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WECA Political Update May 23, 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Legislature It was another big deadline week in California’s Legislature: To keep bills alive for this session, legislators have until tomorrow to get them through the house where they were introduced.

The week started with 553 measures in the Assembly and 365 in the Senate. Already, the Assembly has passed 304 bills and the Senate 129.

Both chambers held floor sessions every day this week to vote on bills.

PLA's Cost Doesn’t Deter Senate The State Senate approved SB 984 (Wahab) on a 28-10-2 vote. It requires the courts and CSU to identify and select at least three major construction projects by January 1, 2027, that must be governed by a project labor agreement (PLA). DTSC was removed after they reported that “utilizing a PLA for a [DTSC] project increased the cost of the cleanup by approximately 25 percent.”

UI for Strikers Once Again The Senate passed SB 1116 (Portantino) on a 22-12-6 vote to give striking workers unemployment insurance. Governor Newsom vetoed the same bill last year. California is largely in historic debt (approx. $20 billion) due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting statewide shutdown. As a result, California employers are already paying increased UI taxes pursuant to federal law and are likely to face ongoing tax increases until approximately 2034.

Trouble for ETP Grants (Wahab) The Senate passed SB 1321 (Wahab) to change the criteria for Employment Training Grants. A coalition of opponents states, “This bill poses a significant threat to the vital interests of manufacturers and small, diverse businesses throughout California. SB 1321 proposes fundamental changes to the Employment Training Panel (ETP) that would render the very businesses that fund the program ineligible to participate. Such a change would undermine the essence of the ETP, jeopardizing the development and sustainability of California's workforce." The vote was 30-9-1.

Longer Exposure for Employers and Longer Wait for Workers The Assembly passed AB 2135 that will: 1) Extend the statute of limitations on complaints submitted to the Labor Commissioner from 18 to 24 months. 2) Allows the Labor Commissioner to continue ongoing investigations for up to 18 months beyond the statute of limitation for good cause. 3) Prohibits an open investigation from being closed solely due to the Statute of Limitations being reached. The vote was 56-4-20.

More Work for Handy-Persons The Assembly passed AB 2622 (Carrillo) 57-0-23 to raise the floor for a contractor license to $1,000 from $500. The handyperson would be prohibited from installing, replacing, substantially altering, or extending electrical, mechanical, or plumbing systems or their parts or the mechanisms or devices that are part of those systems.

Ever-Changing PW Rates The Assembly passed AB 2182 (Haney) 65-5-10, which, among other provisions, allows the prevailing wage applicable to a public works project to be adjusted whenever an updated wage rate is determined by DIR! It recasts the method for annualizing benefit computations and repeals any previously issued determinations. If the governor signs the bill, contractors must consider a contract clause to hold the contractor harmless for wage changes mid-contract.

Solar Plunge: California experienced its worst first quarter for rooftop solar installations in more than a decade, according to a federal report, continuing a steady decline since the state cut reimbursement rates for excess solar power generated on homes, reports Politico. A new report from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that rooftop solar installations fell off after California implemented its net metering reforms last spring. The state averaged roughly 8,000 installations per month in the first quarter of 2024, the lowest of any month since May 2020. The report looks at a year of data since the California Public Utilities Commission made sweeping changes to the state’s net metering rules, instituting a system known as the net billing tariff. That rate design sharply cut the amount solar owners could get for excess solar sent back to the grid. But it made the rates variable and based on time, so customers would be paid more for sending back power when the grid was most stressed in the early evening.

I’m Not Leaving California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter “introduced a bill this week that would force presidents and vice presidents to disclose their tax filings for the two years before entering the White House, for the years while in office, and for two years afterward. It would also compel them, along with close family members such as children, siblings, and in-laws, to disclose payments from foreign entities and large gifts and loans from family members.” But “other Democrats raised objections to the proposal as word of it circulated, seeing it as unfairly equating the business conflicts of the Trumps and Bidens.” The White House said it opposed the bill. Meanwhile, another group of Democrats introduced a proposal requiring congressional approval to allow a president to receive payments from a foreign government. Sigh, #yesterdayslettuce.

