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WECA Political Update April 28, 2022

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Race to the semi-finish Tomorrow is the first big deadline for the 2022 legislative session, so more than 60 legislative committees met from Monday afternoon until today to “carefully consider” pending legislation and pass them – primarily along party-line votes – meaning Democratic authors’ bills move and Republicans’ – not so much. So instead, we’ll look at two that exemplify why California routinely registers at the bottom of lists of places to do business.

First is AB 2454 by Reggie Jones-Sawyer, which authorizes joint labor-management committees to protest a state public works contract not awarded to the lowest bidder. Some of you may have been party to a bid protest filed by a “losing” bidder. AB 2454 would – in the words of the author – “ensure a more transparent public works contracting process, AB 2454 allows Joint Labor Management Committees to file protests in situations where they argue the bidder who was awarded a contract does not meet the criteria of the ‘lowest responsible bidder.’ This bill is an effort to ensure contracting transparency that weeds out favoritism in public works contracts and protects contractors who fail to speak up out of fear of retribution.” The Construction Employers’ Association (CEA) argued, “(Under this bill) joint labor management committees would be authorized to protest the award of all public works contracts simply on the basis that the committee does not believe that the lowest responsible bidder is in fact responsible. In practice, this nebulous criterion would enable every joint labor management committee to simply protest awards where their signatory members are not aligned with the winning bidder, or if there is a jurisdictional dispute between crafts.” In other words, any state construction contract that employs a merit-shop sub-contractor will be sure to be protested.

Interestingly, the committee chair, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, noted the prevalence of CEQA “blackmailing,” and wouldn’t AB 2454 “unintentionally” result in the same thing happening? The author and sponsor (International Union of Operating Engineers, Cal-Nevada Conference) assured the chair that that would never happen and, thus, reassured, that she supported the bill. While in its present form, the bill only applies to state contracts, you can bet the unions will be back next session to “close this loophole” and permits unions to protest any public works award!

The other is SB 1020 by John Laird and Toni Atkins, which establishes interim targets to reach SB 100 clean energy goals and requires state agencies to purchase 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2030 to serve their load. In addition, the bill establishes a California Affordable Decarbonization Authority as a nonprofit benefit organization as a mechanism to fund various electric utility-related programs and activities. The bill was gutted and amended on April 18 to include these new requirements and a mandate that contractors for utilities or load-serving entities (LSEs) use a multicraft project labor agreement. Although not listed as supporters, this was a demand of the State Building and Construction Trades Council. Other than during opposition testimony, the author made no mention of the need for the PLA. The bill was passed on a party-line vote.

Will State Building and Construction Trades Council Acquiesce? From Politico, “Workforce disputes have stymied bills seeking to accelerate housing construction for years. A growing bloc of Democratic lawmakers want to make it easier to plan and build multi-unit housing, seeing a burst of new homes as critical to resolving the intertwined housing and homelessness crises that are top of voters’ wish lists. The formidable State Building and Construction Trade Council of California has maintained that any state actions to boost supply must bring commensurate benefits to the workers doing all that building. Legislation unveiled recently offered a glimmer of compromise. Both housing developers and the California Conference of Carpenters have signed on to Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ bill to expedite building on commercially zoned land or near commercial corridors. In return, projects would need to guarantee prevailing wage and health benefits, give unions new tools to pursue wage violations and — perhaps most critically — require builders to either use or seek out members of apprenticeship programs, which effectively means union members or equivalently compensated laborers. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon lent his support. But winning over the carpenters doesn’t mean persuading the trades. The umbrella union blasted the bill in a formal letter of opposition as an “anti-worker and anti-community Trojan horse” that would “eviscerate working-class communities by sacrificing the interests of the construction workforce that developers will exploit for profit.” (It’s not opposition all the way down: the trades are sponsoring a measure from sometimes antagonist Sen. Scott Wiener to increase student housing). Those types of fractures narrow the measure’s path to passage. “We believe this is a very powerful labor bill. We’re not giving up the ghost here,” said California Conference of Carpenters President Danny Curtin, but he acknowledged that when there is controversy, elected officials would much, much prefer to have a unified position in labor. Getting the trades on board, or at least to neutral, Curtin said, “Used to be the million-dollar question. It’s probably more of a billion-dollar question by now.” California elected officials are under intense pressure to demonstrate progress on housing. Disagreement about the balance between spurring more construction and ensuring good jobs is a central piece of that puzzle. So, the fate of Wicks’ bill could indicate where things stand — particularly after longtime trades leader Robbie Hunter stepped down. “I think it’s much more than a test case,” said California Housing Consortium Executive Director Ray Pearl, who helped craft the Wicks bill and has clashed with the trades. “It is an honest attempt to bridge that gap, and we are hopeful that there is a breakthrough.”

