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Thursday, June 10, 2021   WECA Political Update 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.

Thursday, May 27, 2021   WECA Political Update May 27, 2021

The Appropriations Deadlines Last Friday was the Legislative deadline requiring all bills be out of their first house Appropriations Committees and moved on to the floor. Any Bills remaining in Appropriations became 2-Year bills and may not be heard again until January of 2022. This year, 1,337 bills were referred to the Appropriations Committees. Of those, 897 were placed on the Suspense File, and 213 failed to pass the Legislative Deadline. In 2019, 1,600 Bills were referred to Appropriations Committees. That year, 1,078 Bills were placed on the Suspense File, and 222 failed to pass the Legislative Deadline. Next Friday, June 4 brings the deadline requiring all bills pass out of their house of origin.

Here’s what happened to a few we track that are now two-year bills.

AB 95 (Low - D) JobKiller: Requires an employer with 25 or more employees to grant a request by an employee to take up to ten business days of unpaid bereavement leave for the death of a family member, as defined. An employer with fewer than 25 employees is required to grant an employee’s request for up to three days of unpaid bereavement leave.
AB 230 (Voepel - R) Would permit an individual nonexempt employee to request an employee-selected flexible work schedule providing for workdays up to 10 hours per day within a 40-hour workweek and would allow an employer to implement this schedule without the obligation to pay overtime compensation for those additional hours in a workday.
AB 247 (Ramos - D) Would exempt a small business or nonprofit organization with 100 or fewer employees from liability for any injury or illness to a consumer, as defined, due to coronavirus (COVID-19) based on a claim that the consumer contracted COVID-19 while at that small business or nonprofit organization, or due to the actions of that small business or nonprofit organization. 
AB 299 (Villapudua - D) Would establish the California Apprenticeship Grant Program, commencing with the 2022–23 academic year, under the administration of the office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, to provide grants to encourage high school pupils, community college students, and employed and unemployed workers seeking to go into career technical education and vocational professions through participation in qualifying, state-approved apprenticeship programs.
AB 460 (Mayes - I) This bill, among other things, would as provided, prohibit water-related fees imposed on the owner of residential property from being affected by the installation of a residential fire sprinkler system on that residential property, including those residential fire sprinkler systems mandated by a local jurisdiction or a fire protection district.
AB 621 (Rivas, Robert  - D) Would authorize the Governor to certify a new hospital project or hospital expansion or modernization project as an environmental leadership hospital project if the project meets specific requirements. The bill would exempt PLA projects from skilled and trained workforce mandates, the need to submit certified payroll records, and deny the State Labor Commissioner from enforcing the labor code.
AB 672 (Garcia, Cristina - D) Would require a city, county, or city and county to rezone sites used as a golf course to also allow for residential and open-space use following specified requirements.
AB 836 (Gabriel - D) Would require, on or before January 1, 2023, the California Building Standards Commission to adopt mandatory building standards requiring that a newly constructed non-residential building be built with dual plumbing to allow the use of recycled water for all applicable non-potable water demands if that building is located within an existing or planned recycled water service area.
AB 839 (O'Donnell - D) Increases the ongoing annual funding for the California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) program to $300 million as of the 2021-22 fiscal year.
AB 899 (Cunningham - R) would require the CSLB to annually adjust the $500 amount by regulation to reflect the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index
AB 902 (O'Donnell - D) Made minor adjustments to the school design-build law.
AB 1119 (Wicks - D) This bill expands the list of protected characteristics under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to include “family responsibilities,” defined as an obligation to provide ongoing care to a minor child or “care recipient.” Creating a new protected class of employees with “family responsibilities” will allow many employees who fall within that category a basis for challenging any adverse employment action.
AB 1161 (Garcia, Eduardo - D) Requires the Department of Water Resources to purchase power from projects constructed using project labor agreements.
AB 1179 (Carrillo - D) Requires employers with 1000 or more employees, on or after January 1, 2022, to provide 60 hours of paid backup childcare benefits to employees who work for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year.
AB 1256 (Quirk - D) Would prohibit an employer from discriminating against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment because a drug screening test has found the person to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their urine, hair, or bodily fluids.
AB 1277 (Rubio, Blanca - D) This bill would authorize a public university to carry out a project to certify the project as a student housing development project if the project meets specific requirements.
AB 1324 (Rivas, Robert  - D) Would establish the Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Funding Program, administered by the Treasurer’s office. The bill would authorize the city council of a city, or the board of supervisors of a city and county, to participate in the program by enacting an ordinance establishing a transit-oriented affordable housing district. The bill would exempt PLA projects from skilled and trained workforce mandates, the requirement to submit certified payroll records, and deny the State Labor Commissioner from enforcing the labor code.
SB 32 (Cortese - D) Would require a city or county to make a one-time amendment to its general plan's appropriate elements, including goals, policies, objectives, targets, and feasible implementation strategies, to de-carbonize newly constructed commercial and residential buildings.
SB 304 (Archuleta - D) Raises threshold for exempt contracting to $1,000
SB 413 (McGuire - D) Would require the Energy Commission, in consultation with the Offshore Wind Project Certification, Fisheries, Community, and Indigenous Peoples Advisory Committee, which the bill would create, to establish a process for the certification of offshore wind generation facilities that is analogous to the existing requirements for certification of thermal power plants.
SB 430 (Borgeas - R) requires state agencies to establish a policy to provide for the reduction or waiver of civil penalties for violations of regulatory or statutory requirements by a small business under certain circumstances
SB 563 (Allen - D) This bill makes several changes to the Second Neighborhood Infill Finance and Transit Improvements Act (NIFTI-2). The California Housing Consortium and the California Housing Partnership Corporation are opposed unless amended to remove “skilled and trained” requirements and require prevailing wages and investments in pre-apprenticeship programs.
SB 621 (Eggman - D) allows a ministerial, streamlined conversion of hotels and motels into multifamily housing if the development satisfies specified objective planning standards. The bill would exempt PLA projects from skilled and trained workforce mandates, the requirement to submit certified payroll records, and deny the State Labor Commissioner from enforcing the labor code.

