Los Angeles Business Journal

Property Service Workers Deserve Job Security

OPED: Lawmakers can promote the economy by passing AB 350. By MIKE GARCIA Monday, September 12, 2011

AB 350 is hardly the radical measure that chambers of commerce and the Building Owners and Managers Association would like us to believe. Worker retention laws like AB 350 are a tested and proven strategy for stabilizing employment in low-bid industries. Worker retention laws are common across California’s major cities and airports. Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco all have local laws protecting service workers from the kind of instability that comes from low-bid service contracting.

Although various chambers and BOMA want you to believe AB 350 would do everything from destroying California’s reputation to imperiling free enterprise, they cannot point to any decline in quality or increase in costs in the last 10 years attributable to the janitor worker retention law in California. It is hard to imagine how a bill that protects low-wage workers’ jobs can be called a “job killer.”

Despite recent editorials’ claims of forced union recognition, the California Supreme Court just ruled in July that worker retention laws like AB 350 do not interfere with the National Labor Relations Act. In its recent decision, the court stated, “retention ordinance does not … disturb the process established by the NLRA for resolving labor disputes and is permissible.”

Dennis, who is president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles, claimed in her op-ed that AB 350 “could cause lawsuits against an employer if the workers that company ‘inherits’ from the former firm have criminal records, abuse drugs or alcohol on the job,” yet cannot point to one example after 10 years of identical retention provisions for janitors. In any case, the bill makes it clear that it does not require employers to hire or retain workers with convictions for violent crime.

What AB 350 does do is provide a transition that protects hard-working people and their families. AB 350 gives workers 60 days to prove themselves to their new employer or seek a new job. It doesn’t guarantee a job; their new employer has the final say on that. AB 350 is a modest but important step toward an economy that works for working families, and legislators should embrace it.

Mike Garcia is president of the SEIU United Service Workers West labor union.

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