Only a sixth of California’s wage earners are members of labor unions, but they carry a very big stick in politics.
Unions are the largest single source of legislative campaign funds, a recent Sacramento Bee compilation revealed, and among Democrats, their hegemony is even more pronounced.
Not surprisingly, therefore, a Legislature dominated by labor-backed Democrats sees a large number of union-sponsored bills.
This year is no exception, and when legislators return to Sacramento in August for the final month of their 2015 session, they will find dozens of union bills awaiting disposition.
A small sample:
▪ Assembly Bill 219, by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, would redefine public works projects to include delivery of ready-mixed concrete by outside suppliers. Thus, it would require payment of “prevailing wages” – essentially union scale – to delivery truck drivers.
▪ Construction unions also back Assembly Bill 852, by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Los Angeles, which would apply prevailing wage law to construction projects at private hospitals when they are financed with “conduit revenue bonds.”
▪ Assembly Bill 1431 would expand “job order contracting,” an alternative to competitive bidding, to all school districts, but only if they adopt project labor agreements that essentially confine bidding to unionized companies. Its author is Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles.
▪ Firefighter unions want Senate Bill 239, by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, to require review of local interagency fire service agreements by Local Agency Formation Commissions, giving unions more leverage. Local governments are opposed.
▪ Senate Bill 548, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, would unionize hundreds of thousands of child care workers, giving unions a big membership boost.
However, perhaps the most important – and least justifiable – union measure is Senate Bill 331, which purports to make local government operations more transparent but seeks, in fact, to block public access to information about labor contract negotiations.
Several local governments have adopted “Civic Openness in Negotiations” (COIN) policies, which require information about pending contracts to be released publicly, rather than after contracts are approved.
Unions hate COIN and are seeking to have the practice declared illegal under the state’s collective bargaining law. And they are pushing SB 331, carried by Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, which would force local governments adopting COIN to also go through elaborate, and pointless, new processes in their dealings with private contractors, on top of competitive bidding.
The bill, passed by the Senate on a party-line vote, is clearly aimed at discouraging other local governments from adopting COIN. Those voting for SB 331 are, therefore, voting for more secrecy in how countless billions of dollars in salaries, fringe benefits and pensions are committed.