- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A judge says the timing’s not right for him to force a union-negotiated contract onto a Central California fruit farmer that employs thousands of workers.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton says a larger dispute that’s divided workers at Gerawan Farming has to be resolved first.

The United Farm Workers union wants the contract, but Gerawan workers voted last year in a move that could kick out the union because some of them say they’re paid well enough without a union.

The state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board asked the judge to impose the contract, which was hammered out by a mediator.

But Gerawan appealed to a higher court, saying the mediator’s powers are unconstitutional.

Judge Hamilton says the appeal needs to play out before he can be asked to enforce the contract.

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