Date: Jun 03, 2014
Category:
Deadline to Act on Legislation Prompts Rush to Pass Union Bills

The second year of the 2013-2014 California legislative session is well underway and last Friday was the deadline for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. Despite heavy opposition from Western Growers and other industry organizations, labor union-sponsored legislation advanced to the second house ahead of the deadline. 

Of great concern is Assembly Bill 1897 (Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina), which would impose significant liability on an innocent third-party employer for wage and hour violations, workers’ compensation violations, and tax violations of another business contracted to provide staffing services.  WG members using farm labor contractors for field work or temporary staffing agencies for packing sheds, coolers and processing facilities would face joint liability exposure.  The bill was approved by the Assembly on a 51-23 vote with five members not voting. The bill is co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) Adam Gray (D-Merced), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) and Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) were among the Assembly members from farming areas who supported the bill. Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino), Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), and Henry Perea (D-Fresno) abstained from voting on the bill, which has the same effect as voting no. We expect that AB 1897 will next be heard in the Senate Labor Committee.

Assembly Bill 1792 (Gomez, D-Los Angeles) is another problematic bill. This bill would require the Employment Development Department and the Department of Finance to develop and publish a list of California employers with individual company data showing the amount the state and federal governments pay for employees of each company that utilize Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKS benefits. The stated intent of the bill is to “analyze practices within industry sectors detrimental to economic competitiveness in the marketplace.” The list would paint a misleading picture about California’s employers because it only looks at a few data points and doesn’t take into account the array of factors that would cause an employee to seek public benefits. In all likelihood, the published report would be used by labor unions engaged in pressuring businesses on wages and benefits to attempt to shame employers. AB 1792 was approved by the Assembly on a 52-26 vote with one member abstaining. The bill will now be heard in the Senate.

Assembly Bill 2416 (Stone, D-Scotts Valley) would allow employees and employees’ representatives, including creditors, to file pre-judgment wage liens against the real and personal property of an employer. The liens would not be limited to minimum wage violations, but would include all wage violations and all penalties under the Labor Code. AB 2416 is very similar to another bill that WG helped to block earlier this year. AB 2416 was approved by the Assembly on a 43-27 vote with nine members abstaining. Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) were among those who voted against this bill. Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Henry Perea (D-Fresno) were among those who abstained on AB 2416. The bill will now go to the Senate.

In the Senate, another minimum wage increase was approved.  Senate Bill 935(Leno, D-San Francisco) is strongly opposed by a large coalition of business groups. The bill would increase the minimum wage to $11.00 on January 1, 2015, to $12.00 on January 1, 2016, and $13.00 on January 1, 2017. Starting in 2018, additional increases to the minimum wage would be annually increased based on the California Consumer Price Index; however, the bill does not allow the wage rate to decrease when the state inflation index goes down. The bill was approved by the Senate on a 21-12 vote with seven members not voting. Senators Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and Richard Roth (D-Riverside) abstained on the bill. The bill now proceeds to the Assembly.

The Senate also considered a GMO labeling bill, SB 1381 (Evans, D-Santa Rosa), which fell two votes short of approval. This bill would have required the labeling of some foods (with many confusing exceptions) containing genetically modified ingredients. Senators Marty Block (D-San Diego), Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), and Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) voted against the bill. Senators Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), and Rich Roth (D-Riverside) abstained on the bill.

Please contact Matthew Allen in WG’s Sacramento office for more information.

WG Staff Contact

Matthew Allen
Vice President, State Government Affairs
916-446-1435

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