Barstow