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Thursday, July 11, 2019   State Legislation

Clean Vehicle Rebate Program California may increase rebates for low-emission vehicles under bill amendments by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). AB 1046 previously would have established a new incentive program but is being amended to instead reform the existing Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, which gives low-emission vehicle buyers $900 to $5,000, depending on the type of vehicle. Under the changes, the state would initially provide a higher maximum rebate of $7,500 per car, which would eventually fall to zero as the state makes progress toward its goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030 as established in an executive order last year by former Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill is silent on funding sources; it would have the Department of Finance and Treasurer figure out a funding plan - maybe the State will find a Golden Goose. The Senate Transportation Committee analysis raised issues: Californians operate 600,000 zero emission vehicles, more than any other state but far short of the 5 million goal. The total rebate cost to reach the goal could be $16.5 billion. It's not clear where the money would come from. California would need 250,000 charging stations for just 1.5 million ZEVs. The state has 18,000 charging stations now.

Thursday, July 11, 2019   Labor Law, NLRB, and Recent Court Decisions

NLRB Makes It Easier For Employers To Drop UnionsThe National Labor Relations Board last week issued a ruling, 3-1, that lowered the legal hurdles an employer must pass through to rid their business of a labor union. The ruling in Johnson Controls, Inc. now places the onus on unions to prove that they still maintain majority support through a ballot election if an employer submits an "anticipatory" withdrawal of recognition indicating the employer possesses evidence that a majority of employees in the bargaining unit no longer supports union representation. A business may now stop bargaining up to 90 days before the expiration of a union contract so long as it notifies the union that it plans to withdrawal recognition. Under prior precedent, the board said if a union challenged the withdrawal, an employer would be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act if it failed "to establish that the union lacked majority status at the time recognition was actually withdrawn." Under the new ruling, a union must file an election petition within 45 days of the employer's "anticipatory" withdrawal notice. Read the decision. [Politico]

Thursday, July 11, 2019   What We're Reading, Listening To, and Watching

The New Gov. Moonbeam? Back in the 70s's, Chicago news icon Mike Royko famously dubbed then-California Gov. Jerry Brown "Governor Moonbeam" for the brash young governor's appeal to young progressive voters, or what Royko called "the moonbeam vote." The nickname was only reinforced by Brown's idea of California becoming the first state to launch its own satellite. Well, here all these years later the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has issued an executive order to form the Mississippi National Guard Space Directorate, which would be a state-level part of President Donald Trump's plan to create a Space Force as a new branch of the U.S. military. One can only wonder what fun the late Royko would have had with this one. [StateNet Capitol Journal]
How's Newsom Doing? 
Gov. Newsom set several goals including increasing the number of apprentices by 500,000 by 2029. The Sacramento Bee said this: "In the Central Valley, where fewer residents have college degrees than in other parts of the state, Newsom campaigned on boosting apprenticeships to help workers get jobs in a rapidly changing economy. He proposed partnering with community colleges and businesses to create half a million apprenticeships over the next decade in growing fields like advanced manufacturing, health services and information technology. 'The vast majority of us will not get a bachelor's degree in a fancy institution of higher learning, and we need an agenda to support those folks,' Newsom said in Fresno. He suggested it could be an area of collaboration with the federal government. What he's doing: The budget includes $165 million over five years (about $33 million per year) for workforce development projects called for under California's cap-and-trade law, which Newsom's predecessor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2017. The spending will come from money raised by the cap-and-trade program, which makes companies pay to pollute. Newsom's Department of Finance estimates these programs will train about 5,100 people for apprenticeships and other jobs, far short of Newsom's stated goal. [Sacramento BEE]
Modular construction: threat or opportunity? When Jan Mischke speaks to industry leaders about the benefits of modular construction, they usually respond in one of two ways, he said. "They are either optimistic about the future of modular or they are really worried that modular companies are going to eat their cake." Story
The top OSHA fines of Q2 2019 Once again, fall-related violations were behind most of the biggest fines OSHA issued to construction companies in the second quarter of this year, but burn and asbestos hazards made a showing as well. Story

