The Legislature is back in full swing in Sacramento, and we expect an eventful session with both the Senate and Assembly poised to take on some very weighty issues.
Sexual harassment is the issue of the day; the scandals that first came to light in Hollywood are coming to roost in California politics. A handful of legislators have already been forced to resign or take leave, and there certainly will be more to come.
While the focus has been on these high-profile cases, all industries experience abusive workplace environments, particularly where workers have little power. Fortunately, now that light has been shined on widespread harassment, the Legislature will likely push through policies to protect workers from this kind of abuse. Hundreds of bills will be introduced on the topic, and we will work to make sure the ones that make it to the Governor’s desk protect all workers.
The housing crisis will be another big issue for the 2018 session. Both rental and home purchase are completely unaffordable for most working families. Bay Area housing is particularly difficult, where workers are priced out of the market and must make extremely long commutes to and from work. Last year, several bills were designed to address this issue, but much more needs to be done.
Californians have also been negatively impacted by the Trump tax cut for billionaires. Many higher- wage workers, such as those with union jobs, will be impacted when they can no longer deduct their state and local taxes on their federal returns. This amounts to a significant tax hike for Californians. Since we can do little about it at the federal level, stay tuned for creative policies at the state level to lessen the blow on working families.
The California Teamsters Public Affairs Council will also sponsor our own legislation to address the needs of our members and those we are trying to organize. We will propose bills dealing with port trucking, including ensuring that clean air subsidies go to good companies that employ drivers rather than those that exploit so-called independent contractors. We’ll also introduce legislation to establish contracting standards for port trucking with joint liability for shippers like Walmart if they ignore those standards.
We will continue to be involved in healthcare reform, working on both universal coverage and policies to bring down healthcare costs. The Teamsters have sponsored legislation in this area for the last five or six years and will push for more because we know that rising healthcare costs dominate the bargaining table, serving as a barrier to wage gain across all sectors.
Automation is another area of focus for us this year and for the foreseeable future. Automated vehicles and automation in logistics are real threats to jobs. Policy makers have been so enamored by the benefits of automation that they have forgotten about the need to deal with displacement of an entire workforce. CTPAC and Joint Council 7 will work to get legislators engaged on this issue in a way that brings attention back to workers.
Lastly, our public sector is faced with a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME later this year that could bring so-called right to work to all public employee workplaces. It would give nonmembers all the benefits of the union without paying anything, financially crippling some public employee unions and significantly hampering efforts to represent members. We will not take this lying down. Should a bad decision come down, we will be looking at creative legislative ways to maintain and grow union strength to protect our members.