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Thursday, February 20, 2020   WECA Political Update -- February 20, 2020

Dear WECA Members,

The California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom placed Prop 13 on the March ballot last year to sell bonds for school construction. But because of the influence of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the acquiescence of developers and other business groups, it includes a provision that gives priority to school districts with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). As the San Jose Mercury News said recently -- when it encouraged a "NO" vote on Prop 13 -- "Four years ago, when California voters last approved state school construction bonds, we objected to the measure, Proposition 51, because it continued the developer subsidy. Proposition 13 on the March 3 ballot makes it worse. Voters should reject it. Prop. 13 would drive up the cost of school construction by giving priority for state funding to projects that include union labor agreements [PLAs]. State law for public projects, including school construction, already requires paying prevailing wages for the area. This would further push up the cost by discouraging non-union contractors from bidding on the work."

WECA encourages you to share this information with employees, family, friends, and business associates. If Prop 13 passes with this PLA language, WECA believes it will be incorporated in every ballot measure and funding legislation approved by the California Legislature.

You can read the Mercury article here.

Have questions, concerns, or thoughts? Please contact Richard Markuson using the form below or click here.

2,557 major party candidates have filed for Congress in 2020 With 38 filing deadlines remaining, 2,557 major party candidates have filed to run for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2020. That figure has grown by 210 in the past month. 360 candidates have filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. There are 163 Democrats and 144 Republicans running. Fifty-three candidates are either independent or third party affiliated. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans. 2,472 candidates have filed with the FEC to run for the U.S. House. There are 1,070 Democrats and 1,180 Republicans running. 222 are either independent or third-party candidates. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans. Since January 20, 187 major party candidates have filed for the U.S. House. Of those, 121 are Republicans and 66 are Democrats. 23 major party candidates have filed for the U.S. Senate in the same time period. Of those, 13 are Democrats and 10 are Republicans. Four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) are not running for re-election this year. Thirty-six representatives are not seeking re-election. Of those, 27 are Republican and nine are Democratic. In 2018, 55 members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election. Thirty-five Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election on November 3, 2020. Two of those Senate races (Arizona and Georgia) are special elections. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, Democrats currently hold a 232-197 majority with one independent member. [Ballotpedia]

Bills, Bills, Bills Through today, February 20, there have been 1,170 bills introduced in the Legislature. That includes 792 ABs and 378 SBs. The deadline for introducing bills in the 2020 Session is Friday, February 21. With Monday being a state holiday, there are two remaining days for bill introductions. Historically, the second year of a 2-year session has had fewer bills introduced than in the first year. Last year, there were 2,576 bills introduced between the two houses, which is the most in the past decade. Over the past decade, there have been between 1,900 and 2,200 bills introduced in the second year of Session.

Split Roll Shares: According to a report released by the University of Southern California, only 6 percent of commercial properties facing a potential tax hike would make up the bulk of the projected billions of dollars in new state revenue if the "split-roll" measure is approved by voters in November. The report is being hailed as a win for the Schools & Communities First campaign, which says the analysis is proof that opponents' concerns about the impact on small businesses are unfounded. If approved, the tax measure would bring in between $10.3 billion to $12.6 billion annually, according to the report, with 6 percent of big commercial properties — worth more than $5 million — accounting for 78 percent of total state revenue. "It clearly shows that a fraction of the top corporations which have overwhelmingly benefited for so many years would finally pay their fair share," Schools & Communities First spokesperson Alex Stack said of the report. But critics of the proposal say the report doesn't accurately take into account the impacts on agricultural landowners and on small business owners who are renters. "This deeply flawed report is merely campaign propaganda," John Kabateck, California director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in an email. Ed Ring with the CPC talks about the ballot measure here.

Presidential candidates have collectively raised more than $1 billion The 15 noteworthy Democratic and Republican candidates have raised a combined $1.015 billion since the start of the election cycle. We looked at presidential election fundraising since January 1, 2017, to determine who’s raised the most money so far. Story