Thursday, July 11, 2019   2020 Election

One Dem Out, One InCalifornia Rep. Eric Swalwell, dogged by fundraising challenges and a failure to register in the polls, is ending his longshot bid for the presidency. Two weeks ago, Swalwell, 38, called on Democratic front-runner Joe Biden to "pass the torch" of party leadership to a new generation in the first Democratic presidential debates. But this Monday, Swalwell called a press conference at his Dublin campaign headquarters to announce that instead of continuing in the Democratic primary, he will instead seek a fifth term representing the strongly Democratic East Bay 15th district in Congress. "Being honest with ourselves, we had to look at how much money we were raising, where we were in the polls," Swalwell told supporters, arguing that he had "moved the needle on the debate stage with an issue I was very passionate about," referring to gun control measures. "So we've achieved that,'' he said. "But we have to be honest about our own candidacy's viability." Swalwell's decision to bow out comes as another Californian, billionaire activist Tom Steyer - who had earlier ruled out a run for the White House - prepared to announce his entry into the race.

Thursday, July 11, 2019   Opinions


Richard Markuson

What are IBEW (and Scott Wetch) Up to Now? 

We have mentioned that IBEW and their subsidiary, NECA, are seeking to end the authority for C46 solar contractors to install energy storage systems and that they are also sponsoring SB 524 (Stern), which was heard Wednesday afternoon in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee. This bill requires that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) directs an energy efficiency program administrator or program implementer to ensure that work is performed by a skilled and trained workforce for projects receiving $50,000 or more in ratepayer-funded incentives for energy efficiency projects within the same building, facility, or building complex. For example, an apartment complex of 300 units that received an incentive of $166 per unit to reduce energy consumption would be required to comply with Public Contract Code §2601, which, for work performed on or after January 1, 2020, requires that at least 60 percent of the journeypersons employed are graduates of an apprenticeship program for the applicable occupation.
According to the CPUC's 2018 annual report, they implemented a series of recent policy decisions to achieve their established goal of doubling energy efficiency (EE) savings. Those decisions included allowing the EE program administrators a combination of budget certainty, continuity, and flexibility in program administration. In 2018, the CPUC approved a $7.5 billion budget for EE through 2025. Additionally, new incentive mechanisms, such as pay for performance, will allow program designers to better ensure energy savings. The CPUC is also designing a new policy initiative, in which EE programs will be evaluated for effectiveness by utilizing a framework for tracking progress using common metrics.

Existing law requires the CPUC to work with stakeholders - including the California Energy Commission (CEC) - to identify all potentially achievable, cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency savings, and establish energy efficiency targets and ratepayer-funded programs for investor-owned utilities. Under existing law, IOUs can offer customers ratepayer-funded incentives to make energy efficiency improvements that produce energy savings. These improvements can include a number of changes to a building, including energy-saving lighting, refrigeration, and heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC). Rebates that help lower the cost of less expensive energy-saving appliances and equipment like smart thermostats may also be offered an incentive.

Workforce Issues. In 2013, the CPUC directed the IOUs to employ an expert consultant to help develop a comprehensive plan to address workforce issues in the IOU energy efficiency programs. The University of California, Berkeley's Donald Vial Center for Employment in the Green Economy was selected as the consultant and developed a guidance plan with recommendations for addressing workforce issues in the IOUs rolling portfolio investments. The plan made three broad recommendations:

1)          The IOUs should incorporate a set of contractor and workforce standards and other measures into the program requirements for their energy efficiency incentive programs.

2)          The IOUs should redesign their workforce programs to better align, leverage, and develop influence over California's main training and education institutions.

3)          The IOUs should create a program to increase opportunities for workers from disadvantaged communities to enter rewarding careers in energy efficiency.

Read that last recommendation again: The IOUs should create a program to increase opportunities for workers from disadvantaged communities to enter rewarding careers in energy efficiency. Does requiring a 60 percent graduation from an apprenticeship program help workers from disadvantaged communities to enter rewarding careers in energy efficiency or does it lock in building trades workers to perform the majority of the $7.5 billion EE work?
The bill was approved by the committee, but not without some limiting amendments and some self-serving comments by members of the committee, like Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). Muratsuchi - who over the course of four elections has received over $800,000 from construction unions - said he'd vote for any bill that ensured more union construction jobs.
In the end, that $7-plus billion in energy efficiency work is too big a prize to leave on the table. Not only that, but a few $800,000 contributions here and there result in a pretty decent return on investment - especially when the money comes from dues and industry advancement contributions, whose ultimate source is the wallet of every California taxpayer!

Thursday, July 11, 2019   Special Event Notice

WECA members with an interest in workers compensation may want to attend the below event. WECA is not a sponsor, but members are welcome to attend and are encouraged to consider contributing to this cause. 

Courtesy of Workers' Compensation Action Network



Workers' Compensation Action Network Town Hall and Summit

Stephen Wagstaffe
San Mateo County District Attorney

Teena Barton
Senior Fraud Investigator, ICW Group

Friday, July 26, 2019
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.


863 Main Street
Redwood City, CA 94063

  • Come to a riveting, free Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Workers' Compensation Action Network, and featuring San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe who will highlight how the county is aggressively pursuing workers' comp fraud prosecutions. 
  • Also presenting is nationally recognized expert in the insurance industry and law enforcement, Teena Barton, who is a Major Case Special Investigator in a workers' comp fraud investigation unit with ICW Group. She will share stories of how injured workers are used for profit and how recruitment firms receive illegal kickbacks for referrals to hospitals, doctors and ancillary medical service providers, essentially "using people like ATMs". She will discuss her own expertise as well as the case of Sean O'Keefe, a convicted workers' compensation attorney serving 13 months in federal prison for his involvement in a $200 million scheme built around recruitment referrals and kickbacks to use injured workers for fraudulent billing.
  • Jerry Azevedo with the Workers' Compensation Action Network (WCAN) will provide an update on the status of the workers' comp system in California and activity in the State Capitol. We will also hear from YOU, business owners, who can share your workers' comp experiences with the District Attorney.
  • WCAN is a broad-based, statewide coalition that has successfully fought for reforms to provide state and local officials more tools to combat workers' compensation fraud to help meet the dual goals of stable costs for employers and higher benefits for injured workers. In recent years, state lawmakers enacted several pieces of legislation designed to improve system efficiency, reduce conflict and legislation, and stem abuses by service providers. These reforms are delivering higher benefits to California workers while stabilizing employer costs. Despite these reforms, California's system remains one of the most costly and litigious in the nation and vulnerable to evolving forms of fraud and abuse.
  • Complimentary lunch will be provided. 

  •  Why Crack Down on Workers' Comp Fraud?
  • Fraud hurts both employers and injured workers. It inflates employer costs, clogs the injured workers' compensation court and administrative systems, delays the resolution of claims, diverts limited system resources, and exploits injured workers who do not receive the medical care needed to properly heal from their injuries. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019   Thought


Richard Markuson

Update on 2019 Labor and Employment Legislation: What Remains? by Chris Micheli of Aprea and Micheli Now that the house of origin deadline has passed, and we are basically at the mid-point in the California Legislative Session, we can take a look at pending legislation with particular attention to the bills that will continue along the legislative process in the second house. The focus of this article is on pending labor and employment legislation. The following are the major bills of particular interest to the California business community.

AB 5 (Gonzalez) - Independent contractors This bill would codify the decision in the Dynamex case and clarify its application. The bill would provide that the factors of the "ABC" test be applied to determine the status of a worker as an employee or independent contractor for all provisions of the Labor Code and the Unemployment Insurance Code. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 9 (Reyes) - Statute of limitations This bill would extend the statute of limitations period to three years for complaints alleging employment discrimination. The bill would make conforming changes in provisions that grant a person allegedly aggrieved by an unlawful practice who first obtains knowledge of the facts of the alleged unlawful practice after the expiration of the limitations period. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 35 (Kalra) - Blood lead levels This bill would require the State Department of Public Health to consider a report from a laboratory of an employee's blood lead level at or above 20 micrograms per deciliter to be injurious to the health of the employee and to report that case within five business days of receiving the report to the Division of Occupational Safety Health. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 51 (Gonzalez) - Employment arbitration This bill would prohibit a person from requiring any applicant for employment or any employee to waive any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or other specific statutes governing employment as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 170 (Gonzalez) - Joint employer liability This bill would require a client employer to share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and civil liability for harassment for all workers supplied by that labor contractor. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 171 (Gonzalez) - Retaliation claims The bill would prohibit an employer from discharging or in any manner discriminating or retaliating against an employee because of the employee's status as a victim of sexual harassment, as defined by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 403 (Kalra) - Attorneys' fees in DLSE cases This bill would authorize a court to award attorney's fees to a plaintiff who brings a successful action for a violation of the law. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 418 (Kalra) - Union representative privilege This bill would establish a privilege between a union agent, as defined, and a represented employee or represented former employee to refuse to disclose any confidential communication between the employee or former employee and the union agent made while the union agent was acting in the union agent's representative capacity. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 520 (Kalra) - Prevailing wage This bill would provide that a public subsidy is de minimis if it is both less than $275,000 and less than two percent of the total project cost. The bill would specify that those provisions do not apply to a project that was advertised for bid, or a contract that was awarded before July 1, 2020. Status: Pending in the Senate fiscal committee

