The 2013 Legislative session is in full swing and we have a lot on our plate. We — organized labor, generally and the Teamsters, specifically — delivered huge victories for our allies the last election and now we are looking for all of that political work to start to pay off. As a result, our legislative agenda is full and as ambitious as it has ever been.
The Joint Council has been working very hard on organizing in the Central Valley. Immigration is a huge issue to our members and the workers we are trying to organize there. The employers have used immigration issues to their own economic gain and as a sword against workers who dare to try to join a union. In many instances, employers will threaten to call in federal authorities or to have workers deported if they talk to the union.
We’re no strangers to anti-union retaliation, but this added level of pressure is an added layer of wrong that should not be tolerated. To address this, we are working with the Legislature and other unions to pass legislation that will put a stop to this type of retaliation. For instance, we are supporting AB 524 by Assembly Member Mullin that would expand the crime of extortion to immigration- related threats. We are also supporting SB 666 by Senator Steinberg and AB 263 by Assembly Member Hernández which also address this issue.
Our work in the valley has also shown us how important water is to all facets of the socioeconomic w o r l d there and how dise n f r a n - c h i s e d wo r k e r s are when it comes to the issue. For ins tance, under current law, any person seeking to run for office as an irrigation district board member has to be a landowner. This means that renters, who are just as affected by water quality as any landowner in an irrigation district, have no right to have a voice politically on water quality decisions. We have sponsored SB 614 by Senator Lois Wolk to right this wrong. The bill will eliminate the property ownership requirement.
We have also co-sponsored a bill to deal with one of the worst corporate subsidy programs in the nation, California’s Enterprise Zone (EZ) program. The evil of enterprise zones really came to the forefront for Joint Council 7 when one longt i m e employer u n d e r cont r a c t decided to r e l o c a t e from the Bay Area to the C e n t r a l Valley and our members lost their jobs. We learned that one of the motivating factors was the tax incentives that were being thrown at the company. The EZ program was sold as a tool to create jobs but we have seen, first hand, that it is used to destroy good paying union jobs in favor of low wage temporary work. We are cosponsoring SB 434 by Senator Jerry Hill to bring some sanity to this outof- control program. The bill would provide standards to ensure that credits are only allowed for real job creation and would eliminate some of the most abusive practices under the program.
We have also sponsored SB 232 by Senator Bill Monning to address an issue that has been resolved for private transit workers at the local level but not those providing services under a contract issued by the state. Some years back we successfully sponsored legislation to end the churning that our members who work for private transit operators were experiencing. They would be under contract and would just start to see their wages and benefits increase and then the employer would lose its contract with the local transit agency and our members would lose their jobs. Our bill stopped this by mandating an employee retention bid preference for local transit contracts. Unfortunately, that law didn’t apply to the state. The result: our members who drove visitors to state-owned Hearst Castle lost their jobs when a nonunion employer came in and underbid the contract. SB 232 would apply the worker retention bid preference to state contracts in order to prevent this from happening again.