2014 Legislative Agenda

Working People Standing Together

Download a copy of the Legislative Agenda (pdf).

Today in California we face the greatest level of income inequality on record and the disappearance of the middle class. Over the past few decades, the bargaining power of workers has steadily declined. The result has been the loss of economic stability and opportunity for millions of California families.

When unions were strongest, working people generally earned decent wages and fair benefits. Consumer spending increased, people bought homes and cars with their middle-class wages, and
the economy hummed.

When corporate bosses took the offense to erode union membership in the 1970’s, it became much harder for workers to organize for a better life. Corporations now make higher profits than ever before, while the poverty rate in California is growing three times faster than the population. The average wage in California is at a thirty-year low, while income for the wealthiest Californians is at an eighty-year high.

Today’s jobs are temporary, part-time, or contracted out. Employers aim to sever the ties that once bound a company to its workforce. From warehouse work to hotel housekeeping and even in the public sector, the jobs we thought could never leave our shores are being outsourced right here to contractors and
staffing agencies.
Our 2014 Legislative Agenda challenges those efforts to dismantle good jobs so we can rebuild the middle class through working people standing together.

1. Protection for Workers in the New Economy. AB 1897 (Hernández)

All workers deserve to be paid for their work, to have safe workplaces, and to have the right to organize, regardless of how they are hired. Too often, employers use third-party labor contractors to force down wages and escape liability. Workers may remain temporary for years, with no guarantee of hours or assignments, no protection from retaliation, and no recourse when the labor contractor disappears without paying them. We will hold employers accountable to follow the law and stop labor contractors from serving as a shield to protect bad actors.

2. Shine a Light on Subsidies for Low-Wage Work. AB 1792 (Gomez).

Millions of Californians live on minimum wage and work multiple jobs to make ends meet. What is even more unfair is that California taxpayers foot the bill to subsidize major corporations when they force workers onto public programs. We will require transparency on those employers that pay workers so little that they qualify for public benefits, and on how much working Californians pay to subsidize the most profitable companies in the world.

3. Control Health Care Costs.

California has embraced the health care expansion, but we have yet to address the crisis in health care costs. Our members, unions, employers, and economy are struggling under the weight of ever-increasing health care costs. The first step is to bring transparency to what we pay for, so we can determine fair pricing. We will provide tools to our trust funds, unions, and members about health care costs and begin fighting for affordable quality coverage for all.

4. Build High-Speed Rail.

California’s high-speed rail project will bring hundreds of thousands of good union jobs to the areas of the state hardest-hit by the recession. Public investment in high-speed rail is critical to rebuild our economy and to ensure that California has adequate transportation for our growing population. We will work with the High-Speed Rail Authority to ensure that the budget provides funding to break ground on the project this year. We will also work on a state and federal level to ensure ongoing funding to complete the largest public works project in the country.

5. Improve Assistance to Laid-Off Workers and Stabilize
the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Losing your job is hard enough, but being unable to get the help you and your family are entitled to and depend on is just wrong. We will work with the Administration to bring relief to laid-off workers by improving customer service and making the agency more responsive. We will also work toward
stabilizing the Unemployment Insurance (UI) fund to reverse our reliance on borrowing and reduce our high-interest payments to the federal government.

6. Let Workers Earn Paid Sick Days. AB 1522 (Gonzalez).

As California expands health care coverage, we must ensure that workers can afford to actually use their health care or take a day off when they are too sick to work. The right to earn a minimal number of sick days is a basic one that all workers should have. Those forced to work while sick risk prolonging their illness while exposing others to it as well. Paid sick days promote public health
in the workplace and in schools, and save health care costs because workers will be less likely to rely on emergency care. We will pass a bill to allow all workers to earn paid sick days.

7. Protect Immigrant Workers.

Last year, we passed the strongest laws in the nation to protect immigrant workers from retaliation when they push for better working conditions. Now we have to make sure our unions are trained to use these new laws and that law enforcement is a partner in pursuing employers who use immigration consequences to hold workers hostage. We will continue to work with our local unions, the immigrant rights movement, and worker centers to make sure that immigrant workers have the same opportunities to fight for a better life that we demand for all California workers.

8. Protect Retirement Security.

Far too many workers work hard all their lives only to retire in poverty due to the lack of retirement security. Public employees have seen significant rollbacks in pension benefits and private sector workers have seen pensions frozen and companies using bankruptcy to break promises to employees. Rather than blame workers who still have modest pensions thanks to their unions, we should be working toward retirement security for all workers.