Tag Archive for Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education

How Does the California State Legislature Justify Exempting Itself from the Laws It Imposes on Private Businesses? It Uses Logical Fallacies.

I’ve always enjoyed the thorough but concise bill analyses written by Ben Ebbink, consultant for the Democrat majority on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, although he and I would probably disagree on almost every issue concerning labor and employment policies. (For example, he is a member of the Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education, while I would be on the opposing commission, if it existed.)

His analyses are generally fair and accurate and would be good sources for anyone writing a report on California labor laws.

Mr. Ebbink wrote a wide-ranging analysis of numerous provisions in the California Labor Code for Assembly Bill 2052, the Labor Law Reform Act of 2004, a bill introduced by former Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Temecula) that I prepared for sponsorship by my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors of California. He also wrote an excellent analysis of various provisions concerning prevailing wage determinations and public works definitions for Assembly Bill 987 and Assembly Bill 988, two companion bills introduced in 2011 by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) that I also prepared for sponsorship by Associated Builders and Contractors of California.

These were two ambitious bills that took a comprehensive view of the state’s labor laws and amended or repealed numerous provisions that were ambiguous, costly, and unfair. All of these bills were defeated on party-line votes, of course: Democrats opposed, Republicans in support.

Now, Mr. Ebbink recently was dealt with a difficult task: analyzing Assembly Bill 1948, a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) that extends the state’s wage and hour laws that now apply to private employers to the California State Legislature as an employer. The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18, 2012) at 1:30 p.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol to consider this bill and numerous other bills.

California’s extensive wage and hour laws produce a lot of confusion and a lot of litigation. While I acknowledge there are employers who willfully take advantage of their California employees and fail to follow the state’s laws concerning overtime, meal and rest periods, vacations and holidays, sick pay, working conditions, and all the other provisions of the state’s 17 regulatory Industrial Wage Orders, employers can easily misinterpret these laws, and unions and trial lawyers can easily exploit them for ulterior motives. One California law firm that represents unions even produces a guidebook called Using the California Labor Laws Offensively: Organizing Through Enforcement of State Employment Laws.

For 15 years, I’ve heard legislators and lobbyists declare that the California State Legislature is exempt from these same wage and hour laws that sometimes cause such misery for employers. Pointing this out always elicits groans and grumbles from business owners. People assume – probably correctly – that the legislature does not apply those laws to itself because those laws can interfere with a smooth and flexible relationship between reputable employers and employees.

My own letter in support of Assembly Bill 1948 (the only submission made about the bill) takes that assumption and mocks the unabashed hypocrisy of the legislature and the pitfalls that can result from the state’s wage and hour laws:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1948

Assuming there is no documented legislative history explaining the rationale behind exempting the California State Legislature from wage and hour laws, what would an analysis of Assembly Bill 1948 contain?

The tone of the official committee analysis of Assembly Bill 1948 seems to assume that Assemblywoman Grove is using this bill as a weapon to trap the legislature in a Catch-22: either the legislature believes in the wage and hour laws it imposes on private businesses and therefore places itself under those same laws, or else it continues the legislative exemption and confirms that it is not desirable for an employer to be covered by these laws.

Circumventing this dilemma, Ebbink instead uses a rhetorical counter thrust, pointing out that to be consistent, Assemblywoman Grove needs to amend the bill to apply certain employment policies of the legislature to private employers, including paid sick leave and paid bereavement leave. He also states that Assemblywoman Grove should amend the bill to impose card check union recognition policies on private employers (similar to the proposed Employee Free Choice Act from the 111th Congress on the federal level) that already apply to some state and local government employees. These issues have been hotly contested at the state legislature in recent years.

But this rhetorical argument includes three logical fallacies that are closely-related:

1. First, the analysis presumes that because Assemblywoman Grove isn’t seeking complete consistency between the employment laws of the legislature and the employment laws of private businesses, she is wrong to seek partial consistency. I believe this could be classified as a variation on the tu quoque argument, where an argument is deemed to be wrong because the proponent doesn’t act consistently with that position. The argument can be rebutted by pointing out that the bill is strictly and deliberately limited to applying wage and hour laws imposed on the private sector to the California State Legislature, and not about creating exact and complete consistency between all laws of the legislature and laws imposed on private employer-employee relations.

2. The second logical fallacy is what I believe could be classified as a red herring argument: the claim that Assemblywoman Grove is failing to make private businesses operate by the same rules adopted for the legislature or for certain state and local government employees. The argument can be rebutted by pointing out that the bill is about applying wage and hour laws imposed on the private sector to the California State Legislature, and not about applying new laws to private businesses.

3. Third, when the analysis insinuates that the legislature can’t make itself follow laws it applies to private businesses because the legislature has adopted policies that aren’t imposed on private employers, it sets up a non sequitur. How did the discussion about Assembly Bill 1948 suddenly turn to whether or not private employers should automatically be unionized if a certain percentage of employees sign union authorization cards? The two issues may be related on a general level, but rejecting Assembly Bill 1948 is not a conclusion that rightfully follows from the observation that private businesses aren’t subject to a state-imposed Employee Free Choice Act.

The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18, 2012) at 1:30 p.m. in Room 447 of the State Capitol to discuss Assembly Bill 1948.

Soon, a Whole Month to Subject California Students to Union Propaganda in the Classroom

It’s not enough in California that every day is Earth Day. Now a state legislator has introduced a bill that expands the official time period from a week to a month for unions to introduce their own propaganda to students through California public school classrooms.

