California Gov. Gavin Newsom, smiling broadly, joined about two dozen jubilant and enthusiastic farmworkers camped outside the state Capitol Wednesday to sign one of the bills. controversial bills before him this year, reversing course on a measure to help farmworkers unionize after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris endorsed it.

The support from the White House put Newsom in a difficult political position after his office announced before Democratic lawmakers sent him the bill that he would not sign it.

But Newsom said he approved the bill after he, the United Farm Workers and the California Federation of Labor agreed to clarify language that will be considered during next year’s legislative session to address their concerns about the implementation and integrity of the vote. .

The agreement includes a cap on the number of union petitions over the next five years and will allow state regulators to better protect worker confidentiality and safety, Newsom’s office said.

“Yes, we can,” farmworkers chanted as Newsom signed the bill, echoing the old UFW slogan, roughly, “Yes, we can” in Spanish.

“California farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state and have a fundamental right to unionize and defend themselves in the workplace,” Newsom said in a statement after signing the bill. “Our state has been defined by heroic farmworker activism, championed by American icons like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong. California is proud to support the next generation of leaders carrying out this movement.”

The new law will allow farmworkers who provide much of the country’s fruits and vegetables to vote by mail in union elections as an alternative to physical locations. Advocates say that would help protect workers from union busting and other intimidation, while owners say such a system lacks the necessary safeguards to prevent fraud.

It will give landlords the choice between “a flawed mail-in voting scheme or … an unsupervised card verification scheme,” the California Farm Bureau Federation said in opposition before Newsom announced the deal on additional safeguards.

Newsom vetoed similar legislation last year, as did his two most recent predecessors.

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