Opinion

As the Capitol wraps up, labor and management relate

The Editorial Board

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., talks during a 2015 news conference at the company's headquarters in Fremont. Unions managed last week to draw state lawmakers into a labor dispute they’re having with the high tech auto company. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., talks during a 2015 news conference at the company's headquarters in Fremont. Unions managed last week to draw state lawmakers into a labor dispute they’re having with the high tech auto company. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) AP

Good Sunday morning, and welcome to Take Two, our weekly sampler of California opinion, drawn from The Sacramento Bee editorial board’s daily opinion-politics newsletter, The Take. Please go to sacbee.com/site-services/newsletters/ to sign up.

A reborn factory

In 2010, the Toyota-GM-owned New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. shut its Fremont factory putting 4,500 workers out of a job. I remember the pain in the face of Stanley Mayfield, who was 38 and had worked there for 12 years. “I thought I would have been able to retire here,” he said then. Once the big automakers vacated, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lured Elon Musk, a guy with a vision and backing. Today, Tesla employs 10,000 in that Fremont factory. – Dan Morain

Ask Mr. Mayfield

Tesla, no longer a start-up, is an upstart and it rubs big automakers wrong, a reason why some were less than upset when Tesla got sideways with organized labor last week. As legislators prepared to approve $140 million for rebates to people who buy electric vehicles, labor lobbyists added language aimed at Tesla, the target of a United Autoworkers organizing campaign. Democrats obliged, prompting us, followed by The Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle to wag our collective fingers at legislators for stepping into the middle of a labor fight. But of course they did. Many Democrats owe their seats to labor. The provision says automakers that benefit from the rebates ought to treat their workers fairly. Tesla should be able to meet that standard. GM and Toyota? Ask Stanley Mayfield.

Take a number

Speaking of capitalism: Some worry about the 1 percent, but here’s an item on The Very Big 3. “If one takes Amazon, Google, and Facebook revenues out of the Fortune 500 total, the remaining 497 companies’ revenues actually declined by 0.81 percent over the last four years. It is no coincidence that from 2012 to 2016, Amazon, Google and Facebook’s revenues increased by $137 billion and the remaining Fortune 497 revenues contracted by $97 billion.” So wrote Scott Cleland, a former official in President George W. Bush’s administration, president of Precursor LLC, and author of a book critical of Google, in a provocative op-ed for Buzzfeed. He argues that prospects for “bipartisan antitrust reform are increasing because the current unfair playing field is depressing economic growth and the bottleneck market power of Amazon, Google, and Facebook is unaccountable to competition and antitrust enforcement.” Here’s another number: $56.75 million. That’s how much The Very Big 3 have spent on lobbying in Washington since the start of 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Take a family day

We hope Gov. Jerry Brown will see fit this time to sign Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s bill to make parental leave more accessible for parents who don’t work for big corporations. Current law allows 12 weeks of job protected family leave, but only for private sector workers at businesses with more than 50 employees; the rest can be fired if they take time off to bond with a new child. Jackson’s SB 63 would lower the threshold to companies with 20 or more employees, an expansion she’s been pushing for years now. And while Brown is at it, he should sign AB 568, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill to make school districts give paid maternity leave to teachers, many of whom have to scrape together sick days. The Legislature accomplished much this year – roads, housing, climate – but few laws have more direct impact than those supporting families.

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