This has been a great year at the Capitol for the Teamsters and it’s far from over. As we’ve reached the legislative summer recess, we have already had two important pieces of legislation signed by the Governor and we continue to have success on the other bills we are working on.
On July 11, the Governor signed two companion bills on an issue that the Teamsters have championed for years. AB 93 by the Assembly Budget Committee and SB 90 by Senator Cathleen Galgiani, (DStockton), finally do away with the dreaded Enterprise Zone tax break giveaway program and replace it with real economic incentives to create good jobs. Prior to the enactment of these bills, the Enterprise Zone program cost our state roughly $750 million and most of that money went to companies like Walmart and FedEx, where it was used to incentivize low-wage, high-turnover jobs. The program was a giant boondoggle that cost our members jobs, both directly and indirectly. In at least two instances recently, Teamster employers shut down and relocated to different parts of the state to take advantage of these tax giveaways and our members lost their jobs.
The new program will provide tax incentives only for those companies that truly create good jobs. It is designed to drive economic development in many key sectors of our union and our organizing efforts.
That same morning the Governor also signed a smaller bill sponsored by the Teamsters, but nonetheless very important to the members it affects. SB 527 by Senator Marty Block, (D-San Diego), provides our lifeguard members with the same benefits that other public safety officers get when injured on the job. These individuals put their lives on the line to keep us safe in our coastal areas but unfortunately before this measure, got very little in the way of benefits compared to police and firefighters performing many of the same functions. There have been several horror stories over the years where our members lost everything financially when they were severely injured rescuing someone, fighting a fire, or arresting a criminal. This bill will fix this inequity.
We are supporting many other measures to improve the working conditions and lives of workers around the state. Two important bills of note are AB 263 and AB 729, both by Assembly Member Roger Hernandez, (D-Baldwin Park). AB 263 would prohibit an employer or any other person from engaging in unfair immigration-related practices in order to retaliate against anyone who exercises his or her rights under the Labor Code. This bill comes in direct response to employers who retaliate against immigrant workers who are trying to improve their workplaces by joining a union or simply complaining about working conditions. Some employers have threatened to call ICE and have workers deported if they stick up for themselves. We have seen this in many of the places we are trying to organize in the Central Valley and elsewhere. Hopefully this bill will help put an end to this deplorable tactic. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.
AB 729 would finally put some protections in the law for communications between a member and a union representative. Specifically, the bill provides that a union agent and a represented employee or represented former employee have a privilege to refuse to disclose any confidential communication that transpired between them in the course of union representation. If this bill is enacted it will be a huge step forward in the union’s ability to represent our members effectively, especially in disciplinary matters. The bill is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.