Biden Tax Increase Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained the Biden administration’s push to hike taxes on corporations to attendees of a virtual U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on the economic recovery. “We're confident the key investments and tax proposals” in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan “will enhance the net profitability of our corporations and improve their global competitiveness,” Yellen said during her keynote. “We hope business leaders will see it this way and support the jobs plan.” Yellen framed the president’s proposed increase of the corporate rate to 28 percent from 21 percent amounted merely to business “bearing its fair share,” while arguing the shift is aimed at simply returning the “corporate tax towards historical norms.” She added: “At the same time, we want to eliminate incentives that reward corporations for moving their operations overseas and shifting profits to low-tax countries.” She also used her time in front of the business lobby, which has vehemently opposed a Democratic bill to overhaul labor laws, to decry an “erosion in labor’s bargaining power,” saying a decline in unionization was in part because of wage stagnation for lower-income workers and a yawning income inequality gap. Yellen encouraged executives to embrace competition from abroad while vowing to create an even playing field for American companies. “Let others innovate and advance,” she said. “Let us seek to advance faster and further. We ultimately benefit from the positive spillovers of innovation, wherever it occurs.” Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark thanked Yellen for her candor, “It's always an honor to hear from the Treasury Secretary, including and maybe even especially when we disagree, as we do on taxes,” she said following Yellen’s remarks, arguing that while the Chamber strongly wants an infrastructure deal, “the data and the evidence are clear, the proposed tax increases would greatly disadvantage U.S. businesses and harm American workers, and now is certainly not the time to erect new barriers to economic recovery.” POLITICO

VP Harris Convenes First White House Labor Task Force Meeting With the goal of facilitating worker organizing and increasing union membership, Vice President Kamala Harris convened the first meeting of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. Calling the administration “proudly pro-union,” Harris said the task force would look at ways to ensure that working people can organize and negotiate with employers. The task force, which includes more than 20 heads of agencies and Cabinet officials, including Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is an effort by President Joe Biden to help reverse a nationwide decline in union membership and power. Story

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) released its’ annual economic impact study titled, “The Impact of Tort Costs and the Potential Benefits of Tort Reform in the United States.” They noted important findings of the report.
  • Lawsuit abuse results in $160.1 billion in high tort costs. In other words, lawsuit abuse costs every American about $488 in a “tort tax.”
  • These excessive costs have been highly destructive to American businesses and harmful to consumers, wiping out an estimated $435.6 billion in overall economic activity. This is equivalent to 1.2 percent of the overall U.S. economy.
  • Tort costs impact 2,211,450 jobs across the country, with a loss of $143.8 million in wages and a $435.6 billion decrease in the economic pie.
  • The federal government lost $29.5 billion in tax revenue thanks to tort costs. State and local governments lost $18.1 billion in tax revenues.
The report looked into the impact of excessive litigation and civil court costs across all 50 states and nationwide. It was conducted by John Dunham & Associates (JDA) with the benchmark of Ohio, similar to previous years past. To read the entire report, click here.

