Gov. Newsom Pays Unions Back for Recall Rescue

California: ‘Bloated, sleepy and sloppy state bureaucracy that has festered in mediocrity’

California Governor Gavin Newsom was spared the indignity of being recalled by voters in fall of 2021 by California’s powerful and gilded labor unions, which spent more than $25 million in the recall, according to CalMatters. “That’s more money than Hollywood, California’s tech industry, local Indian tribes, and state real estate players spent in the recall race combined,” the Federalist reported.

The Governor apparently did not forget his end of the ostensible deal, rewarding labor with promises of hundreds of thousands of new members (Fast food workers), as well as signing legislation providing tax credits for the union dues of members.

“The new budget passed by lawmakers in mid-June and signed by Governor Newsom two weeks later will take California’s existing tax deduction for union dues payments and turn it into a tax credit capped at 33% of dues paid,” Patrick Gleason, Vice President of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, said in Forbes. “Changing the deduction to a credit makes the union tax break more generous and benefits those who don’t itemize or have a tax liability.”

Moves like this should show American voters exactly who Gavin Newsom would show his loyalty should he run for President.

Ballotpedia explains the tax credit:

“Once implemented, the tax credit would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Union dues are currently tax-deductible in California and some other states. (A tax deduction lowers a person’s taxable income before calculating taxes, while a tax credit reduces the amount of tax a person is responsible for paying.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 154, the Budget Act of 2022, on June 27. On June 30, Newsom signed SB 189, one of several bills “providing for appropriations related to” the budget act. SB 189 says, “Contingent upon future legislation, including future budget appropriations, and subject to a determination in the spring of 2024 that General Fund money over the multiyear forecasts is available to support ongoing augmentations and actions, the following actions will be prioritized: (1) Implement a tax credit under the Personal Income Tax Law to offset a portion of costs associated with union membership.”

The Federalist reported:

Max Nelson, the director of labor policy at the free-market conservative think tank Freedom Foundation, described the legislation as a “bold” mechanism to expand union membership and empower state-sponsored speech. “Taxpayers are being compelled by the force of state law to pay people to pay unions,” Nelson said.

“Big labor groups may also claim the benefits for themselves, where raising dues to cover the difference offered by the tax credit would enrich union leadership who dictate organizations’ political contributions,”

“We’re kind of into some new frontiers here, which will be interesting for both the courts to grapple with and the states,” Nelson told The Federalist, where Democrats have now embraced a measure to directly fund their own allies who, in turn, will “plow money into progressive electoral politics.”

Patrick Gleason continued:

“The first half of 2022 was a mixed bag for California taxpayers who don’t want the state to inflict more costs upon households and the economy. … Many Californians, however, are unlikely to appreciate the fact that Governor Newsom and state legislators created a new tax credit that is unavailable to 84% of Golden State workers. For all the talk about equity & equality coming from the state’s most powerful politicians, California’s new budget takes the state tax code’s already unequal treatment of workers and worsens it.”

But perhaps Lance Christensen, candidate for State Superintendent of Instruction best reminded us in September 2021 right before the Newsom recall election, what really is at stake in the Golden State besides labor union payoffs:

“California still faces substantial, long-term financing troubles. While Gov. Newsom boasts of the biggest state budget in history, the titanic funds undergirding the budget are one-time revenues that will tank once the Federal Reserve stops printing money and Congress avoids propping up spendthrift programs.”

“If a new governor is elected this month, that person will have one year to whip into shape a bloated, sleepy and sloppy state bureaucracy that has festered in mediocrity for years. And if the Legislature or entrenched bureaucracy is going to resist, the governor should plan for a one-hour presser every day to name names and let the people know why things aren’t changing.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

San Diego makes legally risky move to steer contracts to women and people of color

The move, which takes on Proposition 209, was fueled by a study that found such businesses didn’t get their fair share of contracts

San Diego will take the legally risky step of giving preferential treatment to women- and minority-owned businesses when awarding city contracts, a move that appears to be in direct conflict with a voter-approved state proposition that sought to ban affirmative action.

