Farmworkers at Gerawan Farms, a Fresno, Calif.-based grower of tree fruit and grapes, want a U.S. District Court to assign a special master to take possession of their uncounted decertification ballots in their battle to split from the United Farm Workers Union.

The uncounted ballots have been in the possession of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), which was accused by farmworkers and Fresno Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton of being “in cahoots” with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union to suppress the farmworkers’ votes.

“We don’t trust the ALRB,” said Gerawan farmworker Silvia Lopez, who filed the motion on Aug. 19 in federal court. “They have been working against us from day one and we don’t believe they are fair or have our best interests in mind. We don’t believe that the ballots are safe with them.”

Lopez also requested that if the court appoints a special master, the neutral third party should count the ballots.

“There are strong judicial economy reasons to count the ballots, as well as elementary notions of fairness and justice that would support this decision,” said Paul Bauer, attorney for Lopez.

Bauer is a Fresno-based attorney with Walter and Wilhelm Law Group.

The issue goes all the way back to 1992 when, according to statements made in a separate legal filing, the UFW was certified as the bargaining representative for certain Gerawan Farms employees after an earlier vote by workers to unionize.

In 2013 Gerawan Farms sued the United Farm Workers Union in Fresno Superior Court, alleging defamation after a UFW employee was quoted in a newspaper story that chronicled the 20-year issue between Gerawan and the UFW. That suit was later dismissed at Gerawan’s request, according to Gerawan attorney David Schwarz of Irell and Manella in Los Angeles, Calif.