Thursday, April 01, 2021   WECA Political Update April 1, 2021

Government Affairs and Merit Shop Advocacy

CFEC Plans Two Zoom PLA Meetings
On Tuesday, April 6th at 1:00pm CFEC will hold a Zoom meeting to discuss CFEC’s PLA strategy for the San Diego region.

On Wednesday, April 7th at 1:00pm they will hold a Zoom meeting to discuss CFEC’s PLA strategy for two major projects in Sacramento.

To participate send an email to cfec.ca@gmail.com

The American Jobs Plan Yesterday, President Joe Biden rolled out his $2 trillion infrastructure plan at a—surprise, surprise--carpenters’ training facility in Collier, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb whose population is about 98 percent white. Biden made two specific mentions of PLAs in his outline that you can read here. In total – he mentioned unions 24 times in his summary.

Under the section entitled Build, Preserve, And Retrofit More Than Two Million Homes and Commercial Buildings; Modernize Our Nation’s Schools, Community Colleges, And Early Learning Facilities; And Upgrade Veterans’ Hospitals and Federal Buildings. “The President’s plan invests $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live. It pairs this investment with an innovative new approach to eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws, which drive up the cost of construction and keep families from moving to neighborhoods with more opportunities for them and their kids. The President’s plan will help address the growing cost of rent and create jobs that pay prevailing wages, including through project labor agreements with a free and fair choice to join a union and bargain collectively. (The President didn’t mention a worker’s right to not be forced to join a union).

Under Create Good-Quality Jobs That Pay Prevailing Wages in Safe and Healthy Workplaces While Ensuring Workers Have A Free and Fair Choice to Organize, Join A Union, and Bargain Collectively with Their Employers. “Create good jobs. The President’s plan demands that employers benefiting from these investments follow strong labor standards and remain neutral when their employees seek to organize a union and bargain collectively. He is asking Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wages and require transportation investments to meet existing transit labor protections. He also is calling for investments tied to Project Labor, Community Workforce, local hire, and registered apprenticeships and other labor or labor-management training programs so that federal investments support good jobs and pathways to the middle class. (Does his use of labor or labor-management training programs signal future challenges for employer training programs?). Finally, he is asking Congress to include a commitment to increasing American jobs through Buy America and Ship American provisions.
Additional Sick Pay One remaining piece of COVID-19 legislation was the enactment of SB 95 (Skinner). This bill mandates that employers expand supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related absences. SB 95, which took effect on March 29, 2021, applies retroactively to applicable leave taken on or after January 1, 2021, and remains in effect until September 30, 2021. Thus, covered employers must provide Supplemental COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave beginning on March 29, 2021, and covered employees who took qualifying leave between January 1 and March 28 may request retroactive payment for leave taken during that period.

Lawmakers Propose Wealth Tax and PIT Increase From CalTax State lawmakers recently proposed two major tax increases: a wealth tax targeting Californians with a net worth above $50 million and a personal income tax increase on annual income over $2 million. The PIT increase was revealed in amendments to AB 65, by Democratic Assembly Member Evan Low. The bill would create the California Universal Basic Income Program, funded via a 1 percent surcharge on income above $2 million beginning January 1, 2022. The bill would bring California’s top PIT rate – already the highest in the United States – to 14.3 percent. The revenue generated by the tax hike would be used to provide monthly $1,000 payments to Californians who are at least 18 years old, are not incarcerated, have been residents of the state for the prior three consecutive taxable years and do not earn more than 200 percent of the per capita median income for the counties in which they reside. As a tax increase, the bill faces a two-thirds vote threshold in the Legislature.