Despite advice from City Attorney Mara Elliott warning against creating such programs, the City Council voted 9-0 this week to establish legally defensible policies that aim to help businesses owned by women and people of color get their fair share of billions of dollars that San Diego awards in city contracts.

Councilmembers said they are aware of the legal risk, and of the failures of other cities like San Jose to successfully create preferences that aren’t struck down by courts for violating Proposition 209, the measure outlawing such preferences that state voters approved in 1996.

But councilmembers said aggressive action is needed to make San Diego a more equitable city, despite the potential legal risks.

Their move is being fueled by a disparity study released last summer that showed businesses owned by women and minorities — particularly Black people and Native Americans — don’t get their fair share of city contracts.

Businesses owned by White women and people of color received only 19 percent of $2.2 billion in city contracts awarded during a five-year period analyzed in the study, compared to the 31 percent the study says they should have landed.

“I don’t think you can look at the data, see the disparities and not think there was intent there — unless you think there was something wrong with the folks who were left behind,” Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said.

Establishing intent will be key to San Diego’s efforts, because Elliott has said preferences can only be legal under Proposition 209 if there is a compelling government interest to them, such as reversing clear evidence of intentional discrimination.

City staff and the authors of the disparity study say there is no evidence that San Diego’s inequitable awarding of contracts is the result of intentional discrimination, but council members disagree.

Councilmember Raul Campillo said many courts have ruled that substantial disparities are evidence of discrimination.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How can the data be so skewed?’” he said.

Campillo said the spirit of Proposition 209 is an equal playing field for contracts, but the city’s track record shows the playing field has been unequal.

“A reasonable inference, and in my mind the only reasonable inference, is that Proposition 209 is being violated as we speak,” he said, contending the city is obligated to change a process that has hurt women and people of color. “I think we all know we need to take this further.”

Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, who has spearheaded the effort to establish preferences in partnership with Campillo, said San Diego must take the legal risk.

“The evidence is here,” she said. “I believe we owe it to the people to fight for what I believe is right.”

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

California Governor Gavin Newsom Signs New Budget Creating Nation’s First Tax Credit For Union Dues

In the most populous state in the U.S., California, leading politicians often talk about equity, equality, and their efforts to achieve both. Yet a tax break included in the new California state budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on June 27 will exacerbate existing inequality in state taxation, critics contend.

California is one of only a handful of states where union dues are tax deductible for state income tax purposes. As part of the new state budget recently signed by Newsom, California lawmakers have made that targeted tax break even more valuable.

The new budget passed by lawmakers in mid-June and signed by Governor Newsom two weeks later will take California’s existing tax deduction for union dues payments and turn it into a tax credit capped at 33% of dues paid. Changing the deduction to a credit makes the union tax break more generous and benefits those who don’t itemize or have a tax liability.

“While union dues are currently tax deductible, union workers are more likely to not itemize their deductions and therefore do not get the same tax benefit for their dues that higher paid professions are more likely to get for their professional association dues,” notes the budget floor report. The creation of this new tax credit was praised by union leaders. In a statement released shortly after Governor Newsom signed the new budget, Amber Baur, executive director for The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council, thanked Newsom and state legislators for “allowing workers to level the playing field that tries to keep them at the bottom.”

This enhanced tax break for union members in the new California budget was dubbed the “Workers Tax Fairness Credit.” But critics claim fairness is an ironic word to use since the credit is not available to the vast majority of workers.

“In California, it’s ‘government of the unions, by the unions, for the unions,’” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The union dues tax credit in the new budget boosts a tax break most workers can’t utilize because only 15.9% of the state’s workforce is unionized, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The enactment of the nation’s first state tax credit for union dues payments comes a few months after Democrats in Congress attempted to enact an above-the-line federal tax deduction for union dues payments that would be available even to taxpayers who do not itemize. Critics of that proposal, which was included in the Build Back Better spending package passed by the House of Representatives in 2021, point out it was targeted to benefit a small minority of workers who disproportionately donate to Democratic campaigns, as is the case for California’s new union dues tax credit.

