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What We're Reading

Friday, January 24, 2020

Union Corruption Probe Widens New United Auto Workers president Rory Gamble is being investigated as part of a federal probe that has consumed the union's leadership. Federal agents are looking into Gamble as part of their probe into union bribery according to the Detroit News. "The agents are investigating whether UAW leaders received cash kickbacks or bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to Huntington Woods businessman Jason Gordon to supply union-branded merchandise, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation." The same investigation felled Gamble's predecessor, Gary Jones, who resigned in November after the UAW's governing board moved to expel him, as well as the president before Jones, Dennis Williams. The feds have secured 11 convictions in connection to a sprawling bribery scheme centered around training center funds.

PRO Act Headed for Vote as Dems Line Up in Support: House leadership plan to bring the bill, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, for a vote before Presidents Day. House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer announced the decision on Twitter, saying the bill would "protect the right to organize and bargain collectively". The decision came hours after 72 Democrats told Pelosi in a letter that the bill "should be brought to the House floor swiftly." Business groups are trying to keep Republicans from signing on and to peel off vulnerable Democrats from Republican-leaning districts. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a business group that opposes the legislation, says it has polling data that shows Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) will lose support in his district if he votes yes. Although the bill has little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, House Democrats in union-heavy districts are eager to pass it in case Democrats take back the upper chamber and the White House in November.

California Union Membership Grows: Bucking a national trend, which saw union membership decline, the LA Times reported "the number of Californians represented by unions rose by 139,000 last year in the wake of successful organizing campaigns across occupations as varied as nurses, electricians, animation artists, scooter mechanics and university researchers. The Golden State's 2.72 million represented workers amounted to 16.5% of its labor force, up from 15.8% in 2018, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The uptick comes after years of declines in both numbers and share of the workforce, which mirrored national trends. Two decades earlier, 18.3% of California workers were unionized." They noted "the growth has been enabled by a labor-friendly Legislature enacting measures to crack down on wage theft and retaliation against union organizers. New laws require retail and construction companies to take 'joint employer' responsibility for labor violations by subcontractors. State regulators have leveled millions of dollars in fines for misclassification of workers as independent contractors, opening the way for employees to unionize." Story

Too Much Bureaucracy? Not for California: From Politico Even fellow Democrats raised concerns this week that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to create too many new departments or embark on costly expansions and rebranding of existing agencies. The Democratic governor has proposed a new Department of Early Childhood Development, an Office of Health Care Affordability, a Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages, a Department of Cannabis Control and the state's version of its own Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the record $222.2 billion budget he unveiled this month. In a three-hour review of his spending plan, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee questioned the effectiveness of such proposals and the potential costs of sustaining them for years to come, especially given the state's smaller surplus this year and warnings of a future economic downturn. "There's nothing as enduring as a newly created state agency," Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. Budget Chairwoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) pressed Newsom officials on the cost of simply changing the name of an organization. Senate Education Chairwoman Connie Leyva (D-Chino) questioned if creating the $8.5 million Department of Early Childhood Development, which will consolidate childcare funding streams and programs, is merely adding another layer of bureaucracy. But will Democrats vote "NO"?

What's the Toughest Construction Job? A new survey of contractors and consumers found that roofing is perceived as the most physically demanding construction trade, while electrical work seems to be the most difficult to master. Story

Do You Want the California AG to Snoop Donor Lists? In 1958, in the case N.A.A.C.P. v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment contains an important privacy component, because the loss of anonymity to government could deter some individuals from freely associating with each other. The Court noted that such association is an important and longstanding means of engaging indirectly in public speech. In recent years, the State of California has tried to force all nonprofit organizations that solicit donations in California to turn over otherwise confidential lists of their donors. Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra could decide whether states are allowed to target nonprofit donors by exposing who they give money to. The Ninth Circuit Court has already ruled in favor of California, which has the potential to chill nonprofit donations nationwide and opens the door for similar--or even more invasive--donor disclosure laws across the country. The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take the case and reaffirm its longstanding precedent protecting the private association of individuals. The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear this case, but hopefully it will and determine whether California's law violates donors' First Amendment rights.

