A couple of weeks ago a freshman Republican member of the State Assembly said to me: “You were right, this place is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the unions.”
It’s no surprise, of course that “Big Labor”–as these immense public and private labor unions are known–controls legislative outcomes in the State Capitol on those issues where they choose to weigh in.
The good news (or the bad news) is that if you actually want to see in great detail how much say these unions have in passing or killing legislation, you don’t have to do much in-depth research.
Every year, the California Labor Federation, an umbrella group for labor which purports to represent over 2,100 different California unions with an aggregate membership of over 2.1 million workers, actually puts out its own scorecard, listing its top legislative priorities and scoring California’s 120 legislators on how well they towed the union line.
Some interesting observations:
- 33 legislators received a perfect 100% score.
- 43 members of the State Assembly (a majority) scored 90% or higher.
- 22 members of the State Senate (a majority) scored 90% of higher.
- The Assembly Speaker last term, John Perez, and the Speaker for this term, Toni Atkins, both scored 100%.
- The Senate President Pro-Tem for last term, Darrell Steinberg, and the Pro-Tem for this term, Kevin DeLeon, both scored 93%.
The scorecard graded legislators using a total of 33 different bills that ran the gamut of labor issues. Looking over the list, a huge percentage of them are bills that either increase the number of union positions, increase benefits for union members, or require particular types of projects to be reserved for union workers.
A few examples of bills on the list, with descriptions lifted verbatim from their scorecard:
- AB 1897: “Protect temporary and contract workers. California is now the first state in the nation to enact significant new protections for temporary and contract workers. AB 1897 will make companies that use a third party to supply workers jointly liable for wages, worker safety, and provision of workers compensation.”
- AB 2448: “Overtime Takeaway: Would have taken away the 8-hour day by allowing employers and workers to mutually waive daily overtime after eight hours, leaving workers vulnerable to employer pressure.”
- AB 1792: “Californians are subsidizing WalMart and other major corporations because workers are paid so little they qualify for public benefits. AB 1792 will require the State to prepare a report that shows which companies have the greatest number of workers receiving Medi-Cal and how much it cost taypayers.”
- SB 785: “Will ensure that design-build projects use only skilled journeymen and apprentices.”
- AB 26: “Prevailing wage for clean up. Will clarify that post-construction clean-up work is part of public works construction and therefore triggers prevailing wage requirements.”
- AB 155: “Project Labor Agreement. Will provide the Monterey County Water Resources Agency with design-build authority for a water transfer project and require a Project Labor Agreement with the Monterey County Building and Construction Trades Council.”
And last, but not least, take note of this bill (despite the unpopularity of high-speed rail)…
- SB 862: “Fund high-speed rail (Budget Appropriation to HSR). In the 2014 budget, the Building Trades and the Labor Fed worked with the Governor and legislative leadership to secure a continuous appropriation for high-speed rail out of cap-and-trade revenue.”
All of the bills above were passed by both the State Senate and the State Assembly and were signed by Governor Brown–and are now California law, except for AB 2448 (which they opposed, and which was killed in its very first committee hearing).
I spoke with one well-respected capitol lobbyist who did not want to publicly comment for this column, but shared with me this observation, “I’m really glad that most of the issues on which I lobby aren’t labor issues – because it is almost impossible to defeat big labor in the building.”
And how much money does big labor spend on California politics to achieve this kind of overwhelming legislative success?
A report released by the California Fair Political Practices Commission states that from 2003 to 2012, the state’s most dominant public employee unions–the California Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union – together spent a stunning $214,022,424 either directly on candidates, independent expenditures, or ballot measure campaigns. That staggering dollar amount more than doubles if you add to it the vast sums spent lobbying the legislature.
California: the best legislature big labor money can buy.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.