“In effect, they’ve forced the 90% of workers in America who aren’t in a union to subsidize the dues of those who are,” said Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas), House Ways and Means Committee ranking member, of the union dues deduction that congressional Democrats proposed but have thus far been unable to enact.

“By making union dues tax deductible, Democrats are essentially making it more financially viable for people to contribute to organizations that help elect Democrats,” wrote Dominic Pino, a National Review Institute fellow, about the federal union dues deduction. The same argument could apply to the union dues tax credit in the new California budget. Pino and others who make this assertion can point to political spending data from Open Secrets, which shows 90% of union donations to federal campaigns during the 2020 election cycle were directed to Democrats.

Click here to read the full article in Forbes.com

Scofflaw School Districts Resisted Sharing Pay Details With State Controller

They are some of the largest and most prestigious public school districts in the county — and, indeed, in the entire state of California.

But just try to figure out how much their workers actually make.

Six of Orange County’s K-12 districts (there are 28) have not sent detailed pay data to the state controller’s office for its easy-access, apples-to-apples publicpay.ca.gov database, as they were asked to do back in … drum roll please … 2014.

The holdouts were the esteemed Irvine Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified, Orange Unified, La Habra City, Westminster and Lowell Joint school districts. Two more — Anaheim Elementary and Huntington Beach City — were also missing from the 2020 database.

We asked why.

Irvine Unified “continues to provide the public information about district salaries through the Orange County Department of Education, Transparent California and on IUSD’s website,” said spokeswoman Annie Brown.

Good luck trying to decipher anything meaningful out of the mind-numbing salary schedules listed on the official sites! And kudos to Transparent California — a private organization that arduously maintains a public pay database via a gazillion public records requests — but then, why not give the controller’s office what it asked for eight years ago, so all school districts could be easily compared side-by-side on an official, public site?

“In the interest of further transparency, (Irvine Unified) is also in the process of working on the technology to provide data to the State Controller’s voluntary system, which has specific reporting and formatting requirements that do not always align with individual school district systems,” Brown said.

Eight years, hopefully, has been enough to accomplish that. A bill is pending in the Legislature would make K-12 reporting to the controller’s centralized database mandatory.

Saddleback Valley’s Robert Craven, assistant superintendent of business services, said his district has been working to complete its data file for the controller and it should be uploaded by the time this story publishes (though it will take the controller’s office time to compile and publish the data for all the districts).

Huntington Beach City School District’s spokeswoman said it has provided data to the controller every year except last year, due to staff transitions in the administrative department. This year’s report has been successfully submitted.

Anaheim Elementary said that it has submitted data each year, but a glitch apparently kept it out of the controller’s most recent update. It’s working to fix that.

The other districts didn’t respond to requests for explanation, but, shortly after the controller asked for this data back in 2014, a teacher’s union rep told us that the request was insulting, intrusive and sends the message that teachers are overpaid.

“I don’t see anything to gain by people knowing if a teacher is on the top of the salary scale or a beginning teacher,” the union rep said. “If that person is a good teacher, what difference does it make? We don’t go to the dentist and say, ‘Can I see how much you make? Can I see your W2 before you open your mouth?’ “

We’ll note here that it’s administrators, not teachers, who seem to require the closest supervision.

Sobering factoid: O.C. districts have been far better at reporting pay data than have others across California. In O.C., only 28 % failed to submit the data last year. Statewide, it was an outrageous 74%.

Sunlight

The controller’s reporting allows us Public Citizen types to see how much each worker really, truly costs — by including not only the (often-modest) base pay public workers get, which you see in those nebulous salary schedules districts post — but everything else as well.

