The Legislature is enjoying its now annual summer recess thanks to Prop 25 and a majority vote budget. Gone are the days of holdout minority party votes and long, hot summer months with no budget. This year’s fiscal plan was adopted on time and even restored some of the cuts from years past. Most programs saw a modest increase in funding. Thanks to the new cap and trade program, we saw a much needed infusion of dollars into high speed rail, public transit, and other critical transportation projects.
Meanwhile, we continue to push our legislative program forward. We have several sponsored bills this year to directly address issues we’ve faced with organizing in the workplace. We sponsored AB 2288 by Assembly Member Roger Hernandez, (D-West Covina), when we discovered child labor violations at Taylor Farms. The bill dramatically increases penalties and ‘tolls’ the statute of limitations so that employers that exploit children are brought to justice. The bill was signed by the Governor earlier this month.
Another bill that Assembly Member Hernandez introduced, prompted by the Taylor Farms campaign, is AB 1897. This bill would address the rampant use of socalled “temporary” workers to help employers skirt the law and escape accountability to their workforce. It would create joint liability for serious labor law violations, so both the labor contractor and the host employer would be held accountable. We are now only a few steps away from the Governor. The bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee and will hopefully be up for a vote in the full Senate near the end of August.
Our legislative program also includes supporting bills that are critical to our core industries as well as those that lift all workers. For instance, we are working very hard to make sure California’s Film Tax Incentive program stays on track. Teamster jobs in film and television are a key jurisdiction for us and keeping those jobs in California has become more and more difficult with other states and countries offering lucrative tax breaks to lure our jobs to those places. Our incentive program has worked well to stem the tide, but we need to do more. AB 1839 by Assembly Member Mike Gatto, (D-Burbank), not only keeps our incentive going, but increases it as well. The measure is now in the Senate.
We are supporting AB 1522 by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, (D-San Diego), which would require employers to provide their employees with accrued sick leave. Her bill does not require what is in most union contracts, but nonetheless is a great first step toward restoring a little humanity in the workplace.
We also supported Senator Mark Leno’s, (D-San Francisco), efforts to index and raise the minimum wage. His bill, SB 935, would have eventually lifted the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2017 and would have increased it by the rate of inflation after that. Unfortunately, two Democratic Assembly Members, Luis Alejo, (D-Watsonville), and Chris Holden, (DPasadena), refused to vote for the bill and it died in committee.
Pensions remain a hot topic with anti-public employee legislators, though nothing of substance has moved through this year, thankfully. All eyes are on Stockton where the bankruptcy judge is considering whether CalPERS should be treated like any other creditor, thereby giving the court the ability to reduce or eliminate pension payments as any other debt. A wrong decision on that issue could be disastrous.
Finally, we have two newly elected leaders in the Assembly and Senate. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego took over from former Speaker John Perez in May. Senator Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles was elected leader of the Senate in June. He will officially take the reins from Senator Darrell Steinberg sometime before the end of session. This change of leadership is significant because, for the first time in decades, both leaders will be from one region in the state.