Powerful Nevada Union Declines to Endorse: After clashing with Sanders over "Medicare for All," Nevada's Culinary Workers Union said Thursday it will not endorse in the presidential primary, POLITICO's Marc Caputo, David Siders and Natasha Korecki report. The union didn't endorse a candidate during the 2016 primaries, either. But the announcement is a setback for Sanders and to Joe Biden, who were vying for its blessing. The union and its affiliates are a key mobilization bloc for the Nevada caucuses, representing 60,000 workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Tensions between the Culinary Workers and Sanders remain fraught after the union circulated a leaflet warning that the Vermont senator would "end Culinary Healthcare" and "require Medicare for All," which in turn sparked outrage among Sanders' supporters and other progressives. Union leaders were doxed, meaning their personal information was released on social media. Sanders later tweeted a message of support for the union and called the harassment "unacceptable." Caputo, Siders and Korecki note that the non-endorsement creates an opening for moderates Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who now may have an inroad with Latino voters, a crucial demographic, in a state where both candidates were polling in the single digits last month. [Politico]

Money for Fighter Jets Could Pay for Border Wall: The Trump administration plans to take $3.8 billion allocated by Congress to build fighter jets, ships, vehicles and National Guard equipment to fund barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. That puts the total amount the Pentagon has contributed for Trump's border wall at nearly $10 billion. The move sets the stage for another fight over border wall money on Capitol Hill. "We're going to scream about it. We're going to complain about it. We're going to try to stop it anyway we can," House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told POLITICO. "But at the end of the day, unless Republicans in Congress support us, then we won't be able to get it done."

California Governor Recall Effort Signature Deadline Passes Supporters of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had until February 13 to submit 1,495,709 signatures to force a recall election. Republican congressional candidate Erin Cruz submitted the recall. Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) approved the recall for circulation on September 6, 2019. As of January 29 this year, there were 197,150 signatures submitted, and 134,357 had been deemed valid by the secretary of state. The recall petition alleges that Newsom mismanaged the state and caused poor schools, deteriorating infrastructure, high costs for gas and utilities, and increased homelessness and debt. The recall petition also criticized Newsom’s support of policies such as Medicare for All and laws that aid immigrants living in the country illegally. In response to the recall efforts, Newsom filed a statement with the secretary of state in August 2019. In his statement, Newsom said that the "…recall effort will cost California taxpayers $81 million dollars! It is being pushed by political extremists supporting President Trump’s hateful attacks on California." California became a Democratic trifecta in 2011. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the California state House by a 61-18 margin with one vacancy and the state Senate by a 29-10 margin with one vacancy. Newsom succeeded Jerry Brown (D) as governor in 2019. He won the 2018 election with 61.9% of the vote. Three gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 22 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921. [Ballotpedia]

Employment Law Risks for Family Businesses One of the benefits of operating a family business is the opportunity to work closely with other family members on a daily basis. However, it is important to remember that a family member is just like any other employee in the eyes of the law and should be treated as such. Story

OSHA Issues Guidance on the Usage of Headphones on Construction Sites In late 2019, OSHA released a letter of interpretation in response to employers’ questions regarding the rapidly increasing use of headphones on construction sites. The convenience, simplicity, and decrease in price of wireless headphones have made them wildly popular. Manufacturers and advertisers have taken advantage of that popularity to advertise wireless headphones as having features appealing to workers, such as volume-limiting capabilities and noise-canceling capabilities, and even promoted them as ear protection devices. These products, however, also have the ability to play music, podcasts, videos – anything that can be watched or listened to via a Bluetooth device. To better appeal to workers, some manufacturers have gone as far as to advertise their products as “OSHA approved”. Employers subsequently sought clarification and guidance on whether use of headphones on job sites is prohibited by OSHA regulations. Story

CA Supreme Court Publishes "Hours Worked" Decision The California Supreme Court has concluded that employees must be compensated for time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices. The Court explained that this time is compensable because the employees are under the employer’s control and the searches are being performed for the employer’s benefit. The Court reached this decision applying California law, and the same result would not necessarily be reached under the FLSA. Employers should therefore review any policies or practices that require employees to perform any “off the clock” or otherwise uncompensated tasks. Key factors identified by the Court as to whether the activities are compensable are the location of the activity, the degree of the employer’s control, whether the activity primarily benefits the employee or employer, and whether the activity is enforced through disciplinary measures. The Court’s opinion, Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., Case No. S243805, can be accessed here.