Overtime. Incentive pay. Deferred compensation. Vacation time cash-outs. How much each employee’s health and retirement benefits cost. Whether public agencies pick up the worker’s share of pension contributions as well as their own. And which pension formula applies to each and every worker.

Why is it important that Regular Citizens have easy access to uniform information?

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Money Wars: Special Interests Spend Big In California Primary

If you haven’t noticed, your mail carrier certainly has: Election season has arrived in California and with it, the regular flood of political ads from unions, corporations and other special interest groups hoping to influence your vote.

Though contributions made directly to political candidates are capped by state law, no such limits apply to “independent expenditure” committees — so long as those outside influences are, in fact, independent and don’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re trying to help. 

With early voting already underway and just two weeks to go before the June 7 primary, millions of dollars of help is now inundating California, showing up in races up and down the ballot. Perhaps you’ve driven past a curious bobble-headed billboard, had your mailbox stuffed with mailers sponsored by innocuous-sounding neighborhood groups or been puzzled by campaign ads that seem to be promoting the wrong candidate

That’s all the handwork of what California election watchers refer to simply as “I.E.”

Though independent political spending is still dwarfed in California by old-fashioned direct contributions to candidates, it can play an outsized role in competitive elections, said Ann Ravel, who has served as the top campaign finance watchdog for both the state of California and the federal government. As an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state Senate in one of 2020’s most fiercely competitive legislative races, she knows from first-hand experience. 

“When you see it in person, it’s a lot different than when you see it as a regulator,” said Ravel, whose South Bay race against fellow Democrat Dave Cortese became a $6.2 million proxy battle between organized labor groups, housing interests and tech companies including Uber and Lyft. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, now I have to go to all these meetings with all these people and suck up to them?’” 

Unlike relatively small individual contributions, six-figure spending by a single interest group in a close race can be difficult for a candidate to ignore, she said. “You have to be able to compete…I think that’s the problem.”

Another common feature of independent expenditure committees, said Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney, is that they most often play the role of bad cop, attacking candidates they want to knock off. 

“It provides a certain degree of cover to the candidate who benefits,” he said. “They can’t be accused of going negative.”

Even for seasoned politicos and election reporters, the rivers of cash can be complicated to track — and sometimes even convoluted to make sense of. For the fascinated, outraged or perplexed voter, consider this your user’s guide. 

Shades of blue

Accounting and financial oversight doesn’t always inflame political passions, but the race to become California’s next controller is shaping up to be among the most competitive statewide races. With five well-financed candidates — four of them Democrats — and no clear front-runner, it’s a remarkably open race. Just in terms of money raised by the campaigns, themselves, it’s the highest-dollar statewide race. 

The conventional wisdom is that Lanhee Chen, the lone Republican, will snag one of the two spots for the November ballot. That leaves the four Democrats fighting for the second spot.  

Enter JobsPAC, an IE committee sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce. 

“The race for a spot in the general election is a jump ball between the four major Democratic candidates — each start with limited name ID and no statewide bully pulpit for communications,” reads a strategic memo produced by the committee earlier this month. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

SEIU California Notches Election Win on CalPERS Board With $240,000 in Spending

A candidate backed by the Service Employees International Union has won election to the CalPERS board, marking the third victory by an SEIU-backed candidate in less than a year. Mullissa Willette, 39, a tax exemption investigator with the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office, won by a sizable margin with support from several branches of the powerful public employees’ union, according to unofficial CalPERS election results. Willette received 62% of the vote, defeating Richard Fuentes, a Bay Area Rapid Transit special projects manager, according to CalPERS results posted online last week. Current employees of local governments with CalPERS-administered benefits could vote in the election, and 12,990 of them did so.

An independent expenditure committee formed by SEIU California spent about $206,000 on mailings, polling and other support for Willette, according to state campaign finance records. Political action committees representing SEIU locals pitched in about $36,000 in direct contributions to her campaign, the records show.