The Gloves are off in Sandy Ego. From Voice of San Diego "Former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa appears to have decided this is an important week in his race to replace former Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA50). On Tuesday, Issa announced that San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed him. The campaign sent out a video of Faulconer praising Issa. On Wednesday, he launched a vicious advertisement against former City Council Carl DeMaio that highlighted DeMaio's sexual orientation and included a racist depiction of unauthorized immigrants as murderous gang members. But then Republicans--the chairman of the Republican Party, Tony Krvaric, Councilman Chris Cate--stepped out to condemn the ad. Thursday, Faulconer joined them. And, turns out, the video Issa released of Faulconer's praise was shot in 2016. The Issa campaign had recycled it. By Wednesday night, Issa had taken it off YouTube. Faulconer re-affirmed his support for Issa though. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board weighed in. "It's a searing comment on Issa's character that the former Vista congressman would try to take advantage of hateful views of the LGBTQ+ community."

More Borrowing: From CalMatters. "The Assembly, Senate, and the Governor all are offering plans for climate resiliency bonds on the November ballot to fund efforts to combat climate change. The exact size of the bond is to be determined. But with both houses and the governor supporting the concept, expect to vote on it in November. What's climate resiliency? With the world unable to put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions, the current approach focuses on 'resilience', devising strategies for coping with an unpredictable and dangerous new climate. Resilience projects are aimed not so much at preventing sea level rise, wildfires, droughts and extreme heatwaves, but helping people and communities survive. It's not free money. The Legislative Analyst last November estimated that the state's annual debt service from the general fund will grow from $5.7 billion in 2019 to $.64 billion in 2023-24."

Federal Court Stops AB 5 for Truckers: Just hours before California's controversial AB 5 went into effect, a federal court in San Diego issued a temporary restraining order ("TRO") to enjoin enforcement of the independent contractor statute as to approximately 70,000 independent truckers, many of whom have invested substantial sums of money to purchase their own trucks and to work as "owner-operators". Story

Employers Consent to Cal/OSHA Inspection Deemed Voluntary Despite a Cavalcade of California Officials Descending on the Workplace. Recently, the California Court of Appeal reviewed an appeal regarding citations issued against a sheet metal company, Nolte Sheet Metal in Nolte Sheet Metal, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board. One of the issues presented was whether Nolte freely and voluntarily consented to a Cal/OSHA inspection. Under the California Labor Code, Cal/OSHA is permitted to investigate and inspect any workplace after presenting appropriate credentials to the employer. If an employer refuses inspection, Cal/OSHA may seek to obtain a search warrant. The Cal/OSHA representative was accompanied by representatives from the Contractors' State License Board, the Employment Development Department, the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the California Department of Insurance. According to the testimony, the California Department of Insurance representatives carried handguns and wore bulletproof vests. Story

Imperfect or Unlawful Meal and Rest Break Policies Don't Necessarily Support Class Certification in California. In a favorable opinion for employers, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District concluded the following on December 4, 2019 in David Cacho v. Eurostar, Inc.: An employer's meal break policy that is silent as to certain requirements but is otherwise compliant with California law does not support class certification in the absence of evidence of a uniform unlawful policy or practice; A claim for failure to provide rest breaks is not suitable for class certification where the employer has a uniform written rest break policy that is unlawful on its face but has not been applied to employees in practice. Story

Lawsuit Challenging Labor's Playbook is Dead but the Tensions Aren't: From VoSD "In late 2018, after hearing that SeaWorld was backing out of a hotel project, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer had a good sense why. He was talking to Bill Evans, a hotelier who'd been working with the theme park, shortly after the announcement. As Evans would later put it in a lawsuit, Faulconer leaned in and offered a guess. 'It was the union, right?'. Weeks later in court documents, Evans argued that Unite! Here Local 30, which represents hotel workers, and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, have been holding public lease agreements hostage until hoteliers and developers agree to hire union workers on the job site and then stay neutral in any unionizing efforts inside the subsequent hotel. Story

Strange Bedfellows: From Politico "Labor and business interests are lining up to protect an incumbent Republican assemblyman who's facing a conservative revolt in his district. Some Republicans have turned against Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster), angered by his increasing alignment with organized labor--traditionally a bastion of support for Democrats and foe of Republican-aligned business interests. They are backing former GOP state Sen. Janet Nguyen to unseat Diep." Diep recently appeared at an Anaheim City Council meeting to encourage the City to adopt a city-wide PLA. "The Orange County Republican Party voted this week to rescind its endorsement of Diep with Chairman Fred Whitaker saying in a statement there must be 'accountability for voting patterns'. Diep was the lone California Republican to vote for CA AB5 (19R), a labor priority bill that has reverberated across California's economy by reshaping worker classification rules. But Diep has won some allies during his time in Sacramento, and a coalition of real estate and health care industry interests is backing a new political action committee to defend the endangered incumbent. The California Medical Association and the California Apartment Association are both poised to chip in."