Fire Sylvia Torres-Guillen

Dear Governor Brown, President Pro Tem Steinberg, Members of the California State Senate Rules Committee, and Members of the News Media:

We, the longtime and former employees of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, have started this blog to ask you not to confirm Sylvia Torres-Guillen as general counsel of the ALRB.  Ms. Torres-Guillen and her supervising attorney, Alegria de la Cruz, are biased towards the United Farm Workers of America and against growers and have abused their power to put their bias into action.  They have forced out longtime ALRB employees who won’t agree to their program, threatened to fail one attorney on probation because she questioned their biased practices, and have flouted state law on civil service hiring to bring in attorneys who will kowtow to their mission:  Make the UFW happy at all costs so that Torres-Guillen can be confirmed and ultimately appointed to a judgeship.

The law requires otherwise.

Section 1149 of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act requires employees appointed by the general counsel to carry out their duties in an impartial manner showing no bias to any party under the jurisdiction of the ALRB.  This is not possible when the General Counsel herself has had ALRB employees do research that she turned over to the UFW, and has coerced the settlement of at least one meritorious complaint against the UFW for failing to represent one of its own members in a grievance (Cortez, a 2008 complaint), a complaint that her predecessor refused to dismiss despite lobbying by the UFW because it had merit.  She has extended offers of employment to pro-union attorneys who weren’t even on state civil service lists at the time she offered them employment (there’s a February 29 email in which she proudly announced that she extended offers to them even which has been forwarded to the State Auditor).  She’s used “counseling memos” to harassment, demote and constructively terminate longtime employees who aren’t willing to violate state law and bend in favor of the UFW.

Any attorney who is unwilling to follow the law should not and can not be trusted with prosecutorial power.  Ms. Torres-Guillen currently has two whistleblower complaints pending against her with the State Auditor for extending job offers to attorneys who were not on any state civil service lists when she gave the offers.  She also has two age discrimination complaints pending against her, one with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the other with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for telling longtime regional employees that Governor Brown sent her “get rid of the old dead wood” and “clean house.”  Employees over the age of 40 with 20 or more years of experience, such as Regional Director Lawrence Alderete, attorneys Marvin Brenner and Eugene Cardenas, and field examiners Octavio Galarza and Rey Val Verde, resigned after being harassed with counseling memos and threatened with demotion, and she continues to threaten and harass longtime employees who don’t want to be biased but are too young to retire.  Shame on you, Governor Brown! You should be the last person telling anyone to get rid of the “old dead wood.”

We are supposed to be a neutral and unbiased agency.  We take pride in the fact that despite criticism from growers and unions alike, we enforce the law without bias.  Ms. Torres-Guillen doesn’t and can’t be trusted to and neither can Ms. de la Cruz.

Hopefully more of us will step forward and share our experiences working with Ms. Torres-Guillen on this blog.  Too many of us have been too bullied and too intimidated to speak up, like the new attorney who was threatened with failing probation because she questioned Ms. Torres-Guillen’s practice of issuing complaints against growers without investigating the facts first and decided to resign instead.  Or the field examiner who had to send an email to the entire agency telling Ms. Torres-Guillen to stop calling him on the weekend on his personal cell phone to come and do research that was ultimately turned over to the UFW by Ms. Torres-Guillen and Ms. de la Cruz.

We want to do our jobs fairly and without bias.  That’s all we ask. 

The longtime and former employees of the ALRB

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4 Responses to Fire Sylvia Torres-Guillen

  1. Gooner says:

    I work in the Human Resource Department for a local commercial/agricultural employer located in Hanford, CA. In February I attended a labor conference in the San Luis Obispo area where Ms. Torres Guillen was a guest speaker. It was immediately apparent to me that Ms. Torres Guillen’s mission at this conference was to let everyone know that she was there to clean up the ALRB. I know this because this was the first thing that Ms. Torres Guillen addressed. She told the audience that she had been sent by the Governor to clean up the ALRB and was going to do everything possible to fulfill that mission. She spoke openly about her employees and their inabilities to do their jobs. She spoke that they were lazy, old and had been around too long and it was time for them to leave. This was extremely disturbing to me because I have a dear friend who works for the ALRB. My friend is a hard working dedicated employee who loves her job. Ms. Torres Guillen’s behavior at this conference was appalling and unprofessional. After reading this blog it looks like Ms. Torres Guillen is close to accomplishing her mission to clean up the ALRB. I cannot believe that Governor Brown would appoint such a unprofessional and biased person to run an agency that affects the many lives of the hardest working people of California the farmworkers. Please if anyone knows what else I can do to help and ensure that Ms. Torres Guillen is not confirmed please let me know. It is apparent that her bullying tactics have continued and will not stop until someone files a civil lawsuit against her that will cost the State of California millions of dollars.