Willette did not respond to voicemails left last week and this week. Fuentes had union support from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and from political action committees representing police officer unions, the records show. Willette’s seat on the 13-member board represents public agencies around the state that contract with CalPERS for retirement benefits. There are 1,562 of them, according to CalPERS’ website. That total doesn’t include schools, which have their own representative on the board. She will serve out the remainder of the term of her predecessor — police officer Jason Perez, who left the board last June – plus a full four-year term. Perez’s term expires in January 2023. Willette’s win follows SEIU victories in two other CalPERS elections last fall on which the union spent about $500,000. David Miller, an environmental scientist and former union president, won re-election; and Jose Luis Pacheco, a community college IT administrator, defeated incumbent Margaret Brown, a retired school administrator.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

California Has New Benefits For Undocumented Immigrants. They’re Not enough, Workers Say

Paula Cortez Medrano has worked in the agriculture industry since she arrived in the U.S. over 25 years ago.

She’s labored in the heat of Fresno summers, picking onions, tomatoes, grapes, and garlic, as well as in the freezing temperatures of local produce packing houses, where she’d wear two layers of pants to stay warm while assembling frozen fruits and vegetables to be sold in grocery stores across the country.

She contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic and was sent home from work with only two weeks of paid sick leave. It took her 40 days to recover, but when she returned to her packing house job, she was turned away.

“They told me that they had no more work for me, that it was really slow,” she said in Spanish in an interview with The Bee.

The 66-year-old said she thinks she was turned away because of her age; they never called her back to work. Today, she sells tamales as a street vendor in central Fresno, earning an average of $80 a day, much less than the $15 per hour she earned in the packing house.

Because of workers like Cortez Medrano, California Democratic lawmakers want to extend unemployment benefits to undocumented workers, a proposal backed by a new report by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center which makes the case for why the California economy, workforce, and families would benefit.

Introduced last month by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, and currently under review in the legislature, AB 2847 would create the Excluded Workers Pilot Program, a two-year program that would provide funds to undocumented workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced during the calendar year 2023. The proposal, estimated at $597 million, plus administrative costs, would allow qualifying, unemployed individuals to receive up to $300 a week for 20 weeks.

The report, released Thursday, argues that undocumented workers play a key role in California’s economy, contributing an estimated $3.7 billion in annual state and local tax revenues. Additionally, these workers hold one in 16 jobs in the state, many of whom were deemed “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the risks they took working in the agriculture fields, meatpacking houses, and other key industries.

An estimated 2 million undocumented individuals live in California with about 1.1 million of that population participating in the workforce.

Of the 1.6 million workers in the central San Joaquin Valley, an estimated 7% are undocumented, the report states.

Nearly 38% of noncitizen workers, and more than 61% of children living with noncitizen workers, live in households earning less than a living wage and face chronic and severe housing and food insecurity, the report states. “Unfortunately, such workers face high rates of extreme hardship and do not have access to unemployment benefits.”

The report concludes that the challenges facing undocumented workers are only likely to increase as a result of a number of environmental challenges like wildfires, earthquakes, extreme heat, and drought, piled on top of the ongoing public health crisis the state is already grappling with.

Cortez Medrano said access to unemployment benefits from a pilot program would be “la gloria,” or glory, and that she would use such funds to pay rent, bills, and buy food during her time without stable work.

“I need the help – urgently,” she said in Spanish. “It’s high time.”

Beyond access to unemployment Cortez, Medrano said what she really wants is a work permit to make her job search easier. “I can still work,” she said.

HIGH RISK, FEW SAFEGUARDS FOR UNDOCUMENTED WORKFORCE

UC Merced researchers found a relationship between in-person work, unemployment benefits usage, and the undocumented workforce.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Unions Prepare to Fight as California State Departments Order Employees Back to Office

California state departments are getting serious about forcing employees who have been working remotely for two years to return to their offices.