Microgrids on the Rise as CPUC Seeks to Streamline Resiliency Projects The state of California is calling for more investments in microgrids for electric power resiliency. Spurred by a 2018 legislative effort that recognized the multitude of benefits microgrid technologies can offer (e.g., grid reliability, renewable integration), the reality of increasing California wildfires and power outages make microgrid deployment a necessary option. Story

Vocational ed makes a comeback Columnist Dan Walters writes “Somewhere along the way, California’s public schools became enamored with the notion that all students will — or at least should — acquire degrees from four-year colleges. Local school districts often adopted college-prep-for-all policies and in doing so denigrated and often eliminated what was once called vocational education — classes to prepare students for useful and often lucrative jobs in the real world. Story

Some States’ Economies Could Slump This Year The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia projected last month that the economies of ten states would contract in 2020, according to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek. The Philadelphia Fed’s forecast didn’t take into account the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China in December, which could hurt the economies of other states, including California and North Carolina, that trade heavily with that country. [United Press International, US News & World Report]


Thursday, February 06, 2020   Before reading more...

...please take a moment to look at your calendar for February 19 and consider joining your peers at PHCC and ABC for an informative morning of briefings on both politics and the economy. Contractors in California will need to be prepared to adjust to a changing regulatory environment and new employer mandates. You can get more information and register here.


Thursday, February 06, 2020   Carbon Neutral California

A new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory concludes California can reach its ambitious greenhouse gas goals with a multibillion-dollar statewide project to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air and extract energy from plant fibers and sewage. The study, commissioned by the ClimateWorks Foundation, presents a vision of infrastructure designed to collect and process agricultural and forest waste, sewage and landfill gas, as well as the commercial deployment of machines that capture carbon dioxide from the air and bury it in geologic formations under the Central Valley.

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Union Strong

According to Politico, Tom Steyer's campaign said Sunday "it had recognized a staff bargaining unit with IBEW Local 2325. 'Tom's strongest partner has always been organized labor, and we look forward to partnering with IBEW as they represent our campaign staff,' campaign manager Heather Hargreaves said in a statement. Workers for other Democratic candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders, have already formed unions. With Steyer polling at just 3 percent in Iowa, his campaign might not be around long enough to negotiate a contract."

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Responding to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Outbreak: Best Practices for Employers

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus ("2019-nCoV" or "Coronavirus") is a rapidly spreading respiratory illness that is raising important issues for employers. Employers are faced with balancing their obligation to maintain a safe and healthful workplace with an employee's right to be free from discrimination. In this Advisory, the legal framework pertaining to Coronavirus risks in the workplace is discussed. The information from public health officials is changing quickly as the disease spreads, so employers should continue to monitor guidance provided by agencies charged with guiding the public, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") and local public health agencies.

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Big Infrastructure Deal Faces a New Hurdle

From Bloomberg (the publication, not Presidential aspirant): Democrats and Republicans seem to disagree about almost everything with one exception: the need to repair and upgrade America's shaky infrastructure. Although it's difficult to envision big legislation passing in an election year, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she intends to try. One thing working in favor of a large infrastructure bill is that both parties have grown increasingly comfortable with running huge budget deficits. But that doesn't answer a pressing new issue: in the tightening and evolving U.S. jobs market, it might be hard to find enough construction workers. In other words, if money was an obstacle before, now it might be a labor shortage. Read more here. But in Tuesday's State of the Union address, the President seemed to throw water on that. Politico observed "Two years ago, Trump stood in the House chamber and called on Congress to produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. On Tuesday night, during this year's State of the Union and two years wiser about the ways of Washington, it became clear his sights are aimed much lower. The President called on Congress to 'rebuild America's infrastructure' by passing the Senate's surface transportation bill, a $287 billion reauthorization of the expiring FAST Act. It may not be the most ambitious target, but it's probably a more realistic goal than his previous proposal(s). The Senate bill is largely a continuation of highway policy as it's been done for decades, although it also has a first-ever climate title and buy-in from Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee. The brief infrastructure mention was a rare moment of applause from both sides of the aisle, but the early signs aren't great for a friendly agreement. House Democrats are already preparing their own infrastructure bill, though the White House has already derided it as a 'Green New Deal 2.0".

