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