The Public Employees’ Retirement System ordered most employees back for three days a week this month. The Department of Industrial Relations and some Caltrans divisions plan to bring employees back for two to three days per week in April. The State Water Project is saying May.

The orders come after coronavirus infection surges repeatedly delayed earlier return-to-office plans. Some employees are resisting going back to the office, saying they have performed at least as efficiently working from home and should be able to continue to do so.

“I like that I can focus,” said Ray Cervantez, 74, a Department of Industrial Relations deputy labor commissioner who works in Los Angeles. “I don’t have distractions from loud conversations in the next cubicle. I’m just able to focus in private better.”

Several unions representing telework-eligible state employees are fighting rigid in-office requirements, calling them arbitrary and unnecessary. They want more flexibility, including full-time telework when it makes sense.

“Telework has worked over the last two years,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of the Professional Engineers in California Government. “Setting mandatory days in the office without demonstrating any need or operational need, that sort of thinking has gone the way of the dodo bird. It’s not necessary to deliver for California taxpayers.”

Department representatives have said it’s important for employees to come into the office to monitor their work, resume tasks that were put on hold, preserve office cultures, build relationships and collaborate.

“Ultimately, our compensation is paid from a trust fund and we need to ensure full-time work is assigned and performed,” CalPERS spokesman Joe DeAnda said in an email. “That’s our fiduciary obligation.”

UNIONS FIGHT FOR TELEWORK

Union leaders are pointing to pandemic directives from Gov. Gavin Newsom to help make their case. Newsom said early in the pandemic that the state would offer permanent telework options for employees, citing savings on leased building space and reductions to traffic and air pollution.

Most state employee unions have negotiated agreements that provide monthly stipends of $50 for employees designated as remote-centered and $25 for those designated office-centered. The debate now is over how much time employees who prefer remote work must spend in offices.

A state policy template published in October said all eligible state employees were “authorized to participate to the fullest extent possible” in telework, so long as their performance wasn’t diminished.

Union representatives say that means full-time telework for employees whose jobs can accommodate it.

“To say someone should be in an office for two or three days a week contravenes the policy,” said Toppin, whose union represents about 14,000 employees.

Toppin said the state’s engineers can do the vast majority of their work remotely on computers — including designing bridges, roads and water facilities and making sure schools and hospital building plans comply with seismic safety standards.

But several offices that employ his members, including Caltrans divisions, the Air Resources Board and the State Water Project, are telling employees they must soon start spending one or more days per week in their offices, according to emails.

Toppin said the union plans to request formal meetings, known as meet-and-confers, with “every department that has a permanent telework policy that is inconsistent with the statewide policy.”

Tim O’Connor, the president of the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment — known as CASE — said state attorneys are “uniquely situated” to be able to perform their work remotely, particularly since courts incorporated remote hearings during the pandemic.

The union represents about 4,600 employees across 105 different state agencies, departments, boards and offices. O’Connor said around a half-dozen offices seem to have embraced full-time telework, while a few are insisting attorneys in at least some divisions spend two or three days per week in offices, including Caltrans and the State Teachers’ Retirement System.

“A two-day schedule would appear to be arbitrary given that we’ve successfully worked remotely for the last two years and fulfilled every requirement that we need to as attorneys,” he said.

O’Connor said the union has filed grievances when formal and informal discussions over telework have failed, and will continue to fight in-office requirements the organization views as arbitrary.

He said he expects telework policies to be a big factor in employees’ decisions to stay in their departments or to move.

“It’ll increase attrition in those agencies that have the more antiquated, obsolete policies, and it’ll help those agencies that are out on the cutting edge,” he said.

The biggest union representing telework-eligible state employees is SEIU Local 1000. The union represents 100,000 employees, including a unit of about 56,000 employees in administrative, fiscal and administrative roles.

The union under president Richard Louis Brown was advocating for the state to increase monthly telework stipends to $100, from the state’s proposal of $50.

