End-of-Session Legislative Round-up

For the first time in nearly eight years, California has a Democratic governor brandishing the pen as the legislative session draws to a close. The Legislature sent nearly 600 bills to Governor Brown who has until October 9 to sign or veto the measures.

Without Schwarzenegger in office to veto any and all worker-friendly legislation, armies of corporate lobbyists descended on the Capitol to kill labor legislation before it could get to Governor Brown. Unions fought back hard, pushing through a number of key pieces of legislation to the governor.

The California Labor Federation moved a package of bills, co-sponsored with affiliates, to protect workers, create and retain good jobs and make sure our public dollars are spent effectively. Over the next week, “Labor’s Edge” will highlight several Labor Federation sponsored bills that would make a significant positive impact on the lives of workers with a signature from Governor Brown.

Here’s a round-up of the Labor Federation's sponsored bills on the Governor’s desk:

Cracking Down on Wage Theft and Misclassification

Scofflaw employers have become more sophisticated at evading basic labor laws at the same time that the state has slashed enforcement budgets. AB 459 (Corbett) and AB 469 (Swanson) will protect California workers from two of the most serious labor law violations, wage theft and misclassification of independent contractors. The bills strengthen penalties, require written notice to workers and lay the foundation to crack down on the underground economy and level the playing field for good employers.

Protecting Workers from Wall Street Banks

All of us know someone whose credit has been hurt by the economic downturn. Though credit says nothing about a person’s work ethic or skills, many employers use credit check to screen job applicants AB 22 (Mendoza) will stop employers from using credit checks to deny employment except in certain cases. SB 931 (Evans) regulates the use of payroll pay cards. As employers move away from paper checks to “virtual’ payments, this bill ensures that worker aren’t nickel and dimed into poverty by bank fees. The big banks put a target on this bill since it would set a new national standard for protecting workers from payroll pay card fees. Despite an army of bank lobbyists, the Labor Federation and union allies pushed this bill through in the final hours of session.

Maximizing Job Training Funds

California receives about $500 million annually in federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds. The majority of these funds go to 49 local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). On average, local WIBs in California invest just 20% of their federal funds on training services. A third of the 49 WIBs spend less than 11% on training, and many invest nothing on training. SB 734 (DeSaulnier) and SB 698 (Lieu) both increase the accountability of WIBs to invest in training and to provide high quality services to workers.

Fighting for Good Jobs

With 2.3 million Californians out of work, the fight to protect good jobs is more important than ever. SB 469 (Vargas) gives local governments the information they need to make decisions about allowing supercenters to locate in their communities. Supercenters claim to create jobs, yet cities have little information about what good jobs are displaced by low-wage jobs when the supercenter moves in. This bill would require developers pay for a study on job effects of supercenters the city can use to make an informed decision to protect the good jobs in their community. AB 508 (Wieckowski) prevents cities from rushing into municipal bankruptcy in order to abrogate collective bargaining contracts.

Creating Jobs

The state spends billions of dollars a year in tax breaks so businesses can create new jobs. The lack of accountability means that taxpayer end up subsidizing the elimination of good jobs when companies take tax breaks and then lay off workers or move locations. SB 364 (Yee) would create a taxpayer money back guarantee that companies have to retain jobs when they claim a tax break or else pay a penalty back to the state. AB 894 (V. Perez) provides an alternative to tax breaks by creating the infrastructure for a revolving loan fund to give low-interest loans to manufacturers that want to create or retain jobs in California. Since banks refuse to loan, the state has a role in supporting in-state manufacturers that create good jobs and prioritizes labor-management loan applications.

The Governor has an opportunity, with the stroke of a pen, to improve the lives of millions of workers by signing these and other important worker-friendly bills. Stay tuned for updates!