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Newsom not planning to approve mail-in election process for farmworkers' union voting rights

More than 5,000 United Farm Workers are expected at the state capitol Friday on the final day of their 24-day march for fair union elections.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday morning he is not planning to approve a mail-in election process for farmworkers' union voting rights.

A statement from Newsom's Communications Director Erin Mellon says, "Newsom is eager to sign legislation that expands opportunity for agricultural workers to come together and be represented, and he supports changes to state law to make it easier for these workers to organize."

"However, we cannot support an untested mail-in election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election, and is predicated on an assumption that government cannot effectively enforce laws," according to the statement.

More than 5,000 United Farm Workers are expected at the capitol Friday on the final day of their 24-day march for fair union elections

The last steps of their 335 miles will be at the capitol all for the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act, AB 2183, but for those we spoke to, it's much bigger than that.

From Delano to Sacramento, the United Farm Workers have marched, joined by an outpouring of community support like from Agustine Guzman. Guzman was born in Mexico, he came to U.S. at 15 and worked in the fields for one year. His father, a contract laborer, made that possible.

“I get a little emotional because my father worked so dang hard and I saw a lot of older people... how they worked so hard for so little money,” said Guzman.

His daughter, Jessica Hernandez, spearheaded their involvement in providing breakfast for the marchers in Elk Grove.

“These are my roots, these are my people. I believe this is the American dream. This is what we fight to be here for and you know I’m very proud of it. I’m proud to be Mexican, where my family, where my father, mother came from and I’m proud of it,” said Hernandez.

She wants farmworkers to get the recognition they deserve as essential workers; working through the heat and the entire pandemic, as well as an acknowledgment there would not be food on people’s tables without them. 

One woman who has been with the march all 24 days says they will continue to fight.

“It’s been hard and difficult, but the physical is not what hurts, it hurts that I left my family behind,” said the woman.

She now has a hurt ankle from the average 14 miles a day they have been walking. She went from farm to farm the entire pandemic without access to medical insurance.

“Everything we harvest -- fruits, vegetables, goes to your home. It makes me sad that he (Newsom) doesn’t value us,” she said.

The United Farm Workers are asking for a secret ballot and to be able to vote by mail or drop off a ballot at an agriculture relations office, rather than face what they say is intimidation tactics by voting in person at the place of their employer and risking their job.

Watch more on ABC10: Farmworkers on 335-mile march to Sacramento for improved voting rights


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