The union’s represented employees are not receiving telework stipends now. Brown recently was suspended and is engaged in an internal power struggle to try to regain his leadership powers.

Click here to read the full article at the SAC Bee

California Grocery Workers Vote On Strike Authorization

Thousands of southern and central California grocery workers started voting Monday on whether to authorize their union to call a strike against several major supermarket chains.

About 47,000 workers at hundreds of Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores are eligible to vote this week. Results are expected to be released on March 27.

The possible strike would involve grocery clerks, meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians represented by seven locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Negotiations with Ralphs, owned by Kroger, and Albertsons, owner of Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores, ended without agreement before the latest three-year contracts expired March 6.

The union said the next day that the companies’ wage proposal amounted to a 60-cent increase that was “shockingly low” and well below workers’ cost-of-living needs. Employees were asking for a $5-an-hour raise, among other proposals.

“Both companies have refused to agree to expand safety committees in the stores, and have yet to negotiate meaningful health and welfare benefits,” a United Food and Commercial Workers statement said.

The union said that during the final day of negotiations it emphasized the essential role grocery workers played during the coronavirus pandemic.

The union said bargaining committee member Erlene Molina, a Ralphs employee, told company negotiators: “We saw how people were acting like the world was ending, but we could not stay home. We knew that we had an obligation to our community, so we showed up every day.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that a Ralphs statement said the vote creates “unnecessary concern for our associates and communities, at a time when we should be coming together in good faith bargaining to find solutions and compromise. At Ralphs, we remain focused on settling a deal with the UFCW.”

Albertsons Companies said in a statement that the goal of the negotiation is “to provide our employees with a competitive total compensation package of wages, health, welfare and pension benefits.”

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Newsom, Unions Eye $50k Bonuses For Juvenile Prison Workers

As the state prepares to close its youth prisons, workers for the Division of Juvenile Justice could receive up to $50,000 bonuses to stay on the job until then, CalMatters has learned.

If approved, the bonus appears to be among the largest offered by the state to retain a group of employees. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and at least six unions are negotiating the pay bumps, hoping the large incentives will keep the youth facilities staffed until their June 30, 2023, closures. 

Since Newsom announced closure plans, employees have started leaving the division for new jobs, fueling a worker shortage. 

Under a draft plan obtained by CalMatters, direct care employees — youth prison guards, plumbers, teachers and chaplains  —  are among the hundreds of Division of Juvenile Justice employees who’d receive up to $50,000 in additional pay. Non-direct care employees, who mostly work for headquarters in Sacramento — deputy directors, executive assistants and nursing consultants, for instance — could receive up to $25,000. 

Past retention bonuses for state prison workers have typically hovered between $2,400 and $5,000, according to documents on the California Department of Human Resources’ website.

“Negotiations are still active on this topic, we do not comment on active labor negotiations,” wrote CalHR spokesperson Camille Travis in an email response to CalMatters. “Once the negotiations are completed, the agreements will be posted to the CalHR website.”

According to the State Controller’s Office, 775 people worked at youth facilities as of Jan. 31, 2022. If all of them qualify for the full lump sum, it could cost California more than $38 million. By law, if the agreement is more than $1 million in net costs, the Legislature would have to approve it. 

All of the unions representing youth corrections employees in the bonus negotiations donated to stop Newsom from being recalled in last year’s election. The largest contributor was the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which gave $1.75 million, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

The governor’s office did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment, with a spokesperson citing ongoing negotiations.

This is the second time in two years the state has proposed bonuses for juvenile justice employees. Last year, the state offered a limited group of employees $5,000 annually, which totaled $12,500 if employees stuck around. The new proposal would sweeten the deal, extending the bonuses to more Division of Juvenile Justice workers and quadrupling the maximum amount. 

The taxable bonuses would be prorated, according to the draft agreement. 

The Division of Juvenile Justice employees would be eligible for all or part of the proposed bonuses, said agency spokesperson Mike Sicilia in an email to CalMatters. 

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters