CA Dems Want to Unionize Farm Workers and Nannies

Farm workers and nannies have a couple of glaring things in common–they are jobs predominantly held by Hispanic men and women, currently exempted from overtime laws, and are being targeted by labor unions for takeover.

Democrats and labor unions are pushing to force employers to give nannies and farm workers overtime pay, workers compensation insurance, and mandatory breaks. But Democrats in the Assembly never once acknowledged that not all employers can provide a standardized eight-hour workday because of seasonal production or the need for some work to be done in concentrated periods.

Instead, Democrats arrogantly said that the industry can just absorb the costs.

But if industry can’t absorb the costs, it will be workers who pay the price.

California–the nanny state

California is a nanny state–literally. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, authored AB 889, requiring domestic workers to be paid overtime, given workers compensation insurance, and receive regular breaks and standard meal periods.

In the Assembly Thursday, Ammiano said that his bill was aimed at “giving these women a chance for advancement, and chance for employers to be fair,” and said “they have lived in the shadows too long.”

The nanny bill would require that caregivers in private households, over the age of 18, be paid overtime after eight hours, receive meals and rest periods, and have uninterrupted sleep periods and compensation for interruptions.

Even mothers don’t receive compensation for the interruptions they endure during the night. And who will relieve the babysitter during her breaks and meal periods?

The bill is just another a union-sponsored bill, and Ammiano is just another California Democrat who receives the maximum contributions from the state’s labor and public employee unions.

Earlier in the year, another bill, AB 101, was an attempt to unionize licensed child-care providers who run small, in-home day cares and relatives who take care of family members and receive a state subsidy. Assembly Speaker John Perez, the bill’s author, insisted that the bill’s purpose was to provide better working conditions for child-care providers.

AB 101 was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

But at the heart of these bills are labor unions. There is no denying the relationship between Democratic legislators and labor unions. The SEIU, AFSCME and the CTA benefit greatly whenever another industry is taken over through legislation, or weakened by additional stringent labor laws. Every time Democrats vote to expand the size of unions by taking over another industry, union membership and dues increase in value.

Farm workers

Agriculture workers aren’t the only employees exempted from the state’s overtime laws. There have been several bills aimed at removing the overtime exemption for agricultural employees.

AB 1313, by Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, would change the law to require payment of overtime after an eight-hour workday, or 40 hours per week. But what Democrats will not admit is that AB 1313 would hurt both the farm worker and employer by limiting worker hours, resulting in the employer to hire more workers to make up the production difference.

Agricultural workers are already entitled to California overtime for all work beyond 10 hours in a workday, as well as weekly overtime pay. The California Farm Bureau reports that only three other states require overtime pay for agricultural workers, and none has such low thresholds as proposed in AB 1313.

Overtime exemptions

The exemptions to overtime laws are extensive. Most interesting, however, is that overtime wage orders expressly exempt public employees. Under listed exemptions, the Department of Industrial Relations website reads, “Employees directly employed by the State or any political subdivision thereof, including any city, county or special district.” So it exempts state employees from state law, but requires private sector employers to comply.

Legislators regularly approve laws and regulations but exempt the state from the restrictions.

Public employees are not the only employees exempted from the state’s overtime laws according to the DIR. The list of exempt jobs is long:

  • Unionized employees working under a collective bargaining agreement
  • Truck drivers
  • Computer software employees
  • Airline employees
  • Sales representatives
  • Taxi-cab drivers
  • Nurses and student nurses
  • Professional actors and film projector operators
  • Commercial fishing employees
  • Radio or television announcers and news editors
  • Sheepherders
  • Irrigators
  • Personal attendants
  • Babysitters

Quick history of OT

California’s overtime laws are complex and largely appear to be driven by the political party in power.

Overtime was enacted many years ago, to compensate employees who were being “overworked” by employers, defined by the government as working employees beyond eight hours in one workday. Overtime law requires employers to pay employees overtime equaling and one-half of employees’ hourly pay for working more than eight hours in one day, as well as more than 40 hours in one week. Double-time is paid after 12 hours in one day, and again on the seventh consecutive workday in one week.

In effect through 1997, the old daily overtime rules required only certain industries that had specific wage orders regulating them to pay overtime daily. Manufacturing and clerical workers were subjected to the daily overtime laws, but construction, mining and logging were not, so they could instead opt to pay daily overtime or defer to the federal standard of paying overtime after 40 hours worked in a workweek.

In 1998, Gov. Pete Wilson signed legislation relieving California’s employers from the state’s daily overtime laws, allowing employers to pay overtime after 40 hours in one week, instead of the daily overtime. Widely hailed as a pro-business move, Wilson’s goal was to give employers and employees more flexibility in production and schedules. Labor union representatives were outraged, and claimed their members would lose income with the overtime change.

Almost immediately, Assemblyman Wally Knox, D-Los Angeles, authored AB 60, which was referred to as organized labor’s reaction to Wilson’s elimination of daily overtime. In 1999, Gov. Gray Davis signed AB60, called the “Eight Hour Day Restoration and Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999,” dramatically changing the state’s overtime compensation laws. The act went into effect for most employers on January 1, 2000. However, the list of exemptions was long, and included public employees.

The 1999 act’s most dramatic change was the restoration of the daily overtime requirement. Ironically, union employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement were not covered by AB 60, nor were public employees.

Federal law, and the vast majority of states, only require that overtime be paid for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. However, California requires that overtime be paid after eight hours’ work in one workday and after 40 hours work in one workweek.

The daily overtime requirements must be met regardless of the total number of hours worked during the week. For employees who work seven consecutive days during the workweek, the act requires that the employee be paid one-and-a-half times the regular rate of pay for the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in a work week, and two times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh day. Irrespective of the amount of time the employee has worked during the preceding six days, on the seventh day, the pay requirements apply.

OT doesn’t always fit

OT doesn’t work in some industries. Look at the list of exemptions; most of the jobs are largely production related and require periods of work in order to meet production. They can’t be molded into a standard 8-hour, state office worker workday. These people work when the work is there, and they work long hours when they need to. When they work is not available, they do not get paid.

Long-time seasonable or production employees understand that they make a great deal of money during some seasons, and can work long hours.

Ammiano’s AB 889 is unworkable, and if passed, would be back next year for technical clean ups. Babysitters and caregivers can’t take traditional breaks and have meal periods. Nor can they have uninterrupted sleep if they work overnight.

Even Democrats who were involved in the floor debate Thursday did not have valid points for support. “This will allow the DIR to have a thoughful conversation,” said Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella.

“When we put people in charge of our loved ones, we need to make sure they have the same rights as other employees; then they can give us more confident care of our loved ones,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

“This establishes basic rights and principles for nannies, elders, cooks, and provides basic rights all workers should have,” said Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Long Beach.

Support speeches for AB 1313, the farm worker bill, were just as asinine. Democrats never addressed the nature of the seasonal work, nor the reality of varying production needs. And why should they–most have never worked outside of government jobs, law firms or labor unions.

Deaf to the real issues faced by California employers, Allen said, “This industry will absorb the costs, and will pay overtime if necessary. You can’t put a price on equity.”

(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)