We were just in Sacramento for the California Federation of Labor and State Building and Construction Trades legislative conference. On Monday we attended workshops to evaluate and organize around the pro-worker legislation that we are proposing after our successful November 2012 election where, in addition to our great defensive victory in defeating Prop 32 and tremendous progress with the revenue-generating Prop 30, we also achieved a veto-proof supermajority in both Sacramento legislative houses.
Sometimes we have to be scared of what we wish for…..
Traditionally the San Francisco and San Mateo Labor Councils and Building Trades Councils arrange for a committee room in the Capitol to visit with our combined state Senators and Assemblymembers. This year we met with Jerry Hill, Tom Ammiano, Kevin Mullin, Mark Leno, Rich Gordon, and Leland Yee and representatives from the 100 or so leaders took turns asking them for support for various bills that we are proposing.
Some of the major legislation we are introducing includes SB 434, which stops the tax breaks for so-called “Enterprise Zones,” which allow California businesses to close a business in one county, lay off the workers, and re-open in another county and get paid for it. Our delegation had a clear example of this sham when a business in Brisbane with Teamster workers closed down and re-opened in Visalia. The workers weren’t allowed to relocate and claim their jobs and the firm re-opened non-union with significant cuts to wages and benefits. This has to stop.
Another piece of legislation is Jimmy Gomez’s AB 880, which is tied to the new Affordable Care Act. The national legislation says that if a business has 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours per week they must provide healthcare (or pay merely a little over $2000 a year in fines). Companies are already arranging to re-adjust work schedules to less than 30 hours so workers will be thrown out of healthcare. This “crowd-out” will dump people into the public health system and create a larger revenue burden in our cities and it must be stopped. AB880 will penalize companies like Walmart (which is already a leader in the race to the bottom for wages and benefits), where many of their workers qualify for welfare because of its minimum wage/no benefit business plan.
We are also advocating for bills that don’t single out and penalize immigrants. We continue to push legislation to strengthen prevailing wages in construction and other industries and for school funding (post Prop 30), including the University of California Institute for Labor Research and Education.
At the end of our session we were joined by Assembly Speaker John Perez who is a long time UFCW leader and represents labor so well in Sacramento. We were also visited by a delegation of the South Bay Labor Council when the Speaker attended.
This conference also highlights some of the work that the 23 Labor Councils do during the year and I am proud to say that the San Mateo and San Francisco Labor Councils were honored by the State Fed as two of the top four performing Labor Councils for their November 2012 political GOTV operations. Thank you Political Directors Amber Parrish-Baur and Julie Lind for your work anchoring this process. And I WILL ADD that San Francisco had the highest percentage of No on 32 and Yes on 30 percentages in the state!