Hard Bargaining or Unlawful Bargaining: What A Difference A Board Member Makes The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently held that an employer’s proposal and adherence to proposals could be deemed unlawful bad-faith bargaining. District Hospital Partners, 375 NLRB No. 55 (5/8/2024). The case is significant in two regards. First, the same case had been before the NLRB in 2021 before a Republican majority board, which voted 2-1 to overturn the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision and found no unlawful practices. Later, that decision was vacated based on a possible conflict of interest by one of the majority members. Upon reopening the matter, a new panel, this time having a majority of Democratic appointees, voted 2-1 to affirm the ALJ’s decision and to order significant relief. Second, the NLRB indicated that the employer’s maintenance of three proposals was sufficient to justify a finding of bad faith bargaining. This runs counter to a long history in which the board rarely relied on the content of an employer’s non-final proposals in finding bad-faith bargaining. More

NLRB Judge Finds Amazon CEO’s Comments About Unions Unlawful A San Francisco administrative law judge (ALJ) for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently found Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s comments about unions to be unlawful. Whether that ruling will be upheld on appeal is questionable. Employers should be free to articulate and lead their company’s workplace culture. The ruling is an “extreme infringement” not just on the First Amendment but also on Section 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gives management representatives broad leeway to state opinions about how they prefer to work with employees, said Phil Wilson, president and attorney with LRI Consulting Services in Broken Arrow, Okla. That section states that expressing any views, arguments, or opinions should not constitute an unfair labor practice if such expression contains no threat of reprisal or force and no promise of benefit. Wilson said no reasonable person could view Jassy’s comments about unionization as threatening or coercive, calling Jassy’s remarks “well within the bounds found to be lawful” by courts. He predicted that even if the NLRB affirms the board ALJ’s decision, which Amazon announced it would appeal, an appeals court later will rule in Amazon’s favor. Story

Julie Su Squeezed by Congress over California’s Lost Covid Billions Please excuse acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su for feeling these are her bespoke End Times. Reared in California’s progressive microclimate—where identity politics and powerful government unions are a Patriot missile defense shield against charges of incompetence and corruption—Su is unaccustomed to tough questions. That was fine in Sacramento, where Su served as Governor Gavin Newsom’s Secretary of Labor. Now, in Washington, D.C., other than “Tell us how you start your day,” tough questions are just about the only questions Su gets. Congressional Republicans want to know how the hell she lost about $33 billion to criminals, inmates, and international crime gangs while stiffing the federal government on a $20 billion loan to backstop soaring unemployment benefits during COVID-19. Story

Kari Lake Releases Ad Focused on Immigration 2022 Arizona GOP nominee Kari Lake's (R) campaign released a new ad in her bid for Arizona Senate titled “Big Differences.” The ad features Arizonans discussing President Biden's and Rep. Ruben Gallego's (D-AZ 03) border policies. In the ad, Lake promises to finish the wall and "stop the invasion." The border and immigration have consistently been successful messaging points for Republicans across the country. It is a winning subject in Arizona, where immigration and the border are not abstract concepts. Meanwhile, abortion is a successful messaging point for Democrats—a topic on which Lake has recently struggled to stay consistent. Ad

Gov. Hobbs Signs Bill to Expand Small Home Construction Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed two bills related to affordable housing on May 21: one that would allow for the construction of casitas, or tiny homes, in residential backyards and another to encourage the development of duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Hearing Exposing Union Tactics On May 22, The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing entitled, “Big Labor Lies: Exposing Union Tactics to Undermine Fair Elections.” Witnesses for the majority included Bill Messenger, VP and Legal Director of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation; Michael Alcorn, Crew Member at Trader Joe’s; and Stephen Delie, Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The minority witness was Lynn Rhinehart, Senior Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute. The hearing was livestreamed at 10:15 AM ET and is available here.

Mercedes-Benz Votes Against Unionization

On May 17, workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, voted 2,642 to 2,045 against United Auto Workers (UAW) representation. About 93% of eligible workers participated in the vote, and 56% of the votes were cast against representation. In response to the loss, UAW President Shawn Fain said, “This is a David and Goliath fight. Sometimes Goliath wins a battle. But David wins the war.” Given Fain’s position on Gaza, this statement may have been a poor choice. The outcome may slow the UAW’s Southern campaign and highlight the importance of—but it certainly demonstrates the effectiveness—of secret ballot elections.

These Shoes are Made for Walking The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of business groups are filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division against the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Worker Walkaround Representative Designation Process final rule. Read the news release announcing the lawsuit. Effective May 31, the final rule will allow employees to choose a third-party representative, such as an outside union representative or community organizer, to accompany an OSHA safety inspector during site inspections, regardless of whether the workplace is unionized or not.