Rundown of 2009 Legislative Session

In October, the Governor acted on hundreds of bills that went to his desk. Despite threatening to veto all of them unless he got a water deal, he decided to consider them individually for signature or veto. Many bills that would have made the lives of working families better were unfortunately vetoed because they conflicted with the Governor's pro-corporate mantra. However, a few good bills were signed. Below are some of the actions he took on bills important to the Teamsters.

Two Teamster-sponsored bills signed

SB 186 by Senator Mark De- Saulnier, (D-Concord), eliminated the expiration date on the law that allows employees to pre-designate their own doctor for the purposes of workers comp. Workers will now permanently have the right to choose their own physician for workplace injuries, which is a much better option than the company doctor. CTPAC co-sponsored this bill with the California Labor Federation and the California Professional Firefighters.

AB 1046 by Assembly Member Joel Anderson, (R-La Mesa), will help our members caught up in the foreclosure crisis. The law provides that a specified portion of equity in a home is exempt from execution to satisfy a judgment debt. Prior to this legislation the exempt equity amount was $50,000 for a single person, $75,000 for a family, and $150,000 for the elderly or disabled. This bill increased this “homestead exemption” to $75,000, $100,000, and $175,000, respectively.

More important bills signed

AB 236 by Assembly Member Sandre Swanson, (D-Oakland), will preserve the car wash registry, which has enabled car wash workers to get justice for labor violations and organize to make a better life. This law was set to expire this year and has proved to be a very important tool in protecting the rights of some of the most exploited workers in the state.

AB 260 by Assembly Member Ted Lieu, (D-Torrance), will ban some of the most abusive mortgage lending practices that fueled the foreclosure freefall. It bans the practice of steering where mortgage brokers could con well-qualified home buyers into more expensive and risky subprime loans when they could have afforded traditional loans. This practice resulted in financial ruin for many working families. AB X3 81 by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, (D-Compton), facilitates the building of a new NFL stadium in the Los Angeles area that will create 18,000 jobs and 6,000 permanent stadium jobs. The bill was required to settle a lawsuit between the stadium developer and the community groups seeking to block the project. Along with Teamster construction jobs the developer has agreed to give card check to Teamsters Local 911 for parking.

Vetoes, too

AB 838 by Assembly Member Swanson would have required Cal-OSHA to develop an indoor heat illness standard to protect workers in hot indoor environments. At least two union members from indoor workplaces have died of heat illness in the last two years. However, the Governor disagreed that the risk involved necessitated a regulation, so he vetoed the bill.

AB 943 by Assembly Member Tony Mendoza, (D-Artesia), would have banned employers from using an applicant or employee’s credit report to deny a job or promotion, unless substantially related to the job. This growing practice has led to some real
injustices. Not only is it a complete invasion of an applicant or employee’s privacy, but in almost every case, has no relation to the kind of performance the individual will have on the job. With the current foreclosure crisis, many workers who were duped into subprime loans find themselves in foreclosure with their credit ruined. This bill would have protected them from suffering additional penalties in the workplace. Unfortunately, the Governor sided with the Chamber of Commerce, who made this their number one “job killer” bill.

AB 1276 by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, (D-El Cerrito), would have prevented the governor from binding the state to trade agreements without legislative approval. Many state policies on labor, health and safety, and the environment can be adversely impacted by trade agreements. Given the potential significant consequences, having the legislature as a check on the power of the governor to unilaterally bind the state to such agreements seems like common sense. The Governor doesn't have much common sense though, so he vetoed the bill.

Even though the legislature is in recess, there have been special session meetings in areas that effect Teamster jurisdiction such as water and education, and we are monitoring these closely.