  2. Maria Consuelo Guerrera says:

    Cesar Chavez’s legacy is being tainted with Governor Brown’s latest appointee. What is happening in Sacramento! How can a Governor Brown allow a form of nepotism in Sacramento! Forming a UFW bias office and allowing state employees to be treated like this…I am appalled! I do not want my taxpayer dollars to form such a bias agency and to treat State Employees as such. The UFW has long been a disgrace and simply wants poor farmworkers to pay dues because the Cesar’s Children have drained their father’s legacy to a pulp. Even the daughter of Cesar Chaves has filed a lawsuit against her brother.
    Now, they are engaged in a simmering battle over the future of the union and its affiliated groups, with the rising tension threatening to accelerate the decline of the once-mighty movement.
    In March, Anthony Chavez, the youngest son of Cesar Chavez, filed a lawsuit alleging that his brother Paul wrongfully fired him and is withholding thousands of dollars in pension benefits. According to the lawsuit, Paul Chavez, the president of National Farm Workers Service Center, a network of nonprofit groups that grew out of the union, has created a hostile work environment that has pushed out several employees.
    “It’s like all the history, nothing mattered,” Anthony Chavez, 51, said in an interview in the modest home here where he lives with his wife and two of their children. The office where he used to work is just a few steps away, and Paul Chavez’s home is even closer; a slice of his house is visible from Anthony’s back door.
    Now, they are engaged in a simmering battle over the future of the union and its affiliated groups, with the rising tension threatening to accelerate the decline of the once-mighty movement.
    In March, Anthony Chavez, the youngest son of Cesar Chavez, filed a lawsuit alleging that his brother Paul wrongfully fired him and is withholding thousands of dollars in pension benefits. According to the lawsuit, Paul Chavez, the president of National Farm Workers Service Center, a network of nonprofit groups that grew out of the union, has created a hostile work environment that has pushed out several employees.
    But that unity is now fractured. After his father died, Paul Chavez took over most of the operations, although the union itself is led by his brother-in-law Arturo Rodriguez. Several siblings and former employees of the union said in interviews that Paul Chavez was hurting the organization, getting rid of those he did not get along with.
    Liz Villarino, one of Mr. Chavez’s daughters, worked for years as the controller for the service center while her husband ran an organization that offered classes to farm workers. But in late 2008, Ms. Villarino said, she grew frustrated that not enough was being done to organize workers in the fields, and she quit. Several months later, her husband also broke from the group.
    “There was never any clear direction,” Ms. Villarino said. “There wasn’t any focus on the bigger picture. Eventually, I said, this isn’t what it used to be, and I left. But they were just waiting for me to leave.”
    Ms. Villarino said that she told her brother on multiple occasions that they should be more focused on workers, rather than finding ways to bring in money, but that her concerns were dismissed.
    “Paul cares more about building his assets than helping people,” she said. “He wants all the power to be the go-to person whenever people have questions about his father and his legacy and create his own little empire.”
    Ms. Villarino and other siblings have hardly spoken with Paul Chavez since he fired his brother in 2009. And while they live just yards from each other, the two brothers have not exchanged a word since then.
    Cesar Chavez’s widow, Helen Chavez, 83, also lives on the grounds in Keene. Her children say they have tried to avoid talking about the battles with her. Anthony Chavez said he tried to press for a settlement before taking the case to court, but when that went nowhere, he told his mother that he planned to sue. Even now, he fears his brother will kick him off the property, which is controlled by the foundation.
    “Just because we are the children of Helen and Cesar Chavez doesn’t mean we are good people,” he said.
    “The movement was our family; there was no distinction between our family and the movement,” Ms. Villarino said. “Everything we did revolved around the movement. That doesn’t exist at all anymore.”
    The deeper loss, others say, is what has happened to farm workers since Cesar Chavez’s death.
    “In many ways, we’re back to square one for farm workers,” said Mike Davis, a California historian and a former union activist. “We have this wonderful myth and a model for kids to emulate in Cesar Chavez, but you could basically go to any field and rewrite ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ all over again.”
    A version of this article appeared in print on May 14, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Family Quarrel Imperils a Labor Hero’s Legacy.

    Now Governor Brown is this what you had in mind to help the UFW? Return to 1975 in order to hold biased UFW favored elections and Unfair Labor Practices and have growers and farmers pay more legal fees and farmworkers lose almost $40.00 per month out of their checks to give to the UFW? In this economy people are cutting back every last cent they can, in fact the State of California is forcing all state employees to furlough, how are our fathers who work in the fields going to furlough when they only make less than $200.00 per week and have to pay the UFW dues of almost $40.00!!! That’s our electric bill……I have the right to vote but when the union does not give me adequate warning and there is an election in our company and we are coerced to vote union. I don’t think this is fair; they are just like that new general counsel a BIG BULLY!!! You are a bully to my family and those poor state workers!

  3. Sacramento says:

    I am tired of these political appointees. I am one of the numerous state employees that is being affected by budget cuts. I am was given a layoff notice and told that my position was being eliminated due to budget cuts. Sure we are being placed on a preferential hiring list, but what good does that do when you have appointees like Sylvia Torres Guillen who feel that they do not have to follow the law. It frustrates me that I like many others had to wait months sometimes years for a state job. The process requires applicants to take a written test followed by an oral interview and then you’re placed on a eligibility list where you wait until they reach your number. This process can sometimes take years. To know that certain individuals are now bypassing these steps and are being given preferential treatment by some political appointment simply for her own gain is wrong!! I waited many years before I was hired by the state and it makes me extremely angry that no one is monitoring Sylvia Torres Guillen. This sounds and should be considered an illegal hiring tactic. The right thing to do would be to give affected employees the opportunity to apply for these positions before considering anyone from outside of state service. Sylvia Torres-Guillen is a politician that is only looking out for her best interest. It seems that this lady will stop at nothing to ensure that she is appointed. If it is true that Sylvia Torres Guillen is bullying long term employees, denying current state employees who are being affected by budget cuts the right to interview for vacant positions and hiring UFW biased employees then she has no business running a California Agency!!!! Governor Brown and senate rules committee do your job and look into this matter before you decide to confirm SYLVIA TORRES GUILLEN!!

  4. Maria Sanchez says:

    Shame on the Politicians who are allowing for this to happen! As a tax payer in California this is simply unnacceptable. How can this continue to happen! The hard working farm worker will be the ones most affected by this type of leadership! It is a shame that an agency that has been put in place to protect workers is now in the business to do the opposite. Governor Brown and the senate rules committee have some serious questions to be answered if this person is to be confirmed to run an agency that MUST be an UNBIASED agency to serve its purpose! This matter needs more public attention and should be reaching media outlets!! This simply is unnacceptable!

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