A New Try at Organizing Legislative Employees | Dan Walters | State and Area

It is fair to say that the Democrats would not have achieved their immense majority in California’s legislature — more than 75% of its 120 members — were it not for money and other resources from the state’s unions.

In turn, Democratic lawmakers have bent over backwards to help unions increase membership and increase members’ wages and benefits.

Notable examples include the famous – or infamous – Assembly Bill 5, which severely restricted the use of contract labor by employers, this year’s bill designed to make it easier for the United Farm Workers Union to win representative elections, legislation introducing childcare workers and home health workers workers to become union members and myriad policies that essentially mandate unionism on public and private construction projects.

While the alliance of Democratic politicians and unions has been a dominant factor in legislative politics for nearly half a century, Gov. Jerry Brown promoted collective bargaining for state and local government employees, teachers and farm workers in the mid-1970s, but there is one notable exception: the legislature’s own employees.

Pro-union advocates have made several efforts to legislate, but all have been sidetracked. In general, state senators were willing to allow their employees to become union members, but the assembly refused.

The last failed attempt occurred in the final hours of the 2022 session. Rep. Mark Stone, a Scotts Valley Democrat, conducted a “gut-and-amend” maneuver using as a vehicle a bill that had already passed the assembly and was pending in the Senate. The Senate then passed the revised law with ease and returned it to the Assembly for a final vote on the final night of the session.

The California Labor Federation, led by former Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, who campaigned for unionization among legislative workers during her time in the legislature, gave Stone’s bill a high priority. However, the chairman of the assembly’s Public Employees and Pensions Committee, Jim Cooper, stopped the measure and denied it a vote.

Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove, is now out of the legislature after being elected sheriff of Sacramento County. Last month’s election also saw a major change in legislative membership, thanks to term limits and retirements. Proponents of legislative unionization are ready to try again.

As the Legislature convened for a new biennial session this month, Tina McKinnor, a freshman Inglewood MP who was once a Legislative Associate, introduced a new version, Assembly Bill 1, with 26 co-authors.

CALmatters is a nonprofit journalism company that explains how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years and has worked for California newspapers for all but a few of those years.

Comments are closed.