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Friday, November 07, 2008

Governor Appoints Right-Wing Judge to Yolo Superior Court

Some may have seen the nice little blurb by Lauren Keene of the Davis Enterprise yesterday on the Davis resident who was appointed to the Yolo County Superior Court Judge vacancy. Unfortunately, it appears he will fit right into the Yolo County Judicial system all too well.

Ms. Keene describes Samuel T. McAdam, 43, as a Davis man who is "experienced in labor and employment law." He has worked as a partner at the Sacramento office of Seyfarth Shaw since 2004 and was an associate there since 1998.
"As an employment attorney since 1996, McAdam has done most of his work in federal court, advising large private-sector employers on how to manage their workforces. His clients, which hail from all over the country, have included WinCo Foods, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Ruth's Chris Steak House and the San Francisco Symphony."
What neither Lauren Keene nor the Davis Enterprise tell you is that Samuel McAdam while working at Seyfarth was the hired gun for RH Phillips, a local winery accused of among other things sexually harassing female laborers and then firing them when they complained about this and poor working conditions.

On September 23, 2004, the Sacramento News and Review reported on the string of abuse that a number of local Mexican immigrant residents suffered at the hands of this winery in Dunnigan.

The News and Review reported:
"Two of the women, Antonia Chavez and Amelia Alcauter, have filed lawsuits in Yolo County Superior Court alleging that they were routinely subjected to verbal abuse and sexual harassment by one of their supervisors at R.H. Phillips, a man named Jose Miramontes. According to their court claims, the women frequently complained to Miramontes’ higher-ups about his behavior, but nothing was done to stop the abuse.

Worse, the women say, complaining earned them reputations as troublemakers and ultimately cost them their jobs. Their court cases charge that they were “blacklisted” by R.H. Phillips and a local labor contractor for being mujeres problematicas (problematic women) and that, as a result, they no longer can find farm work in the area, even now, a year later."
The story continues:
"Two other former R.H. Phillips employees, Elena Perez and her adult daughter Angela Aparicio, also have joined Chavez and Alcauter in filing complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging sexual discrimination and retaliation for complaining about working conditions at the company


Outside of the claims in the original lawsuits and EEOC complaint, the women state that working conditions at the winery were unsanitary and unsafe--that the company often failed to provide clean restrooms or clean drinking water to workers. The women have gathered support from local activists, labor organizers and student groups to help put together a boycott and media campaign against the company.

Chavez explained that she wants to bring attention to her own experience at R.H. Phillips, but she also wants to improve working conditions for other farmworkers in Yolo County. “We don’t want this to happen to another woman at R.H. Phillips. We expect that when somebody else goes to work there, that they will treat them better,” she said."
It is a lengthy article, but you can read the full article here.

A year later, the News and Review would have a follow up. The winery had decided to settle.
"At a press conference in front of the Yolo County Courthouse in Woodland on Thursday, the women said that although they can no longer work at R.H. Phillips, working conditions have since improved for the remaining workers. The bathrooms are clean, break schedules are adhered to, and clean water is always available. There is even the occasional carne asada, or supper, hosted by the company to boost worker morale.

But company officials say that none of this is new.

“We didn’t change anything. We’ve had good policies in place all along,” said Sam McAdam, an attorney for Seyfarth Shaw, the law firm representing R.H. Phillips. McAdam said the one change that the company has made is to print its employee handbook in Spanish as well as English."
As for Samuel McAdam, well the article only gives a snippet of his involvement in this pretty horrific case. Those involved in the case suggest that McAdam once he took over the case began a campaign of intimidation and threats. Lawyers and activists involved in that case were threatened with lawsuits for defamation. The women were threatened with arrest and criminal prosecution for their demonstrations. Threats were made about large counter SLAPP suits.

According to the Sacramento Bee on August 19, 2005:
"On the other side of them stood Mike Jaeger, the president of R.H. Phillips Inc.; Sam McAdam, the winery's lawyer, and two other representatives.

R.H. Phillips officials denied all of the women's allegations and said they settled because it was cheaper than going to trial.

"We believe the allegations made by these four women are without merit, and we deny they were discriminated against in any way," Jaeger said, reading from a prepared statement.

"We want our management and employees to focus on making great wines, rather than worrying about depositions and a trial," he said.

McAdam said he did not know what motive the women might have for claiming such abuses, but that it was a good question to ask of them.

"The claim of gender discrimination," he said, "is false and outrageous."
As the News and Review wrote in 2005:
"Last year, when Davis attorney Natalie Wormeli complained about working conditions at the estate during an interview on the Berkeley radio station KPFA, she received a letter from the company’s law firm, threatening to sue her and “each and every person” who made “slanderous” statements to the media. Now, as part of the settlement, none of the women involved in the suit, or their lawyers, is allowed to speak to the media about the case again."
This is the legacy of McAdam, the front man for a winery that allowed the sexual harassment of at least four women age 39 and over. That allowed horrible working conditions to persist. And when these women dared to speak out, they were subject to being fired and blacklisted. All of which the company of course denied and all of which was done by Samuel McAdam, who will now thanks to the Governor be a Yolo County Superior Court Judge. It looks like he will fit right in.

---David M. Greenwald reporting