Tag Archive for Assemblyman Sandré Swanson

Hijacking of Legislative Reform Bill: “I Haven’t Seen Anything Like This Since West Wing”

On Wednesday, April 18, the California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee used rude, underhanded tactics to thwart a proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to require the California State Legislature to abide by the same wage and hour laws that it imposes on private employers in the state.

These wage and hour laws include standard overtime after eight hours in a day, meal and rest periods, vacation and sick pay, and other terms and conditions of work regulated through the state’s 17 Industrial Wage Orders. Business groups in California such as the California Chamber of Commerce often note that California hurts its competitiveness by setting a standard eight-hour day before overtime for private employees, while 47 other states and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act set a standard 40-hour week before overtime. (Nevada and Alaska set eight-hour days before overtime for private employees in certain circumstances.) See a chart compiled by law firms of state overtime laws here or here.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since West Wing,” said someone who was sitting in the audience when the committee proposed and approved on a party-line 5-2 vote a hostile amendment to Assembly Bill 1948 without the approval of Assemblywoman Grove. That amendment reflected suggestions in the official bill analysis written by Democrat committee staff to require the state’s private employers to provide paid sick leave and paid bereavement days and allow legislative employees to organize into unions by signing union authorization cards (card check). Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga/Redlands) declared that the amendment broke Assembly parliamentary rules, but Chairman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) rebuffed his contention.

Committee Democrats never addressed the rationale behind the legislative exemption itself from the state’s wage and hour laws. As the only person who dared to speak as a witness in support of Assembly Bill 1948, I asked that question and then suggested an answer: the legislature enjoys having the flexibility to establish its own working relationships with employees.

The Sacramento Bee reported on the action:

Shannon Grove Says Dems Hijacked Her “Good Government” Bill – Sacramento Bee – posted April 19, 2012

See the video of the hearing here (go to 03:42:30 of the video):

California State Assembly Labor & Employment Committee April 18, 2012 05h 01m     Video

The Democrat majority’s handling of Assembly Bill 1948 is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the entrenched majority at the Capitol. Is this any way to run an airline?

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.