Introduced on February 24, 2012 and amended on March 20, 2012 by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland), Assembly Bill 2269 replaces the current designation of the first week of April as “Labor History Week” with the entire month of May as “Labor History Month” in California schools. This bill will enshrine in state law a 31-day special period for school districts to gather around the May pole for ”appropriate educational exercises that make pupils aware of the role that the labor movement has played in shaping California and the United States.”

When the Assembly Education Committee approved AB 2269 on April 11, 2012 with a 6-2 vote (three committee members did not vote), no entity or individual had submitted opposition to the bill. Now there is a lonely opponent: Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and the Dayton Public Policy Institute, representing its own interest in the matter. Here is my five-page letter providing a comprehensive argument against the bill and the concept of official state-designated Labor History commemorations in California public schools:

Dayton Letter Opposed to Assembly Bill 2269 – Labor History Month

I’m not surprised this bill isn’t getting much attention outside of California’s union leadership (and perhaps the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education). Who would know about the plot behind such a proposal? Only a few articles over the past 17 years have critically examined the contemporary movement to impose labor history in the government school curriculum. One of those articles is my own, published in 2003 in the journal Government Union Review (Volume 21, Number 1):

Labor History in Public Schools: Unions Get ‘Em While They’re Young

News media coverage has been minimal, although the Sacramento Bee reported briefly on AB 2269 when it was introduced, and the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register even had a smaller snippet:

The Buzz: It’s Labor History Week, Er, Month – Sacramento Bee – March 23, 2012

Schools: Students Busy During Spring Break – Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register – April 1, 2012

Historical Background on the Union Campaign to Mandate Labor History in California Public School Classrooms

I learned in 2002 that the California Federation of Teachers’ Labor in the Schools Committee had a plan to implement a labor history program as part of the California History Social-Sciences curriculum, using teachers’ union locals and an anticipated recommendation from a future California History-Social Science advisory committee to “allow the more rapid dispersion of the curriculum throughout the state’s school districts.” I began warning legislators and interest groups to be on the lookout for related legislative and regulatory proposals.

Labor History Week was the first strike. It was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002 as Assembly Bill 1900.

As originally drafted, AB 1900 provided $150,000 from the state’s General Fund to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to distribute to school districts so they could buy labor history instructional materials. A huge state budget deficit at that time (some things in California never change!) helped lead to the demise of this provision. Anyone vaguely familiar with how the California State Legislature operates will guess correctly that union activists had already developed and published the labor history instructional materials.

That bill was the only success among several bills sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and other unions during the next few years to force labor history into California classrooms. In 2003, the California legislature considered but did not pass Assembly Bill 581, which would have required the California State Department of Education to consider a labor relations curriculum in its next determination of the state’s History-Social Science curriculum framework and accompanying instructional materials. The legislature also considered but not did pass Assembly Bill 1177, which would have required school boards to use history, social studies, and civics textbooks that include California labor history up to the present. In 2004, Assembly Bill 1872 was introduced to insert labor history requirements into the California Education Code. In 2005, Assembly Bill 1 would have required the California State Board of Education to ensure that the state curriculum and framework include instruction on the history of the labor movement in the United States and that criteria for selecting textbooks include highlighting the contributions and history of the labor movement in the United States.

In addition to the legislative process, California labor unions also tried to use the regulatory process to impose their labor history curriculum. In 2004, “Applicant #31″ for the California Department of Education’s 2005 History-Social Science Primary Adoption Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) was a leader in the California Federation of Teachers’ Labor in the Schools Committee. According to the applicant’s profile provided by the Department of Education, Applicant #31 “designed and led professional development workshops on labor education at schools throughout the district, state, and country. She is the creator of the Collective Bargaining Education Project, which models a labor relations curriculum for secondary teachers and students, and author of Workplace Issues and Collective Bargaining in the Classroom, an award-winning interactive social studies curriculum.”

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California sent a letter to the Board of Education opposing the applicant. ABC pointed out the applicant’s conflict-of-interest as a prominent advocate for advancing the political agenda of labor unions in the public schools through instructional materials, some of which were written by the applicant. State Senator Jeff Denham (now a member of Congress) and Assemblyman Bob Dutton (now a State Senator and candidate for Congress) also wrote opposition letters to the Board of Education.

As usual, I was unable to find individuals or organizations specializing in education issues that were following the curriculum development and would be inclined to actively oppose the nominee. The Board of Education appointed the nominee to the panel, even though Applicant #31 was the only applicant who clearly represented a special interest group.

In the end, the State Board of Education adopted the History-Social Science Instructional Materials at its November 9, 2005 meeting, without any obvious infiltration of biased labor history into the process. Budget shortfalls have since brought a halt to the state’s process of continually revising and refining the History-Social Science framework. The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) approved a draft History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools for field review on July 17, 2009, but lack of funding has suspended further work on the framework.

Meanwhile, it appears from his recent News Releases that California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson forgot to appease his union campaign contributors this year by issuing a press release celebrating Labor History Week. Perhaps he was too busy encouraging school districts to require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with trade unions – see Project Labor Agreement Debate is as Complex as it is Conflicted – www.PublicCEO.com – March 27, 2012. So someone else of importance in California’s state government will have to wish you a belated 2012 Labor History Week.