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WECA Political Update March 2, 2023

Thursday, March 2, 2023

California State Bat We mentioned recently that California is poised to have a state mushroom. Existing law establishes the state flag and the state’s emblems, including, among other things, the California redwood as the official state tree and the California gray whale as the official state marine mammal. SB 732 (Menjivar-D), when enacted, would establish the pallid bat (antrozous pallidus) as the official state bat!

Admittedly the pallid bat sounds pretty cool (and is cute):  


·        Bats eat many pest species, including those contributing to health risks, such as mosquitoes, wasps, and flies. A female bat nursing her young will eat more than two-thirds of her body weight in insects and arthropods every night.
·        Bats provide more than $1,000,000,000 worth of pest control to California agriculture.
·        Bats eat bark beetles and wood borers, reducing wildfire risk in California forests.
·        Bats can live up to 40 years and typically raise just one pup a year. This low birth rate makes their populations particularly vulnerable to disruptions like humans encroaching on their habitat and climate change.
·        The pallid bat is as diverse as Californians – pallid bats live in California’s deserts, oak woodlands, coastal redwood forests, and high up into the pine forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They live in social colonies and have a rich language of calls to communicate with one another. The food they eat and the way they catch it varies both within and between different communities of pallid bats around the state.
·        Naming antrozous pallidus as the official state bat of California will help promote the appreciation, study, and protection of bats in this state.

Thanks, Senator Menjivar!


Amazon Closes, Cancels More Warehouses as Cost-Cutting Persists Amazon has canceled, closed, or delayed 99 facilities, impacting nearly 32.3 million square feet of active or planned ground-level space in 30 states, Marc Wulfraat, president and founder of MWPVL International, said in a Feb. 24 email. In September, the firm recorded 66 impacted facilities totaling 24.6 million square feet of ground-level space. Story


CHIPS Act Funding to Open as US Plans Semiconductor Manufacturing Clusters The United States will open its first round of applications for CHIPS and Science Act funding for manufacturing facilities next week, Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo said during a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday. The pot of $39 billion in federal funding is meant to incentivize semiconductor manufacturers to build sites in the United States, Raimondo said. More funding will be released for supply chain and R&D operations in the coming months. The Wall Street Journal and others have noticed “Chip makers will also have to pay construction workers prevailing wages set by unions and will be “strongly encouraged” — i.e., required — to use project labor agreements (PLAs), which let unions dictate pay, benefits and work rules for all workers. States restricting PLAs may have to change their laws if they want to benefit from the federal largesse.” Story I know you were as shocked as I am about that. “Any applicant that does not commit to using labor agreements will need to submit a construction workforce continuity plan to demonstrate exactly how it would ensure projects stay on schedule. Funding recipients that request more than $150 million in direct funding also must submit plans to provide construction and facility workers with access to affordable, reliable and high-quality childcare,” Commerce officials announced.


Rooftop Solar Advocates Request New CPUC Hearing Rooftop solar advocates opposed to the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) recent decision to cut the amount new solar users will be compensated for supplying power to the grid are petitioning for a chance to be reheard. Following months of hearings in 2022 that included hours of public comment mostly against the CPUC’s decision, attorneys for two groups filed requests with the CPUC for a chance to argue again. Tri-Valley advocates of rooftop solar agreed that the CPUC should revisit its decision. In a 25-page application for rehearing filed Jan. 17, Michael Boyd, president of Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE), accuses California Gov. Gavin Newsom of conspiring with CPUC board members to violate state and federal antitrust measures that benefit the state’s three largest public utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves Northern California. Story


Sacramento Bee Notices State Building and Construction Trades Council Stymies Construction of Housing “The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, backed by the California Labor Federation, insists that lawmakers require developers to use a ‘skilled and trained’ workforce made up of largely union workers. On the other side, the California Conference of Carpenters supports a prevailing wage requirement — typically the union rate — rather than limiting which workers builders can hire.” Story


Californian Julie Su Tapped to be Labor Secretary President Joe Biden introduced Julie Su as his pick to succeed Marty Walsh as labor secretary when Walsh leaves the administration later this month. Biden lavished praise on Su – Walsh’s deputy – who will serve as acting secretary once he goes to lead the NHL Players' Association, for her legal career representing low-wage and immigrant workers and her years of experience overseeing labor laws in California. The president also said Su, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, exemplifies the American dream and that “She’s committed to making sure that dream is in the reach of every American.” Su could face a familiar gig worker fight if confirmed as labor secretary, said the San Francisco Chronicle: Republicans previously opposed Su’s confirmation as deputy secretary of the Labor Department in 2021. She was confirmed on a party-line vote, with 50 Democrats voting in favor and 47 Republicans opposing. During that confirmation battle, Senate Republicans repeatedly raised the multi-billion-dollar scandal that engulfed California’s Employment Development Department, in which the state improperly paid jobless benefits to fraudsters.


