Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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WECA Political Update June 10, 2021

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Government Affairs and Merit Shop Advocacy

There Will be Blood (with apologies to Daniel Day Lewis)

The labor movement's bubbling tensions with environmental groups are coming to a head. Labor unions want to be part of a group advising California on how to reach its greenhouse gas targets. The problem? The labor advocates pushing for access are diametrically opposed to the environmental justice interests the group is supposed to represent. Environmental justice advocates are dismayed by the State Building and Construction Trades Council's bid to put a union member on the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC). The collision course began last month, when Air Resources Board member (and former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democratic Assemblymember) Nathan Fletcher (husband of former San Diego Labor Fed head Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez) proposed adding a union seat to the committee. "I'm very concerned about having a specific labor seat on the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee" said Paulina Torres , a staff attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, at a well-attended Friday afternoon Zoom meeting. "EJAC members are representing their communities rather than—in this case—it would be their union. And so I just don't—I can't really see how there could be a labor representative." Environmental justice advocates typically push for conventional pollution reductions at the source, citing impacts on nearby low-income neighborhoods. But the building trades don't want to curtail fossil fuel production in California, which has been a reliable source of jobs and active area for the building trades’ recruitment—as many readers will recall, Skilled and Trained Workforce started with refinery turnarounds). The union has fought the environmental justice community on efforts to establish buffer zones between wells and sensitive areas—a battle the environmental community lost this session when Senate Bill 467 died.

Mask Rules Change Again Per the Los Angeles Times (and others). “Members of a California workplace safety board suggested they will move to allow fully vaccinated employees to stop wearing masks while on the job, putting proposed health rules in agreement with recommendations issued by federal and state health officials. Details were scant, but Eric Berg, deputy chief of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said the expectation is that the standards “will be consistent with” new mask rules issued by the California Department of Public Health for the general public, which are set to go into effect Tuesday. Those rules allow people who are fully vaccinated to not wear masks—with some exceptions, such as on public transit. The proposal will be presented at a meeting June 17 and could go into effect by June 28 once it’s reviewed by the state Office of Administrative Law. It would affect most workplace settings, with exceptions including healthcare sites.

Sonoma County, California Extends and Retroactively Expands Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance On June 8, 2021, the Sonoma County, California Board of Supervisors enacted an urgency ordinance that extends and amends—in part retroactively to January 1, 2021—its emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) ordinance. Learn More

Here We Go Again. Biden Restores Obama-Era Local-Hire Pilot Program on FHWA, FTA Projects The U.S. Dept. of Transportation is reviving Obama-era pilot programs for state agencies and contractors to give hiring preferences to people who live in areas where construction projects are located if they receive federal agency funding. The local-hire initiative, which Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced on May 19 at the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge replacement project in Washington, D.C., drew praise from a prominent construction union (guess which one) but was criticized by a major contractor group (guess number two). Story

California homebuilder pays $9.42M for 193 lots in Surprise, AZ Landsea Homes Corp. has paid $9.42 million for 193 lots in Surprise, according to the Vizzda LLC real estate database. The Newport Beach, California-based homebuilder bought the lots from Chandler-based Courtland Homes Inc. within Courtland's North Copper Canyon master-planned community, essentially paying $48,820.78 per lot for the land north of the northwest corner of 183rd Avenue and Deer Valley Road, according to Vizzda. Story

Deadlines, schmedlines Last Friday was the Legislative deadline requiring all bills be out of their first house. Any bills remaining in their house of origin became two-year and may not be heard again until January of 2022. Here's how this year's deadline compared with the corresponding deadline of 2019. Last Friday, 73 bills failed to pass out of their first house. 51 bills failed this same deadline in 2019. Friday, July 14th brings the next deadline requiring all fiscal bills be out of their 2nd house policy committees and moved on to their respective Appropriations committees.

Joe Biden Doesn't Want to Meet The Press CNN's Chris Cillizza wrote this week: “Joe Biden has been president of the United States for 138 days. And in that time, he has held a total of ONE formal news conference. Asked about that paucity of pressers—ahem!—on Sunday by CNN's Brian Stelter, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that Biden ‘takes questions several times a week.’ If that quote rings a bell, it's because it's almost exactly how former President Donald Trump's press shop defended his own lack of news conferences.” SSDD

Biden Nominates SEIU Attorney to NLRB On May 26, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden nominated Gwynne Wilcox to fill an open seat on the National Labor Relations Board. Wilcox is currently a senior partner at a labor-side labor and employment firm, and is assistant general counsel to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 in New York. Local 1199’s Health Care Workers East claims to be the largest health care union in the country, with more than 365,000 members, and is widely thought of as an aggressive union local. With Wilcox’s nomination, President Biden is showing his intention to fulfill his campaign promise to organized labor that he would be the “strongest labor president you’ve ever had.” Story

Warren Buffett Targets Commercial Modular Construction He is forging further into modular construction, leveraging the Berkshire Hathaway-owned MiTek engineered building products and construction software firm to launch a hybrid offsite-on site building model targeted at hospitality, health care, education and multifamily construction. Story

PROAct  Some of you may have attended AGC of America’s recent webinar about the PRO Act. They have some resources that contractors may find helpful as they educate friends, family and employees about the elements of the PRO Act. “As AGC of America CEO Steve Sandherr made clear in his presentation, the PRO Act is not just bad for employers, but also poses significant threats to workers—including those who are in a union and those who are not. To that end, we have created several resources to help you educate your colleagues about the risks associated with the PRO Act.” At agc.org/PROAct, the association has the following resources available for employers and employees:

•        White papers detailing the detrimental effects of the PRO Act on open-shop and union contractors
•        One-pager with information for workers
•        Social media tool kit with sample posts and messages

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised a vote on the bill when 50 Senators announce support for the bill. Vice President Harris could then act as the tie-breaking 51st vote if the filibuster—which requires 60 votes on legislation—is eliminated or “reformed.” At present, 47 Democratic Senators have pledged their support for the legislation. The remaining three Democratic Senators—Sinema and Kelly from Arizona and Warner from Virginia—need to hear from local contractors on why they should oppose the PRO Act. Arizona members, please contact Senators Sinema and Kelly and let them know why they should oppose the PRO Act. You can do that easily at advocacy.agc.org/proact or by texting “AGCA” to 52886.