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Discouraged Workers a Priority for DOL

The Labor Department will try this year to help states bring "discouraged" workers -- who are not included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' unemployment tallies -- back into the workforce, according to DOL Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch, who acknowledged that labor force participation is a problem. "The only way we're going to be able to feed the need of employers is by pulling in those folks that are not a part of the workforce," Pallasch said at a National Skills Convention conference in Washington. He said his office hasn't "done a good job in terms of defining and providing technical assistance to the states on how exactly they go out and they engage that population, so that's another thing we're going to be working on in the near future." [Politico]

Thursday, February 06, 2020   10 biggest OSHA fines of 2019

Last year, nine of the most expensive OSHA citations included some kind of fall protection violation, whether the company in question primarily performed roofing or mixed asphalt. The tenth mostly dealt with excavation and trenching violations. It's easy to understand why these occupations warranted the highest penalties, as they are among the most dangerous activities that can happen on a construction project. In fact, falls constituted more than 33 percent of all construction deaths in 2018. In addition, four of the 10 most-cited OSHA violations are related to falls. Story

Thursday, February 06, 2020   DOL New-Hires

According to Bloomberg Law, Rusty Brown, a business consultant, started last month as a policy adviser at the Office of Labor-Management Standards, and Trey Kovacs, formerly a labor policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, signed on as a special assistant at OLMS. "Brown was involved in a campaign to decertify a union representing 27,000 home care workers in Minnesota, and Kovacs has accused the department of 'dragging feet' on a pair of pending regulations to expand union financial disclosures." [Bloomberg Law]

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Salmon to Support Newsom in 2022

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new goal of doubling the state's dwindling salmon population by 2050. He also made the case for a deal between water users and the state aimed at preserving water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In a CALMatters op-ed, Newsom argued that "voluntary agreements" on the Delta aimed at improving flows for endangered salmon and steelhead trout are the best path forward. Newsom has thrown his weight behind them as an alternative to mandatory water-supply cuts to cities and agricultural users that he argues will be tied up in litigation for years.

Thursday, February 06, 2020   Federal Court Enjoins California's New Arbitration Statute

California's brand-new anti-arbitration statue likely is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced against agreements governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, given a ruling Friday by the United States District Court in Sacramento. In Chamber of Commerce v. Becerra, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued a preliminary injunction that effectively permits employers to continue to enter into arbitration agreements covered by the FAA, apparently concluding that the FAA likely preempts newly enacted California Assembly Bill 51. More

Thursday, February 06, 2020   'All-Electric' Movement Picks Up Speed, Catching Some Off Guard

From the NYTimes As cities across the nation embrace electric power as a cleaner alternative to natural gas, developers are scrambling to keep up. Story

Thursday, February 06, 2020   State Correctional Spending Increased Despite Significant Population Reductions

In what will surely be shocking to regular readers, the State Legislative Analyst found "that the major reasons why CDCR's costs did not decline in line with the substantial decrease in the populations are: (1) costly operational changes to comply with various federal court orders, (2) increased employee compensation costs, and (3) the payment of costs that were deferred during the state's fiscal crisis. Since 2011, "the state's inmate population declined by nearly one-quarter and the parolee population declined by nearly one-half. However, over the same period, CDCR spending increased by over $3 billion, or more than one-third." The study found that although "the total number of positions in CDCR is currently similar to its level prior to the 2011 realignment, the cost per position has increased--contributing to over $3 billion in increased CDCR spending. Whereas each position cost CDCR an average of $110,000 in 2010-11, each position cost CDCR an average of $158,000 in 2018-19, a 43 percent increase--nearly triple the rate of inflation." Report

Friday, January 24, 2020   What We're Reading

Union Corruption Probe Widens New United Auto Workers president Rory Gamble is being investigated as part of a federal probe that has consumed the union's leadership. Federal agents are looking into Gamble as part of their probe into union bribery according to the Detroit News. "The agents are investigating whether UAW leaders received cash kickbacks or bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to Huntington Woods businessman Jason Gordon to supply union-branded merchandise, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation." The same investigation felled Gamble's predecessor, Gary Jones, who resigned in November after the UAW's governing board moved to expel him, as well as the president before Jones, Dennis Williams. The feds have secured 11 convictions in connection to a sprawling bribery scheme centered around training center funds.

PRO Act Headed for Vote as Dems Line Up in Support: House leadership plan to bring the bill, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, for a vote before Presidents Day. House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer announced the decision on Twitter, saying the bill would "protect the right to organize and bargain collectively". The decision came hours after 72 Democrats told Pelosi in a letter that the bill "should be brought to the House floor swiftly." Business groups are trying to keep Republicans from signing on and to peel off vulnerable Democrats from Republican-leaning districts. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a business group that opposes the legislation, says it has polling data that shows Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) will lose support in his district if he votes yes. Although the bill has little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, House Democrats in union-heavy districts are eager to pass it in case Democrats take back the upper chamber and the White House in November.