Fall Back No More? Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced his bill to make daylight saving time permanent, which snuck through the Senate in a surprise last year but died in the House. Rubio has a bipartisan group of 11 co-sponsors in the upper chamber, and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) is introducing a House version of the bill. Will it meet a different fate there with Republicans in charge this year? PSA: You still have nine days of early-morning sunshine — clocks spring ahead at 2 a.m. on March 12. Story Last year, the Washington Post (Bob Bartlett's newspaper of choice) said about Rubio’s previous effort, “Sleep experts widely agree with the Senate that the country should abandon its twice-yearly seasonal time changes. But they disagree on one key point: which time system should be permanent. Unlike the Senate, many sleep experts believe the country should adopt year-round standard time.” Story


News from our Friends at Coalition for a Democratic Workforce (CDW)

PRO Act Reintroduced On February 28, Congressional Democrats reintroduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (HR 20, Senate companion does not yet have a bill number). The bill is a wish list of radical labor policies that would infringe on workers' and employers’ rights, diminish opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and devastate the economy. CDW’s statement on the news can be read here. CDW will send a letter to all members of Congress urging them to oppose the legislation.  

Senate HELP Planning Hearing on Union Organizing The Senate HELP Committee is planning to hold a hearing on “defending the right of workers to organize unions free from illegal corporate union-busting” on March 8. It will likely circle around the PRO Act, so CDW will send a letter to the committee on the bill's dangers and highlight past letters sent to the committee.

Sen. Sanders to Subpoena Starbucks CEO On March 1, Sen. Sanders announced the HELP Committee would hold a hearing to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, requiring him to come before the committee and provide testimony on the company’s tactics against union organizing in their stores. Sanders also seeks seemingly blanket authorization for committee investigations into “violations of federal labor law by major corporations.”

CDW Sends Letter to Congress Calling for Aggressive Oversight over NLRB, General Counsel On February 27, CDW sent a letter to both House and Senate labor committees urging them to conduct extensive oversight over the Board and General Counsel Abruzzo for their actions “promoting changes that are contrary to the bedrock principles of our democracy, like free speech, open debate, the right to cast a vote privately, and the promise of a workplace free from harassment.” The letter can be found here

Board Issues Decision on Severance Agreements On February 21, the Board issued its decision in McLaren Macomb, establishing that employers cannot offer employees severance agreements that require employees to waive their rights under the NLRA. The decision states that the “mere proffer” of a severance agreement that conditions receipt of benefits on the “forfeiture of statutory rights” violates workers’ collective bargaining rights. The decision overturned two Trump-era decisions, Baylor University and IGT, which broadly permitted employers to include confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions in severance agreements. The Board did not request amicus briefs in this case, despite the decision overturning precedent and making a significant change to policy. More on this policy here.


Who’s Running for POTUS? Five noteworthy presidential candidates have declared for 2024 – nine fewer than this point in the 2020 cycle. Last week, Ballotpedia added two noteworthy 2024 presidential candidates to the list: entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy (R), and author and 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson (D). The total tally currently stands at five noteworthy 2024 presidential candidates. Ramaswamy joins former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (R), former President Donald Trump (R), and former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (R) in the Republican primary. Williamson is the first Democratic candidate to have declared a campaign for the nomination. President Joe Biden (D) has not officially announced whether he intends to run for a second term.

At this point in the 2020 cycle, 14 noteworthy candidates had announced their campaigns:

·        Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump (R)

·        Aug. 10, 2017: John Delaney (D)

·        Nov. 6, 2017: Andrew Yang (D)

·        Jan. 1, 2019: Tulsi Gabbard (D)

·        Jan. 12, 2019: Julián Castro (D)

·        Jan. 15, 2019: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

·        Jan. 21, 2019: Kamala Harris (D)

·        Jan. 23, 2019: Pete Buttigieg (D)

·        Jan. 28, 2019: Marianne Williamson (D)

·        Feb. 1, 2019: Cory Booker (D)

·        Feb. 9, 2019: Elizabeth Warren (D)

·        Feb. 12, 2019: Amy Klobuchar (D)

·        Feb. 19, 2019: Bernie Sanders (I)

·        March 1, 2019: Jay Inslee (D)

Biden, the eventual Democratic nominee and supposed winner of the 2020 presidential election, announced his candidacy on April 25, 2019. In the 2016 election cycle, no noteworthy candidates had launched their campaigns as of March 1, 2015. The first announcement came on March 23 from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Hillary Clinton (D), the eventual Democratic nominee, announced her campaign on April 12, 2015. Trump, the eventual Republican nominee, announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.