End-of-session roundup of California public-sector union legislation
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed three bills related to public-sector union policy and vetoed another three.
About the bills
Newsom had until Sept. 30 to sign or veto bills the legislature passed before the end of its session on Aug. 31, with any unreturned bills becoming law without his signature. According to his office, Newsom signed 997 bills into law in the 2022 legislative session and vetoed 169 bills.
California requires a two-thirds vote from both chambers of the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto. Democrats currently have veto-proof majorities in both chambers. The legislature has 60 days to consider a veto.
Here’s a roundup of bills related to public-sector union policy that Newsom signed or vetoed in September. Democrats introduced all six bills. To view a spreadsheet with all the public-sector union bills we’re tracking across the country, click here.
- AB 158: This budget-related bill includes a proposed tax credit for union dues. (To read more about the proposed tax credit, see the July 8 edition of Union Station.) According to The Sacramento Bee’s Wes Venteicher, AB 158 “doesn’t specify the size of the credits for most dues-payers” but “sets out lawmakers’ intent to provide $400 million worth of the credits starting in 2024.” Venteicher writes, “While not included in the language of the bill, backers have talked about capping credits at about a third of dues. The Legislature would still have to appropriate the $400 million — and could reduce or increase the amount — in future budgets.” Newsom signed AB 158 on Sept. 29.
- AB 2556: This bill changes the time for a public agency to implement its final offer after mediation from 10 to 15 days after the factfinding panel has submitted its recommendation. It also authorizes a union to charge certain employees under the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act for the cost of requested representation if they have declined union membership. Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 18.
- SB 931: This bill allows a union to bring a claim before the Public Employment Relations Board against a public employer that the union alleges to be in violation of California Government Code Section 3550 and sets civil penalties for violations. Section 3550 prohibits public employers from discouraging union membership. Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 29. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Connie Leyva (D), said, “Though it is wrong—and even already illegal—for public sector employers to purposely discourage union activity, these tactics still continue as employers try to prevent their workers from unionizing and asserting their rights. SB 931 will create a financial penalty and disincentive that will hopefully finally deter public sector employers from breaking the law by deliberately discouraging union activity among their workers.”
- AB 1714 and SB 1406: These bills would have allowed unions representing excluded state employees to request arbitration with the Department of Human Resources in certain circumstances. Newsom vetoed both bills on Sept. 18, writing, “Current law allows managers and supervisors to pursue resolution of disagreements through a four-step grievance process and pursue a claim with the State Personnel Board. AB 1714 would add a costly step to this process. Additionally, AB 1714 would permit excluded employees to arbitrate the Department of Human Resources’ (CalHR) authorizing statutes, regulations, policies, and/or practices before non-governmental entities. This could lead to conflicts with the statutory authority delegated to CalHR and the Legislature ‘s authority. These are the same concerns I had with previous, nearly-identical bills, SB 179 (2019), and SB 76 (2021) which I also vetoed.” SB 1406 went back to the Senate for consideration of the governor’s veto.
- SB 1313: This bill would have prohibited Los Angeles County from discriminating against union members by limiting employee health benefits. Newsom vetoed this bill on Sept. 28, writing, “The State of California stands firmly against employee discrimination in all forms. This bill, however, suggests the final outcome of good faith bargaining between parties is inherently unfair because unrepresented workers may have access to better benefits. If enacted, it would upend existing collectively bargained contracts by effectively codifying the setting of local employee benefits which is best addressed through the collective bargaining process. Additionally, if determined to be a state mandate, this bill would result in additional costs to the state in the hundreds of millions of dollars not accounted for in the budget. … Bills with significant fiscal impact, such as this measure, should be considered and accounted for as part of the annual budget process.” SB 1313 went back to the Senate for consideration of the governor’s veto.
Another bill we tracked this year passed the Assembly and Senate but didn’t make it to Newsom’s desk. AB 1577 would have allowed state legislative employees to organize and bargain collectively. Both chambers passed versions of the bill, but failed to agree on Senate amendments. The bill died in the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee at the end of August. According to the Los Angeles Times’ Taryn Luna, this was the “fourth time in five years [that] the California Legislature rejected a bill to allow its staff to unionize.”
California has had a Democratic trifecta–with a Democratic governor and Democrats holding majorities in both chambers of the Legislature–since 2011. Fourteen states currently have Democratic trifectas.
What we’re reading
- Wisconsin Watch, “Wisconsin workers show renewed energy after decade of anti-union laws,” Oct. 6, 2022
- AFGE, “AFGE Charges National Park Service with Violating Federal Labor Law,” Oct. 5, 2022
- Government Executive, “Supreme Court Takes Up Case Challenging FLRA’s Long-Settled Jurisdiction Over National Guard Civilians,” Oct. 4, 2022
- Missouri Independent, “Missouri Supreme Court upholds law stripping state workers of merit system protections,” Oct. 4, 2022
- The Daily Progress, “Charlottesville raises bus driver pay, enables collective bargaining,” Oct. 4, 2022
- Michigan Capitol Confidential, “School districts could become dues collectors for employee unions under current legislation,” Oct. 3, 2022
- Vox, “Two states, two visions for the future of labor,” Sept. 29, 2022
The big picture
Number of relevant bills by state
We are currently tracking 150 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)
Recent legislative actions
Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.
- California AB158: This trailer bill would provide for appropriations related to the budget, which included a proposed tax credit for union dues.
- Assembly Budget Committee introduced.
- Governor signed Sept. 29, secretary of state assigned a chapter number (Chapter 737, Statutes of 2022).
- California SB931: This bill would allow a union to bring a claim before the Public Employment Relations Board against a public employer that the union alleges to be in violation of California Government Code Section 3550 and would set civil penalties for violations. Section 3550 prohibits public employers from discouraging union membership.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Governor signed Sept. 29, secretary of state assigned a chapter number (Chapter 823, Statutes of 2022).
- California SB1313: This bill would prohibit Los Angeles County from discriminating against union members by limiting employee health benefits.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Governor vetoed Sept. 28. Consideration of governor’s veto pending in the Senate.
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