California Union Membership Grows: Bucking a national trend, which saw union membership decline, the LA Times reported "the number of Californians represented by unions rose by 139,000 last year in the wake of successful organizing campaigns across occupations as varied as nurses, electricians, animation artists, scooter mechanics and university researchers. The Golden State's 2.72 million represented workers amounted to 16.5% of its labor force, up from 15.8% in 2018, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The uptick comes after years of declines in both numbers and share of the workforce, which mirrored national trends. Two decades earlier, 18.3% of California workers were unionized." They noted "the growth has been enabled by a labor-friendly Legislature enacting measures to crack down on wage theft and retaliation against union organizers. New laws require retail and construction companies to take 'joint employer' responsibility for labor violations by subcontractors. State regulators have leveled millions of dollars in fines for misclassification of workers as independent contractors, opening the way for employees to unionize." Story

Too Much Bureaucracy? Not for California: From Politico Even fellow Democrats raised concerns this week that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to create too many new departments or embark on costly expansions and rebranding of existing agencies. The Democratic governor has proposed a new Department of Early Childhood Development, an Office of Health Care Affordability, a Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages, a Department of Cannabis Control and the state's version of its own Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the record $222.2 billion budget he unveiled this month. In a three-hour review of his spending plan, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee questioned the effectiveness of such proposals and the potential costs of sustaining them for years to come, especially given the state's smaller surplus this year and warnings of a future economic downturn. "There's nothing as enduring as a newly created state agency," Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. Budget Chairwoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) pressed Newsom officials on the cost of simply changing the name of an organization. Senate Education Chairwoman Connie Leyva (D-Chino) questioned if creating the $8.5 million Department of Early Childhood Development, which will consolidate childcare funding streams and programs, is merely adding another layer of bureaucracy. But will Democrats vote "NO"?

What's the Toughest Construction Job? A new survey of contractors and consumers found that roofing is perceived as the most physically demanding construction trade, while electrical work seems to be the most difficult to master. Story

Do You Want the California AG to Snoop Donor Lists? In 1958, in the case N.A.A.C.P. v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment contains an important privacy component, because the loss of anonymity to government could deter some individuals from freely associating with each other. The Court noted that such association is an important and longstanding means of engaging indirectly in public speech. In recent years, the State of California has tried to force all nonprofit organizations that solicit donations in California to turn over otherwise confidential lists of their donors. Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra could decide whether states are allowed to target nonprofit donors by exposing who they give money to. The Ninth Circuit Court has already ruled in favor of California, which has the potential to chill nonprofit donations nationwide and opens the door for similar--or even more invasive--donor disclosure laws across the country. The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take the case and reaffirm its longstanding precedent protecting the private association of individuals. The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear this case, but hopefully it will and determine whether California's law violates donors' First Amendment rights.

The Gloves are off in Sandy Ego. From Voice of San Diego "Former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa appears to have decided this is an important week in his race to replace former Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA50). On Tuesday, Issa announced that San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed him. The campaign sent out a video of Faulconer praising Issa. On Wednesday, he launched a vicious advertisement against former City Council Carl DeMaio that highlighted DeMaio's sexual orientation and included a racist depiction of unauthorized immigrants as murderous gang members. But then Republicans--the chairman of the Republican Party, Tony Krvaric, Councilman Chris Cate--stepped out to condemn the ad. Thursday, Faulconer joined them. And, turns out, the video Issa released of Faulconer's praise was shot in 2016. The Issa campaign had recycled it. By Wednesday night, Issa had taken it off YouTube. Faulconer re-affirmed his support for Issa though. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board weighed in. "It's a searing comment on Issa's character that the former Vista congressman would try to take advantage of hateful views of the LGBTQ+ community."

More Borrowing: From CalMatters. "The Assembly, Senate, and the Governor all are offering plans for climate resiliency bonds on the November ballot to fund efforts to combat climate change. The exact size of the bond is to be determined. But with both houses and the governor supporting the concept, expect to vote on it in November. What's climate resiliency? With the world unable to put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions, the current approach focuses on 'resilience', devising strategies for coping with an unpredictable and dangerous new climate. Resilience projects are aimed not so much at preventing sea level rise, wildfires, droughts and extreme heatwaves, but helping people and communities survive. It's not free money. The Legislative Analyst last November estimated that the state's annual debt service from the general fund will grow from $5.7 billion in 2019 to $.64 billion in 2023-24."

