Though it is rare for President Joe Biden to butt heads with prominent leaders within his own party, he took just such an unusual step over the weekend by effectively urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to reverse course and lend his signature to a state bill that would broaden the manner in which agricultural workers can participate in union elections, as The Hill reports.
At issue is the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act, which was passed by both the California Assembly and Senate in August and would permit farmworkers to decide whether they wished to vote in union elections in person, via mail-in ballot, or by turning a card into an office of the California Agricultural Labor Board.
Supporters of the measure have argued that it would thwart the use of intimidation tactics by management against prospective union members, with the threat of deportation chief among them.
Biden stepped forward on Sunday to signal his endorsement of the bill, saying, "Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America's tables during the pandemic. In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union."
Other high-profile Democrats who have lent their support to the legislation include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as well as former Housing and Urban Development head Julian Castro, both of whom specifically called upon Newsom to set aside his previous misgivings about this type of measure and sign the bill into law.
Pelosi took to Twitter in late August to make her position on the matter clear, writing, "CA farmworkers provide for our families – but far too many can't provide for theirs because they are exploited and don't have a voice on the job."
"We can mend this injustice by expanding workers' rights. I urge the governor to sign #AB2183 for the farmworkers and For The Children," the speaker added.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, and though the governor's spokespeople could not be reached on Sunday, a representative from his office relayed last month that while he is "eager to sign legislation that expands opportunities for agricultural workers to come together and be represented," he was not able to support the bill in the form ultimately passed by the state legislature.
Biden's stance in opposition to the one taken by Newsom – while certainly unusual – is perhaps the president's pragmatic attempt to repay the United Farmworkers for their endorsement of his candidacy in the 2020 election, but whether it is enough to convince the governor to affix his signature to a bill he does not fully support, only time will tell.