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WECA Political Update July 22, 2021

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Landscape Professionals Volunteer to Improve Arlington National Cemetery and National Mall Since I usually focus on the darker side of life and politics, I thought I would start with this story of service. “Hundreds of landscape volunteers will lend their time and expertise on a project that honors America on two of its most iconic and patriotic open green spaces. ‘We must cultivate our garden,’ Voltaire famously advised. That happened on a large scale July 19 when hundreds of landscape industry professionals convened at Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall, volunteering during one of their busiest times of the year, to protect the historic cherry trees, enhance the turf, and improve irrigation systems. Story

California Businesses Hiring Homeless Workers Can Get A $30,000 Tax Credit California businesses hiring homeless workers can get up to $30,000 a year in tax credit starting 2022 under a budget bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday. Companies must pay at least 120% of the state’s minimum wage to be eligible Story

A Union Pot Calls a Union Kettle Black Dan Walters writes, “A squabble between two blocs of politically influential California unions is an example of the pot calling the kettle black.” Story

Phoenix Improves in Latest Rankings The Phoenix metro jumped 13 spots in the prestigious 2021-2022 U.S. News Best Places to Live rankings. The latest report cited the Valley’s job market, its relatively low cost of living, its “ample opportunities to play,” as well as, of course, its abundant sunshine. Story

Recall Gov. Gavin Newsom will not list his party affiliation on the recall ballot, a Sacramento County judge ruled recently. The blank space on the ballot is thanks to a filing error by Newsom’s lawyer (ex-lawyer?) who admitted that he forgot to check the party designation box — failing to take advantage of a law signed by his Governor just a few months earlier, that would have allowed him to do so. The case arose because Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber refused to let the Newsom campaign amend its report. Hoping to mend fences with Newsom— who appointed Weber to fill the vacancy at Secretary of State when Newsom appointed Alex Padilla to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat—Weber subsequently refused to put conservative talk-show host Larry Elder on the “replacement” ballot. Elder sued, and a Sacramento Judge concluded that the Secretary of State errored in applying a 2019 bill that requires candidates for Governor to supply five years of tax returns to be placed on the ballot. Over 40 candidates will be on the ballot when California voters decide Newsom’s fate on Sept. 14 and via mail ballots in the preceding month. Among the top Republican contenders are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman and Newsom’s 2018 opponent John Cox, former Rep. Doug Ose, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, and Assemblymember Kevin Kiley.

Legislature Adopts Broadband Funding But forgets about Skilled and Trained Workforce (SWF). As part of their spending free-for-all, the Legislature sent Governor Newsom SB 156 that … but unlike an earlier version (AB 34) that would have issued general obligation bonds for up to $10 billion, SB 156 did not include any of the State Building and Construction Trades Council’s usual SWF mandates—or the waiver of SWF if a PLA covers the project! Also—SB 156 authorizes job order contracting for broadband construction…

Arizona Ends Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Program Arizona ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs on July 10, and courts in two states—Indiana and Maryland—ruled those states must continue to participate in the program. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) had announced that Arizona would end its involvement in the program on May 13.

ABC Calls for Changes to Biden PLA Rule ABC called for changes to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s interim final rule encouraging project labor agreements and other anti-competitive and costly labor policies on particular state and local projects funded by the American Recovery Plan Act of 2021. I am sure Secretary Yellen will seriously consider their position. Story

In related news—ABC Announces New Campaign to Fight PLA Legislation Associated Builders and Contractors has amassed a six-figure war chest to fight the use of mandated project labor agreements on federally funded infrastructure jobs. Through Build America Local, a coalition of construction industry and business organizations led by ABC, the trade group has produced a 30-second commercial as part of an advocacy campaign aimed at the public and members of the U.S. Senate on PLAs. Story

Newsom Appoints Labor Secretary Governor Newsom announced Natalie Palugyai as Secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). Newsom also announced Stewart Knox as LWDA Undersecretary. In addition, former LWDA Secretary Julie Su was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Secretary of Labor at the U.S. Department of Labor. Palugyai’s appointment pleased former Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Senator María Elena Durazo. “As Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, I look forward to working with her to solve issues of wage theft, expand health and safety provisions in the workplace, and create access to new good-paying jobs through High Road Partnerships.” Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation said, “I know she will fight for all of California’s workers and treat them with respect.” Since the early 2000s, Palugyai has served in many advisory and managerial roles in private and public sectors. A graduate of both the University of Miami and Harvard University, Palugyai started as a compliance officer for the U.S. Department of Labor in Miami from 2000 to 2003. Following a subsequent two-year stint working at the World Bank, she next served as a Recovery Analysis, Reports and Technology Solutions branch chief at FEMA from 2007 to 2010 and as a Senior Management Advisor at the Department of Labor until 2015. After a few advisory positions at the General Services Administration and John Hopkins University, Palugyai became the Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University in 2018, a position she has held ever since.

Not everyone agrees she is the right choice. In the California Globe, Oakland-based labor union advisor and analyst Dylan Murphy said, “She’s only 40, not exactly a long career to really look back upon for such a high-level position. But what is even more concerning is her unfamiliarity with California. She has only ever held positions in Florida, Washington, and Baltimore. There’s nothing West there of the Appalachians, let alone the Mississippi. Some of the jobs in Washington were for national-level things, but nothing that really focused on California. And labor in California is a different animal than all other states. Unions remain very strong out here in many sectors, with migrant workers also playing a huge part out here. And that’s not even getting into all the issues surrounding AB 5, the ongoing EDD fraud issues from last year, and lingering post-COVID labor and workplace issues unique to California. On top of that, the Governor is going to face an election in September, and if he wins that, again in November next year. He could be out as Governor either time, meaning Palugyai may only be in office a brief time. So it’s quite possible by the time she figures out what the labor situation is in California, she could be out of a job.” Story

The California Supreme Court Cooks up More Problems for Employers In yet another blow to employers, the California Supreme Court decided, in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC,1 that the one hour of premium pay owed to employees who do not receive a legally compliant meal or rest breaks must be paid at the employee’s “regular rate” (as used in the calculation of overtime), not simply the employee’s hourly rate. This decision impacts employers who pay nonexempt employees additional compensation, such as non-discretionary bonuses, shift premiums, or commissions. More

Secret California Budget Item Gives $280M Handout for Oakland Stadium Project As evidence that California Legislators had millions burning holes in their pockets, Politico reported that “A state budget bill Newsom signed late last month directs $279.5 million in general fund money to the Port of Oakland for a broad range of infrastructure projects. The port says it doesn't have a specific plan for the money, which the budget dedicates to ‘improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.’ But the infusion of state dollars came just weeks before Tuesday's vote on developing the port's Howard Terminal into a baseball stadium and mixed-use development in one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball, and as the Oakland A's hold out for more government funding.”