Federal Court Stops AB 5 for Truckers: Just hours before California's controversial AB 5 went into effect, a federal court in San Diego issued a temporary restraining order ("TRO") to enjoin enforcement of the independent contractor statute as to approximately 70,000 independent truckers, many of whom have invested substantial sums of money to purchase their own trucks and to work as "owner-operators". Story

Employers Consent to Cal/OSHA Inspection Deemed Voluntary Despite a Cavalcade of California Officials Descending on the Workplace. Recently, the California Court of Appeal reviewed an appeal regarding citations issued against a sheet metal company, Nolte Sheet Metal in Nolte Sheet Metal, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board. One of the issues presented was whether Nolte freely and voluntarily consented to a Cal/OSHA inspection. Under the California Labor Code, Cal/OSHA is permitted to investigate and inspect any workplace after presenting appropriate credentials to the employer. If an employer refuses inspection, Cal/OSHA may seek to obtain a search warrant. The Cal/OSHA representative was accompanied by representatives from the Contractors' State License Board, the Employment Development Department, the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the California Department of Insurance. According to the testimony, the California Department of Insurance representatives carried handguns and wore bulletproof vests. Story

Imperfect or Unlawful Meal and Rest Break Policies Don't Necessarily Support Class Certification in California. In a favorable opinion for employers, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District concluded the following on December 4, 2019 in David Cacho v. Eurostar, Inc.: An employer's meal break policy that is silent as to certain requirements but is otherwise compliant with California law does not support class certification in the absence of evidence of a uniform unlawful policy or practice; A claim for failure to provide rest breaks is not suitable for class certification where the employer has a uniform written rest break policy that is unlawful on its face but has not been applied to employees in practice. Story

Lawsuit Challenging Labor's Playbook is Dead but the Tensions Aren't: From VoSD "In late 2018, after hearing that SeaWorld was backing out of a hotel project, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer had a good sense why. He was talking to Bill Evans, a hotelier who'd been working with the theme park, shortly after the announcement. As Evans would later put it in a lawsuit, Faulconer leaned in and offered a guess. 'It was the union, right?'. Weeks later in court documents, Evans argued that Unite! Here Local 30, which represents hotel workers, and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, have been holding public lease agreements hostage until hoteliers and developers agree to hire union workers on the job site and then stay neutral in any unionizing efforts inside the subsequent hotel. Story

Strange Bedfellows: From Politico "Labor and business interests are lining up to protect an incumbent Republican assemblyman who's facing a conservative revolt in his district. Some Republicans have turned against Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster), angered by his increasing alignment with organized labor--traditionally a bastion of support for Democrats and foe of Republican-aligned business interests. They are backing former GOP state Sen. Janet Nguyen to unseat Diep." Diep recently appeared at an Anaheim City Council meeting to encourage the City to adopt a city-wide PLA. "The Orange County Republican Party voted this week to rescind its endorsement of Diep with Chairman Fred Whitaker saying in a statement there must be 'accountability for voting patterns'. Diep was the lone California Republican to vote for CA AB5 (19R), a labor priority bill that has reverberated across California's economy by reshaping worker classification rules. But Diep has won some allies during his time in Sacramento, and a coalition of real estate and health care industry interests is backing a new political action committee to defend the endangered incumbent. The California Medical Association and the California Apartment Association are both poised to chip in."

Thursday, January 09, 2020   Opinions

Richard Markuson

WECA Approves Expanded Advocacy Program

The WECA Board approved a new advocacy initiative developed at a recent strategic planning meeting. The first phase of the effort will feature a "Grass Tops" activity that will link WECA members with local officials in regions where WECA has permanent training facilities. WECA will pattern the program on WECA's current operations in Sacramento, where we invite local political and business leaders to tour WECA's apprenticeship program and visit with students. WECA plans to schedule 2-3 visits per month in each region - so please plan to participate when contacted by WECA staff. Although one of our goals is related to the growth of PLAs - the primary conversation will be about apprenticeship and workforce development. If you are located in the San Diego or Riverside vicinity - and know you want to participate in this program - contact Richard Markuson for more information.