AB 547 (Gonzalez) - Janitorial workers This bill would prohibit the division from approving a registration if the employer does not include in their written application the name of any subcontractor or franchise servicing contracts affiliated with a branch location and the number of subcontracted or franchise covered workers servicing each of those contracts, the total number of covered workers working out of a listed branch office, and the address of each work location serviced by a branch office. Status: Pending in the Senate fiscal committee

AB 589 (Gonzalez) - Workers' bill of rights This bill would make it unlawful for an employer to knowingly destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document of another person in the course of committing, or with the intent to commit, trafficking, peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or a coercive labor practice. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 749 (Stone) - No-rehire provisions This bill would prohibit an agreement to settle an employment dispute from containing a provision that prohibits, prevents, or otherwise restricts a settling party that is an aggrieved person, as defined, from working for the employer against which the aggrieved person has filed a claim or any parent company, subsidiary, division, affiliate, or contractor of the employer. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 1066 (Gonzalez) - Unemployment insurance This bill would restore eligibility for unemployment benefits after the first four weeks of a trade dispute for an employee who left work because of the trade dispute. The bill would specify that the one-week waiting period otherwise required for unemployment benefits is not additionally required under these circumstances. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 1360 (Ting) - Food deliveries This bill would define a food delivery platform as a business engaged in the service of online food ordering and delivery from retail food establishments to a consumer, and would require a food delivery platform and food delivery driver to ensure that food is transported during delivery in a manner that meets specified food safety requirements. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 1478 (Carrillo) - Job protected leave This bill would authorize an employee aggrieved to bring a private civil action against the employee's employer and would not require that employee to pursue any other remedy before bringing that action. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

AB 1677 (Weber) - Call centers This bill would establish the Protect Call Center Jobs Act of 2019 to require an employer of customer service employees in a call center, as specified, that intends to relocate from this state to a foreign country to notify the commissioner at least 120 days before the relocation. The bill would require the Labor Commissioner to impose, in the commissioner's discretion, one of two specified penalties, including a civil penalty of up to $10,000, upon an employer that fails to provide this notice. Status: Pending in the Senate policy committee

SB 142 (Wiener) - Lactation accommodation This bill would require an employer to provide a lactation room or location that includes prescribed features and would require an employer to provide access to a sink and refrigerator close to the employee's workspace, as specified. Status: Pending in the Assembly policy committee

SB 171 (Jackson) - Pay data disclosure This bill would require, on or before March 31, 2021, and on or before March 31 each year thereafter, a private employer that has 100 or more employees and who is required to file an annual Employer Information Report under federal law, to submit a pay data report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing that contains specified wage information. Status: Pending in the Assembly policy committee

SB 218 (Bradford) - Local FEHA enforcement This bill would authorize the legislative body of a local government to enact anti-discrimination laws relating to employment, including establishing remedies and penalties for violations. The bill would authorize local governments to create a local agency to enforce these local anti-discrimination laws. Status: Pending in the Assembly policy committee

SB 707 (Wieckowski) - Arbitration This bill would require the court to impose a monetary sanction on the drafting party who materially breaches an arbitration agreement, and would authorize the court to impose other sanctions, as specified. If the employee or consumer compels arbitration, the bill would require the arbitrator to impose appropriate sanctions on the drafting party, including monetary sanctions, issue sanctions, evidence sanctions, or terminating sanctions. Status: Pending in the Assembly policy committee

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on September 13, and Governor Gavin Newsom will have 30 days to act on measures sent to him by that date. We'll check back after final actions take place on these and other measures.