The wealth tax proposal was unveiled March 15 in a virtual press conference hosted by the lead author, Assembly Member Alex Lee. The proponents said the legislation, which is not yet in print, would impose a 1 percent tax on wealth over $50 million and a 1.5 percent tax on wealth over $1 billion. Lee’s press conference also featured Assembly Members Luz Rivas, Miguel Santiago, and Lorena Gonzalez. The lawmakers were joined California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas, entrepreneur Joe Sanberg, and University of California at Berkeley Economics Professor Emmanuel Saez. According to several participants in the press conference, their tax increase is intended to make California’s wealthiest residents “pay their fair share.” If approved by at least two-thirds of the Legislature, the wealth tax would be placed on a statewide ballot in a measure that would need a simple majority vote for passage. Saez, co-author of the book, “The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay,” said the tax would raise approximately $22 billion per year – approximately half of which would be paid by 170 individuals. “The mere introduction of a similar proposal last year was enough to increase the exodus of businesses, individuals and investments fleeing California,” CalTax President Robert Gutierrez said. “This damaging proposal encourages more Californians to follow in the footsteps of others who already moved out of California. Most other states are not threatening to tax their residents’ savings and personal effects – items that were purchased with money left over after paying California’s highest-in-the-nation income tax.” Opponents of the two tax hikes noted that proponents’ revenue estimates do not appear to factor in the likelihood that some of the targeted individuals would move out of California and establish residence in a state with lower taxes. Gutierrez noted that the state government is collecting billions of dollars more than expected under the current tax rates and has a large reserve that got the state through a year of pandemic without having to cut funding for education or other important programs. Governor Gavin Newsom and one of his top advisors have said the governor will not approve wealth taxes or income tax increases this year.

Sales Tax Increases Take Effect April 1 in Many Areas of the State Voter-approved sale tax rate increases will take effect April 1 in many areas of the state, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration notified retailers in a special notice. In 11 cities, the new tax rate will be 10.25 percent. Ten of the cities are in Los Angeles County (Bell Gardens, Bellflower, City of Commerce, Lancaster, Lomita, Palmdale, San Fernando, Signal Hill, South El Monte, and West Hollywood). The remaining 10.25 percent city is El Cerrito, in Contra Costa County. Consumers in Turlock will have a tough time estimating the cost of sales tax without a calculator, as the new rate is 8.625 percent. They may be used to dealing with non-round numbers, however, as the new rate replaces the current rate of 7.875 percent.

How the PRO Act could change the way contractors do business The construction industry’s use of independent contractors and subcontractors, even sub-subcontractors, is standard practice. The nature of the business requires a wide range of expertise and independent contractors can help with the short-term staffing that a company does not have in-house, or they can supplement a contractor's full-time workforce. Using independent contractors and subcontractors also saves the hiring contractor money because it doesn't have to pay employee benefits, provide workers' compensation coverage or withhold taxes on those entities. Story

Recall Watch March 22, 2021 From TargetBook March 17 was the deadline for proponents of the Gavin Newsom recall to submit their signatures to county elections offices. Proponents announced that they had submitted 2,117,730 signatures. Once the recall is determined to have enough valid signatures, voters will have 30 business days during which they may withdraw their signatures. Gavin Newsom's 'Stop the Republican Recall' committee announced it had raised over $538,000 from online donors in its first 48 hours. Independent expenditures have already begun for the recall and replacement candidates. Former GOP Rep. Doug Ose, who dropped out of the 2018 governor's race after 52 days citing poor fundraising and a crowded field of candidates, announced he would be a candidate in the recall election. With the GOP field becoming increasingly crowded, all eyes are on whether Newsom's campaign can hold back the dam for the next six months and prevent a credible Democratic candidate from running in the recall.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke out recently in an attempt to pull the Democratic Party together around Newsom. She told reporters that the recall effort was “an unnecessary notion,” adding, “I don’t think it even rises to the level of an idea.”

But the public has another notion. A poll released this week by the nonpartisan firm Probolsky Research found that California voters were split on whether to recall Newsom. Forty percent supported recalling him, while 46 percent were opposed. That’s not overwhelming support — but it’s a clear sign that Newsom is in choppy waters and would need to work hard to head off a recall if a vote does get scheduled.

Biden May Be the Most Pro-Labor President Ever; That May Not Save Unions (Grab your box of WECA tissues) The New York Times reports “Labor leaders are effusive in praising the new president, but experts worry that he may be powerless to reverse unions’ long-term decline.” Story