Thursday, January 09, 2020   What We're Reading

Federal Judge approves Greenmail. In a much-anticipated ruling, a federal court judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by San Diego-based Evans Hotels accusing local labor unions of extortion and bribery in their efforts to unionize the hospitality industry. The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes marks a crucial victory for organized labor, which has pushed hard for using union labor not only in the operation of hotels but also in their construction. Hayes' decision comes more than a year after Evans Hotels, which operates three longtime San Diego resorts, filed suit to break what it claims is a union-engineered stranglehold on development. Story
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California - Champions of GHG Reduction. California Senators will consider legislation next week that would impose a new 10% state tax on oil extracted within the state, a move that would raise pump prices that already are second highest in the nation. An oil severance tax has been proposed many times in the past and invariably fails. The Senate set a hearing for Wednesday on the bill by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a Fremont Democrat. The decision to hear the bill is something of a surprise. Democrats have hesitated to approve new taxes after then-Senator Josh Newman, an Orange County Democrat, was recalled in 2018 over his vote to approve a gasoline tax. Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a first-term Democrat from a swing district in oil-rich Kern County, sits on the committee that will hear the bill, and would likely have to vote on the measure. But the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, famous for their environmental lawsuits, will join with oil companies to oppose the measure. Robbie Hunter said that if approved, the Wieckowski's bill would raise pump prices, make California more reliant on Saudi Arabian oil, and "destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs." Meanwhile: AAA's latest survey shows the average price of gasoline in California is the nation's second-highest after Hawaii and almost $1 above the national average. [Calmatters]
AB 5 on hold for truck drivers. A federal judge in the Southern District of California granted the California Trucking Association's request for a temporary restraining order on New Year's Eve to block the state from applying AB 5 to truck drivers. The truckers' lawsuit argues that the new California law is "preempted by a 1994 federal statute that prohibits states from making laws that affect the price, route, or service of freight-hauling motor carriers."
No Special Election. Congressman Duncan Hunter will resign from Congress next week, more than a month after the California Republican pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. Since it is the last year of the term, and Hunter's resignation has come after the candidacy filing deadline for the ballot for the March primary, Governor Newsom has opted to leave the seat vacant until the November election. Former Rep. Darrell Issa, former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio and State Sen. Brian Jones are already running against Hunter for the nomination set for the March election as is Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar who ran against Hunter in 2018. In his letter to Speaker Pelosi, Hunter said, "It has been an honor to serve the people of California's 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years." POLITICO observed The Hunters have been a political dynasty in Southern California politics for decades. Hunter or his father, Duncan Hunter Sr., have held that San Diego seat since 1980. When he first came to Congress in 2009, Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran, was seen as a rising star in the GOP. But he developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for drinking heavily and inappropriate behavior. After being arrested for misusing campaign funds, Hunter - one of Trump's earliest congressional supporters - went on to win reelection in the 2018 midterms. Even without a Republican incumbent, most analysts favor the GOP to hold on to the seat given a robust registration advantage.
New Law Brings Changes to Help Employees Be SECURE in Retirement. On December 19, 2019, the Senate passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, which contains provisions that significantly reform many of the existing retirement plan rules and regulations. The SECURE Act encourages the adoption of employer-sponsored plans, alters plan distribution rules, eases administrative requirements, and makes many other changes to existing or newly established retirement plans. Also, the Senate eliminated several excise taxes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the controversial "Cadillac Tax," a 40 percent tax on high-cost employer plans. This article outlines the key provisions of the SECURE Act and when those provisions first become effective. Story
DFEH Updates FAQ on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in Light of New Deadline to Comply The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing ("DFEH") recently updated its Sexual Harassment Prevention Training FAQ guidance to address some of the questions surrounding SB 1343, which requires employers with five or more employees to provide classroom or "other interactive training" for all California employees (not just supervisors) every two years. SB 1343 was initially set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. But in 2019, Governor Newsom signed two amendments to SB 1343 that push the effective date out to January 1, 2021. The deadline to comply with SB 1343 does not change the obligation of an employer with 50 or more employees to train new supervisory employees within six months of their promotion or hire. Story
Split roll. The business coalition opposing a proposed split roll ballot measure to revise Proposition 13 is expected to deliver petitions with nearly 200,000 signatures to Newsom in an effort to showcase what it says is a wide range of support from California groups. The move heralds the official kickoff of what's sure to be a pricey battle between business and labor over an initiative that would lift Prop 13 tax caps for commercial and industrial properties. The petitions have no direct effect on the measure.
Housing Measure. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "State Senator Scott Wiener's latest attempt to pass a bill (SB 50) to boost housing around public transit and in wealthy suburbs met a hostile reception Tuesday from a powerful colleague who could soon decide its fate. The measure has been in limbo since May, when state Senator Anthony Portantino, a Los Angeles County Democrat who chairs the Appropriations Committee, held the bill through a process for legislation with a significant fiscal impact. He has until Jan. 24 to decide whether to advance the measure to a vote before the full Senate. But in the months since his bill stalled, Wiener did not consult with Portantino about amendments that he introduced Monday - and Portantino was not pleased." The most significant change would give cities and counties two years to create plans to boost housing development in their communities before the state mandates to increase density would go into effect, the Los Angeles Times reports. Much of the criticism over the initial version of the bill revolved around the lack of local control. Wiener's latest changes would give local jurisdictions time to decide where they wanted increasing housing density in their cities. In response to another criticism of previous versions of the bill, communities across the state at risk of gentrification will have five years - instead of two - to develop their own development blueprints. Groups representing lower-income communities had argued SB 50 would exacerbate the displacement of residents in those neighborhoods.

Thursday, January 09, 2020   What We're Reading, Continued

Help for homeless in a trailer park nearby. 
Governor Newsom plans to include $1.5 billion from the state's anticipated budget surplus to help homeless people get off the streets, his office announced Wednesday morning. According to the Sacramento BEE, Newsom plans to sign an executive order directing state departments to identify state property that can be used for emergency shelters and designate 100 trailers in California's fleet for temporary housing and health care services. The executive order will also establish a homelessness strike team. "Homelessness is a national crisis, one that's spreading across the West Coast and cities across the country," Newsom said in a statement. "The state of California is treating it as a real emergency."

5 construction trends to expect in 2020. Construction industry trends to look forward to this year include greater scrutiny of structural processes after notable failures in 2019, more progress on the modular front and in automation, a greater focus on diversity and growing contractor skepticism about high-risk contracts for megaprojects. Story

Lack of Plumbing. "More than 2 million people in the US lack running water and basic indoor plumbing, according to a new report by the human-rights nonprofit DigDeep and the nonprofit US Water Alliance - and race and poverty are key determinants of who has access to clean water and sanitation.... Racial water gaps for Latinx and African-American households are particularly salient at the regional level, the authors added: 'In parts of the South, African Americans are the group most likely to lack complete plumbing. In California and Texas, Latinx people are the most affected.'" Report
Young progressives flock to Sanders - but their grandparents prefer Mayor Pete. The Democratic field features candidates who would be the oldest and youngest presidents ever. Many of their supporters seem to value qualities in candidates that complement, rather than mirror, their own. Story But Sheila Bair with the Washington Post said this about Pete: Pete Buttigieg, whose primary asset seems to be a thin résumé . ... [T]his 37-year-old man has never held national office. He has never held statewide office. The sum total of his government experience includes valorous military duty and eight years as the mayor of the roughly 300th-largest town in the United States. He gives a good speech and has some interesting ideas. But he seems more adept at pointing out the frailties of his experienced opponents than explaining how he has any hope of surviving the 'swamp' if elected, given his complete lack of Washington know-how."
Major business spending begins in Democrat-on-Democrat legislative race. According to POLITICO Outside business spending to elect moderate California Democrats has begun. Conceding the reality of Democratic hegemony in Sacramento, industry groups regularly channel money into a constellation of political committees that boost friendly Democrats over more-liberal opponents. That dynamic has emerged for the first time in 2020 in a Central Valley state Senate contest (SD 5). A committee sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association has directed more than $200,000 in independent expenditure funds to help Democratic Modesto City Councilman Manmeet "Mani" Grewal, who is vying with Assemblywoman Susan Eggman for an open Stockton-area seat. About $100,000 of that will fund television spots on Grewal's behalf. The district is seen as a priority for Democrats to defend and a promising Republican pickup opportunity. Its outgoing representative, state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, has consistently been one of the most centrist Senate Democrats. The clash between Eggman and Grewal has already generated controversy. Grewal last year lost an endorsement from the California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus after Equality California assailed Grewal over a campaign spot and comments the LGBT advocacy group considered homophobic.
In a related story... More Dem on Dem Progressive booster Courage Campaign, who "believes that California must be a beacon of progressive, equitable, and truly representative democracy," is laying down markers in a handful of Democrat-on-Democrat races, endorsing Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria (challenging Rep. Jim Costa), Marisol Rubio (seeking to unseat state Sen. Steve Glazer), Assembly hopeful Tracie Stafford (running against moderate Democratic Assemblyman Jim Cooper) and state Sen. Holly Mitchell (vying for an LA City Council seat). [Politico]