Thursday, June 13, 2019   Legislative Update

WECA Supported Legislation (AB 1736) Ever wonder what happened to that bid? The sponsor of AB 1736 (ASAC) needs contractor input. The bill would expedite notification of bid results. The Senate has asked sponsors some questions, and they need answers by 3 p.m. Monday, June 17. All responses will be aggregated, and you will not be identified. Survey Link
Federal Legislative Update
Labor Bills Pass Committee: The House Education and Labor Committee cleared three labor-related bills Tuesday, including a measure aimed at protecting older workers from discrimination on the job and another that seeks to prevent violence against health care workers. The panel also green-lighted legislation to shore up failing multiemployer pension plans. All three bills now head to the floor for a full House vote.
Dems Take on Overtime: Four Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation to reinstate an Obama-era rule that more than doubled the salary level under which virtually all workers qualify for overtime pay and to head off a proposed Trump administration rule that would extend those benefits to millions fewer. The bill - introduced by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) - would guarantee overtime eligibility for nearly all workers making less than $51,000. The ceiling currently is $23,660. The Trump administration has proposed raising the overtime salary threshold to $35,308. That would extend overtime benefits to an additional 1.1 million workers; the Democrats' proposal would extend it to more than 4 million.

Thursday, June 13, 2019   What We're Reading, Listening To, and Watching

Housing - Two Takes on Why it is Expensive Los Angeles Times housing reporter Liam Dillon and CALmatters' data reporter Matt Levin chat about the latest developments in California housing policy and interview Dan Dunmoyer of CBIA and Cesar Diaz of State Building and Construction Trades Council. Diaz begins at 48 minutes. Listen
Analysts: Infrastructure, modularization, resiliency top industry drivers Approaching the halfway mark of the year, the commercial construction industry is strong, staving off any premature cooling before an impending economic downturn and integrating innovation in relatively slow but steady measures all the time. But what do experts anticipate for the rest of the year and going into next? Two presenters at last week's ENR FutureTech conference in San Francisco offered their takes on where the industry is heading - some that mirror the trends Construction Dive anticipated going into the year and some that represent minor shifts in the market. Story
States Sue Over Sprint-T-Mobile Merger: A group of 10 state attorneys general led by New York's Letitia James and California's Xavier Becerra is suing to block the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint." Joined by AGs from Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin, the AGs argued in a written statement that the deal would kill jobs and harm consumers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced in May that he planned to approve the deal, but DOJ antitrust officials "aren't satisfied with the T-Mobile-Sprint transaction as structured and have been negotiating with the companies on divesting assets." The merger would reduce the U.S. wireless market to three major players (the others are AT&T and Verizon). The state AGs' objections echo those of 37 House Democrats who sent a letter to federal regulators earlier this year arguing the deal will "destroy jobs and drive down wages." The Communication Workers of America estimates the consolidation will eliminate 30,000 jobs, and researchers at the Economic Policy Institute and the Roosevelt Institute, two left-leaning think tanks, estimate it will lower wireless workers' average weekly earnings by up to 7 percent in affected labor markets.
School Money: Los Angeles teachers union officials were banking on Measure EE's parcel tax allaying a fiscal shortfall that drove this year's strike, but EE failing badly last week raises the stakes for a statewide ballot initiative that would lift Prop 13 tax caps on commercial properties. United Teachers Los Angeles just kicked in another $50,000 for the measure and SEIU's long-term care local an additional $50,000. This comes after the California Federation of Teachers and SEIU California pouring on a combined $750,000 since March. Business money is flowing into the "no" side too, with real estate and railroad companies reporting a fresh round of contributions. And Governor Newsom weighed in recently noting that Measure EE going down increases the pressure on split role.
New Oregon Gross Receipts Tax Presents Special Challenges for Construction Projects Located in Oregon Oregon has enacted a new gross receipts tax (the "Oregon CAT"), primarily based on the Ohio commercial activity tax ("Ohio CAT"), but with significant differences. The Oregon CAT could prove especially burdensome for the construction industry, particularly for general contractors and design professionals, because a substantial portion of gross revenue received often is dedicated to the payment of subcontractors, suppliers and subconsultants (who each will again pay the Oregon CAT on their Oregon-source gross receipts). Further, the statute does not provide transition relief for contracts entered into before the Oregon CAT could be factored into bids and contract prices. Story

