California is slowly reopening and we cross our fingers that we don’t have a new surge in COVID-19 cases. We all know that our economy needs a jumpstart. We just need to make sure that, as we reopen, we do it safely for workers. This has been a major focus for CTPAC and we continue to work with the Governor’s office, CalOSHA, and the Department of Public Health to educate and push for standards to protect our members.
The Legislature has also reopened and has been working on a greatly reduced bill load and working through some kinks in a socially-distanced legislative process. They are also dealing with a staggering budget deficit due to the economic consequences of the pandemic. The Governor estimates that deficit to be roughly $54 billion. The Legislature believes it is less, but either way, it’s a real problem that will affect all of us for years to come.
To deal with the projected deficit, the Governor proposed a mix of our large rainy day fund built up during the Brown administration and massive cuts to education, healthcare, and social services. The cuts come with the promise to restore programs if we get another stimulus from Congress. The Legislature has come up with an alternative plan that mostly leaves funding levels where they were last year, but cuts would be triggered later if no stimulus arrives. We support the Legislature’s version because our members and their families depend on a fully-funded state budget. Hopefully, the Governor agrees.
Meanwhile, we have continued to work on legislation to further Teamster interests. A few of those bills are highlighted below:
University of California
AB 3096 by Assembly Member David Chiu (D-San Francisco) will address ongoing problems with the University of California and their anti-union activity. Existing law prohibits a public employer like UC from taking action to deter an employee from joining a union. Unfortunately, the law has no teeth and UC has actively violated it during our Local 2010 organizing campaigns. AB 3096 would add significant financial penalties for these violations.
It is our hope that this deters what is supposed to be an institution for the betterment of all from trying to prevent its workers from having a voice. The bill passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate.
AB 3262 by Assembly Member Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) takes on some of Amazon’s bad behavior. The bill is co-sponsored by the Teamsters, the UFCW, and the Consumer Attorneys of California and would simply hold Amazon to the same product safety standards as other brick and mortar retailers. Amazon is selling thousands of products that have been declared by the government as unsafe or have been recalled. Unlike every other retailer, when one of those products purchased on Amazon injures or kills someone, Amazon takes the position that they are not responsible; they argue that they are just a platform and not a store.
If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same argument Uber, Lyft, and others use to say they aren’t employers. We need to hold these companies accountable. Amazon has raked in billions, but doesn’t want to be responsible to its employees or its customers. AB 3262 restores a little of that responsibility. The bill passed the Assembly and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
As more and more Californians return to work, it is also important to ensure that they have healthcare and wage replacement if they do get sick. To that end, we worked with the Governor’s office, the State Federation of Labor, and other unions, to get an executive order that requires workers comp coverage when a worker gets COVID-19 during this period. Governor Newsom showed courage and leadership in issuing that order since the entire business =community was against it.
Now we are working on legislation to codify and extend the executive order. It will be a tough fight but it’s the right thing to d