Capitol Alert

Republican caucus culture of ‘discrimination’ + Child poverty bus tour + UC campus strike

The California State Capitol building from the Tower Bridge in Sacramento in 2013.
The California State Capitol building from the Tower Bridge in Sacramento in 2013. Sacramento Bee file

It’s Thursday! Ready for Appropriations? Buckle up, it’s ‘bout to be a long day.

KOSZKA V. CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY

A Republican staffer lost his wrongful termination suit against the California State Assembly this week, though the jury didn’t completely vindicate Assembly Republican Caucus managers for retaliating against the former employee.

Jurors determined that Christian Koszka — who took photos and videos of Republican members for eight years until he was terminated in 2015 — endured a culture of “discrimination” under “negligent” supervisors for work-related mental health struggles and for refusing to engage in “illegal” campaign activity.

Koszka’s allegations extended beyond retaliation and adverse action claims targeted toward Dan Billings and Erin Guerrero. In one instance, his suit said, he took photos for Assemblyman Brian Dahle and realized that some were to be used for non-legislative purposes that included a 2013 campaign Christmas card. He said caucus staff were required to take vacation days to do campaign work, after which they were paid “under the table” in compensation time and “cash prizes.”

The former employee said he was additionally retaliated against for not attending “Caucappalooza,” a work time social event at an employee’s house where staff engaged in “loud-partying, alcohol consumption, gambling, and other similar activities.”

Dahle’s office denied what it called an “absolutely false claim,” continuing that the assemblyman has “never used state produced photos for campaign or personal use.” The caucus did not respond immediately to questions about whether staff members are required to attend “Caucappalooza” or work campaigns in exchange for comp time.

CHILD POVERTY BUS TOUR

Koszka obtained an ongoing California Family Rights Act medical note in 2014 that exempted him from working more than eight hours a day and earned him Fridays off. It was a point of contention among Billings and Guerrero, who expressed doubt in their emails over Koszka’s medical conditions, including anxiety and depression that doctors said was exacerbated by work demands.

“Christian is getting away with this process,” Billings wrote to Guerrero in an August 2013 email. “This has become an unworkable situation, for myself and the rest of our office staff.”

Billings is a chief consultant for the Republican caucus, and Guerrero at the time was the director of member support and outreach.

Koszka’s attorneys asked for up to $3 million in damages that they said would “make him whole again.” Jurors later told lawyers that managers’ behavior was “not good.”

But the jury determined that Koszka’s firing wasn’t due to the caucus’ intolerance of his medical notes, but rather connected to the party’s vanishing representation in the California Legislature and what the defense called an “overall restructuring of staff” that “happens frequently at the Capitol.”

CHILD POVERTY BUS TOUR

State lawmakers are launching a four-day bus tour on Friday as part of the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force. The road trip will start in Chula Vista and stop in Los Angeles, Pomona, Weedpatch, Fresno, Salinas, Oakland and Sacramento.

The tour is an effort to tout Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “unprecedented investments to address deep child poverty,” a press statement from state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s office announcing the event read.

The state leaders will also use the tour to urge legislative support for bills that comprise the End Child Poverty Plan, constructed to reduce childhood poverty by 50 percent throughout the next decade and end deep child poverty within four years.

In attendance: Skinner, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Eloise Gómez Reyes and Autumn Burke, as well as Senators Melissa Hurtado, Connie Leyva and Holly Mitchell.

Family members and kids, along with interfaith coalitions, youth organizations, charity foundations and community service groups will meet with the lawmakers at each stop.

The final stop includes a rally (time TBD) on Monday on the West Steps of the Capitol, where Dolores Huerta and Lege members will speak about their anti-poverty tour. Find the full bus tour schedule here.

UC CAMPUS STRIKE

A series of strikes are scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning across the University of California’s ten campuses and five medical centers. Workers are protesting the system’s privatization plans that union organizers say violates California law by outsourcing jobs to contracting companies.

The strikes follow the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299 filing of three unfair labor practice charges this month.

“The University of California has bypassed its workers at every turn, refusing to meet and confer about plans to outsource middle-class jobs in California to poverty wage contractors,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “By cutting workers out of decisions about who will be providing the services that UC patients and students rely on, it’s clear that UC is focused on one thing—paying its lowest wage workers even less.”

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro is scheduled to attend the UCSF Medical Center strike, along with Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose.

Other “expected dignitaries” include Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Los Angeles, at UCLA and San Diego Labor Council Executive Director Keith Maddox at UCSD.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

May 17 — Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno

May 19 — Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara

TWEET OF THE DAY

Attorney General Xavier Becerra responds to an Alabama bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill, which was built to directly contest Roe v. Wade in the now conservative-leaning United States Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, California state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, is pushing Senate Bill 24. The proposed legislation would require University of California and California State University schools to provide students abortion medication by 2023.

Very different states, indeed.

Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.


  Comments