A “Needs Test” for schools!? One of my favorite columnists, George Will, wrote recently “There is honor, of a sordid sort, in the Biden administration’s showing more gratitude to a major donor than concern for the needs of millions of children, disproportionately minorities. The administration prefers the donor, a government-employees union, over the children, even though this tawdry fidelity to a funder will exacerbate Democrats’ growing problems with Black and Hispanic voters. This is the significance of the number 97.9. From 1990 on, that is the lowest percentage of the American Federation of Teachers’ campaign contributions that went to Democrats. It explains the administration’s contemptible pettiness in persecuting charter schools with punitive regulations intended to be crippling.” Yes, George is talking about “13 pages of pettifogging rules patently written to discourage and impede charter schools from accessing a $440 million federal program of support for charters. The rules include: “A charter must prepare a ‘community impact analysis’ demonstrating that there is an ‘unmet demand’ for it. Such a demonstration must be evidence of ‘over-enrollment of existing public schools,’ not long waiting lists for admission to charters by parents dismayed by public schools whose dismal performance has produced under-enrollment because of parental flight.” Hmmm, where have we seen that before? Oh – right, California Labor Code section 3075 prohibits an apprenticeship program from opening up or expanding into a new part of the state unless permitted by existing apprenticeship programs. No one should be surprised; Biden has said from the outset that he would be the most union president in history! Here is the link to his piece. It may be behind the Washington Post paywall, in which case, let me know, and I will send you the story.

More from Will. In a subsequent piece, where Will suggests banning US Senators from becoming President, Will noted this about Utah’s Junior Senator. “One of today’s exemplary senators, Mitt Romney, surely is such partly because, his presidential ambitions retired, he nevertheless wants to be a senator. Were all persons with presidential ambitions deterred from becoming senators, this probably would improve the caliber of senators, and of presidents, and the equilibrium between the political branches.” Some readers may take exception to this characterization, but Will’s arguments are at least interesting. Here is the link to his piece. It may be behind the Washington Post paywall, in which case, let me know, and I will send you the story.
Construction firms hit Biden PLA plan More from the Washington Post “As building trades labor leaders hailed President Biden’s pro-union policies and serenaded him with shouts of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” at a recent appearance, hundreds of companies that employ construction workers countered with an opposing message. Almost simultaneously, as Biden praised “project labor agreements” (PLA) to the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ (NABTU) legislative conference, an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) letter accused him of “taking a dangerously partisan approach” because he promotes those agreements. Story
Arizona Unemployment Rate Hits 45-Year Low In March 2022, Arizona had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.3%. This was slightly lower than the national unemployment rate at the same time, according to data released recently by the Arizona Commerce Authority. The latest data continues a gradual decline in people seeking work since job-seeking peaked at 13.9% in April 2020. March data marks a 0.3-point drop in the state’s rate compared to February and a significant improvement over the unemployment rate of March 2021. Then, the state had a 5.8% unemployment rate – 2.5 percentage points higher than it is now.
Did Soria Break Pledge Not to Accept Oil Money in Campaigns? Assembly candidate Esmeralda Soria, a Fresno Democrat, pledged not to accept oil or gas money. Based on financial filings, that vow may have been broken. Story

Union filings up The number of petitions filed for union representation in the first half of the fiscal year 2022 is up 57% over the same time last year. Experts say companies need to be prepared given those trends and laws governing how companies can respond to union efforts.

Cal/OSHA Approves Third Revised ETS and Clarifies Position on Some Lingering Questions California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA or “the Division”) Standards Board met on April 21, 2022, and formally approved the third readoption of its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“3rd Revised ETS”), by a 6-1 vote. There were no substantive changes from the earlier draft text. Under Governor Newsom’s previous executive order that paved the way for this readoption, the 3rd Revised ETS will become effective when the Office of Administrative Law completes its review and files it with the secretary of state, which is anticipated to occur before the end of the first week of May 2022 and will remain in effect through December 31, 2022. Learn More

If you are a fan of Gosar or Nugent, you will be pleased to learn Rocker Ted Nugent Backs Republican Congressman Paul Gosar in his Arizona Reelection Bid. Ted Nugent has endorsed Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., in what will become the 9th Congressional District. The six-term congressman currently represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District. Still, due to redistricting, he’s seeking reelection in a new district that covers most of Arizona’s western border, including parts of La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, and Yuma counties. Nugent, who lives in Michigan, has been among the most politically outspoken rock musicians to the right of the political spectrum for decades. Story

A California bill that would ban offshore drilling in state waters passed its first hurdle, despite opposition from fossil fuel industry groups and the State Building and Construction Trades Council. Per Politico, “This comes six months after an underwater pipeline leaked 25,000 gallons of crude oil off the Orange County coast. The California Independent Petroleum Association doesn’t oppose the newly proposed amortization study to pay operators for ending leases early. But the organization and its worker allies are still fighting the measure — resistance that could prove difficult to overcome at future legislative checkpoints. The bill, SB 953 by Sen. Dave Min (D-Costa Mesa), who represents the district affected by the OC oil leak, secured the minimum five votes needed to pass the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Tuesday. Nearly all opposition has come from local chapters of the State Building and Construction Trade Council of California, which has torpedoed past climate measures, much to progressive Democrats’ chagrin. The unions argued the measure wouldn’t reduce oil demand and increase crude imports. Still, Min pointed out that offshore drilling in California’s federal and state waters accounts for less than 0.3 percent of the nation’s annual production.

Moreover, his legislation would only affect three oil platforms in state waters. Sierra Club California doesn’t have a position on the measure, but signaled concerns later articulated by Committee Chair Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), who said some environmentalists are “concerned about the ‘polluter pays’ principle, and that we don’t want to be subsidizing cleanup activity that is the responsibility of the industry that has profited in the billions not just on offshore but onshore as well.” The legislation is expected to advance later Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It has until May 20 to clear fiscal review ahead of a full floor vote.”

Judge Rules That Race and LGBT Quotas for Corporate Board Members Violate the California Constitution A Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently ruled that a California law (Assembly Bill 979) requiring California corporations to implement race and LGBT quotas for their board of directors is unconstitutional. The state is expected to appeal Judge Green’s decision. Story

Associated General Contractors of San Diego (AGC-SD) won a high-stakes labor dispute with the Operating Engineers Local 12. A favorable arbitration decision clarifies the circumstances when a freeway contractor can utilize a Sunday to Thursday night shift without incurring massive liability for Sunday double time. The arbitrator accepted AGC-SD’s arguments in their entirety. The arbitrator denied the Operating Engineers’ claim for Sunday double time, which would be required if the contractor’s special shift was deemed to violate the master labor agreement. Story

SCOTUS Declines to Review CalSavers The US Supreme Court denied a petition to review a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that upheld the legality of California’s automatic retirement savings program. The case is Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association et al. v. California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program et al., case number 21-558. California created CalSavers in 2012 and required California employers with five or more workers either to offer retirement plans to their employees or join CalSavers by 2022. When employers join CalSavers, their employees have a portion of their paychecks automatically invested into an IRA unless they opt-out of the program. Important deadline: As of June 30, 2022, mandated employers with five or more employees must register. The three-year phased rollout included staggered deadlines for registration based on employer size. Employers who do not fulfill their responsibilities by the specified deadline dates are subject to enforcement action, including financial penalties.

LAO Report suggests climate change poses a particular risk to employees who cannot avoid outdoor exposure, including construction workers, and that the risk is increasing. Story

Andy Levine wins race for vacant Fresno Unified board seat Levine – a sociology lecturer at Fresno State and leading social justice advocate, replaces the late Carol Mills, the former dean of the Fresno Unified School Board. Levine won a four-way race with 55.87 percent of the vote. Only 3,030 people voted in the election.