Liberal hypocrisy about legislative influence

Original Article:

  • Author: Michael Saltsman

  • Publication Date: December 2015

  • Newspaper: OC Register

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

Liberals are quick to complain about the role that free-market groups play in influencing local legislatures. Liberal darling John Oliver, for instance, devoted a recent episode of his show HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” to demonizing the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

However, emails that my organization recently obtained under the California Public Records Act show that liberals are among the worst offenders when it comes to influencing local legislation.

These emails give a behind-the-scenes look at how San Francisco city supervisors, liberal activist groups and labor unions colluded to plot, write and pass last year’s municipal scheduling legislation known as the Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights. This first-of-its-kind legislation requires employers to compensate employees for scheduling changes made up to six days in advance of the shift or for “on-call” shifts when they’re not called in.

In short, it’s dream legislation for left-of-center activists unfamiliar with the realities of business, and a nightmare for employers who recognize that even a yard sale couldn’t be run like this, let alone major companies that must be able to quickly make scheduling changes to react to the demands of customers.

The emails trace the scheduling mandate from a meeting of labor union and union-funded activist groups in January 2014, through its passage that November. Along the way, they show how these groups worked with San Francisco legislators to draft the bill’s basic ideas, write significant parts of the legislation, plan political strategy to gain support and add self-interested carve outs to the bill just before passage.

The story begins with the brothers Mar. Eric Mar represents San Francisco’s First District, and Gordon Mar is executive director of the union-backed group Jobs with Justice San Francisco. The emails show that Gordon traded on his fraternal relationship with Eric, the lead sponsor of the bill, to facilitate the passage of unions’ desired legislation.

Jobs with Justice registered the campaign website that promoted the legislation in early May before the bill was even drafted. At the same time, emails show that Conny Ford, president of San Francisco’s local union federation, and Jobs with Justice staff helped the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office draw up the bill’s provisions. The National Employment Law Project, a New York- and D.C.-based group that has received $730,000 from labor unions the past five fiscal years, also stepped in to write sections of the law.

With the legislation gaining momentum, local labor groups wanted their cut. The Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West wanted the scheduling mandates extended to security and janitorial employees, who are often USWW members or targets for USWW organizing. Similarly, the labor union UNITE HERE argued for an exemption from the law for employees in workplaces it had organized, seemingly to give it a leg up on its nonunion competitors. Both provisions ultimately became part of the final legislation.

In the year since San Francisco enacted this law, similar legislation that would take the concept statewide has been proposed in Sacramento. And liberals now want to take this successful strategic model nationwide. Don’t expect John Oliver or any other liberals to raise a fuss about it.