Thursday, June 13, 2019   Labor Law, NLRB, and Recent Court Decisions

SSA "No-Match" Letters In March 2019, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") resumed the practice of sending "No-Match Letters" to those employers who the SSA identified as having at least one name and social security number ("SSN") combination submitted on a wage and tax statement (Form W-2) that did not match its SSA records. In response to that, an employer must respond with any corrections on Form W-2c (a Corrected Wage and Tax Statement) within 60 days of receipt of the no-match letter. Some employers may remember receiving these No-Match Letters in the past, until 2012, when the Obama Administration suspended this practice. Story
Cannabis in California In a simpler time, courts that were reviewing medical cannabis laws issued employer-friendly decisions, generally finding no duty to accommodate medical cannabis even when state laws allowed its use for medical purposes. Now, however, the tide is rapidly turning. Where does California employment law currently stand on cannabis? Story
NLRA Rights Poster Has Been Updated The U.S. Department of Labor has announced minor "technical" updates to the National Labor Relations Act poster entitled "Notification of Employee Rights under Federal Labor Law." Federal contractors and subcontractors are required to display this poster pursuant to Executive Order 13496.
The DOL has made the following changes to the poster:
  • Updated the phone number for the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA. The new number is 1-844-762-NLRB (6572).
  • Updated the contact information that can be used by individuals who have hearing impairments by including a link to the Federal Relay Service.
Contractors should ensure that they are displaying the most up-to-date version of the poster, which may be obtained free of charge here.
Profanity and Aggressive Physical Conduct May Be Protected Activity
The National Labor Relations Board found that a union steward's use of profanity and "aggressive physical conduct" in a location visible to employees and customers may be protected by the National Labor Relations Act. In Greyhound Lines, Inc., a chief union steward was terminated for his conduct during a confrontation with a company manager over the manager's alleged mistreatment of a fellow employee. The Board found that the steward was engaged in protected union activity during the confrontation. Under Board law set forth in the 1979 case of Atlantic Steel Co., however, an employee's misconduct may cause the loss of protection under the Act, depending on four factors: (1) the location of the discussion; (2) the subject matter of the discussion; (3) the nature of the employee's outburst; and (4) whether the outburst was, in any way, provoked by the employer's unfair labor practices. Story

Thursday, June 13, 2019   Special Event Notice

WECA members with interest in San Joaquin County may want to attend an event next week for Supervisor Tom Patti at Haggerty Construction. WECA is a sponsor, and WECA members can attend for free but are encouraged to consider contributing.


Thursday, May 30, 2019   Thought


Richard Markuson

Does "Separation of Powers" Accurately Describe the USA? I apologize in advance to my readers who are Tom Steyer fans, but this guy really is over the top. Steyer, the Democratic activist whose NeedtoImpeach.com organization has amassed more than 8 million signatures in support of impeachment, said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent statements were "honestly, silly.'' What did the Speaker say that veered into "silly?" When Speaker Pelosi reacted to the only public comments by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, "she promised that congressional Democrats will continue their constitutional duty of 'investigating and litigating' to seek 'ironclad' evidence of wrongdoing by President Donald Trump.
Steyer was not satisfied and pronounced the Mueller report provided the "ironclad evidence" Pelosi sought. Steyer continued, "We have a President who literally won't speak to Congress, let alone answer their subpoenas or provide any witnesses on anything. The President has said, 'I am not subject to oversight by Congress ... the Constitution be damned." [Editor: I have yet to find a direct quote from President Trump that the Constitution provides 'congressional oversight' of the President and I have asked Mr. Steyer to point to the provision in the Constitution that gives it this power - I'll report next time on his response].
Now I will agree with some critics of the growth of "Imperial Presidency"; that was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution. In Federalist 51, James Madison justifies bicameralism in terms of maintaining congressional authority. "It is not possible to give" the judicial and the executive branches "an equal power of self-defense" against the Congress, because that would undermine the republican quality of the government, where "the legislative authority necessarily predominates." Instead, the proper safeguard against legislative abuse is "to divide the legislature into different branches," which will "render them . . . as little connected with each other" as practicable.
And Mickey Edwards - a former eight-term member of Congress and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee - observed in 2017 that his teaching of government at Harvard and Princeton was flawed. "I taught my students a system of government based on the Constitution. I thought I was teaching about current events. Instead, I now realize, I was teaching ancient history," said Edwards. Edwards' take on today's separation of powers is that it is "no longer between the three original, constitutionally created, branches of government ... but between, on the one hand, a branch consisting of the President, his supporters in Congress and their mutual supporters on the federal bench; and on the other hand, a branch made up of the party in opposition to the President, his opponents in Congress and their co-partisans on the bench." (You can read his article here)
What Edwards neglected to include in his analysis is the role of voters. You could add to his commentary after the judiciary, "voters who support the President and voters who oppose the President." They are as polarized (and polarizing) as the others. And as Stephan Chapman pointed out in Reason, "Donald Trump exploits this growing political and cultural separation. Extreme, vocal ideologues are gaining ground on both the right and the left. One-third of likely voters, a poll found, think we are on the verge on civil war."
But lest I leave you with my usual dour view on political life, Chapman offers Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution "who does us the favor of explaining why much of what we worry about is unfounded."
Fiorina observes that in the 1950s, 75 percent of Americans were happy to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, but today, only 60 percent identify with either party. Independents now make up a plurality of the public. Self-described moderates outnumber either liberals or conservatives. Fiorina says, "most people are not very conservative or very liberal. But the middle has no home in either party. That's one reason more Americans call themselves independents."
Chapman concludes, "The bad news is that our democracy does a poor job of giving the people what they want." The struggle is to decide what America wants, and how to deliver it in a political culture where cooperation and bi-partisanship seems to be non-existent.

Thursday, May 30, 2019   Legislative Update

Assembly Passes Gig Work Bill, Limiting Contractor Status The State Assembly on Wednesday passed AB 5 (Gonzalez) that could send seismic changes across California's employment landscape if passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Newsom. Hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, ranging from Uber and Lyft drivers to manicurists, could become employees under AB 5, which codifies the recent California Supreme Court decision known as Dynamex.
Spend that Surplus California's Democratic legislators continued their push to expand health care for poor people, as tracked by CALmatters health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera. The Senate and Assembly approved bills to expand state-funded health care for low-income adult undocumented immigrants. Children already are covered. One bill by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles would cover undocumented immigrants ages 19-25 and 65 and older. Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento is carrying Senate Bill 65 to provide state-funded subsidies for middle-income people who don't receive help with the cost of health insurance. To pay for those subsidies, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed imposing a state-only individual mandate charging people $695 a year if they fail to buy health insurance. Pan is holding his legislation to create an individual state mandate but intends to push to have the mandate included as part of the state budget being negotiated now. If approved as part of the budget, the measure would take effect July 1.

Thursday, May 30, 2019   What We're Reading and Watching

Robots: more than 7K robots to take on construction work by 2025 A growing number of construction companies are incorporating robots to solve labor shortages and reap the benefits of improved speed, efficiency, safety, and profits, according to a new report. More
Preparing for California's Next Recession California is enjoying one of the longest growth periods in history and appears well-prepared to endure a mild economic downturn. But a more severe crisis would exhaust current reserves, decrease school funding, and open a significant budget gap for several years. What steps can the state be taking to prepare for and minimize these outcomes? Report
9 Signs Your Small Business is About to Get HackedYou can never really tell if your small business is going to be hacked. But the likelihood is high. In fact, according to a 2015 report, 62% of small and medium-sized companies have been hit by a data breach. Even if you take every precaution, you're still at risk. But if you ignore this situation, you're putting yourself and your company in danger of severe disruption, loss of information, and potential liabilities. Are you in trouble? The hackers are looking for weaknesses and, when found, they'll pounce. If you are doing (or not doing) any of these nine things you're definitely more at risk of being hacked. Report
Nevada Governor Signs Prevailing Wage, Union Bills Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed several new bills into law this week, including two construction-related regulations - one that raises the prevailing wage for workers on some public construction projects and another that removes restrictions on union-affiliated contractors by public agencies. Story

Thursday, May 30, 2019   Labor Law, NLRB, and Recent Court Decisions

Staff Changes at the NLRB: "The heads of the National Labor Relations Board are planning a restructure of administrative staff at the agency's roughly 26 regional offices, including demoting employees in certain job classifications nationwide," Bloomberg Law's Hassan Kanu reports. "The plan would reclassify almost all NLRB administrative professionals as general 'program support assistants,' and place those employees into the same grade within the government's General Schedule pay system," he writes. NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb and the agency's career staff have been at odds since January 2018, when Robb proposed restructuring the agency to demote regional directors, whom the business lobby considers too pro-union. More from Bloomberg Law here.