Small Business Owners Girding To Fight Workers' Comp Costs

POLITICS
by Howard Fine

Business owners don't often take up picket signs and chant protest slogans. But one L.A. area group that took this approach a decade ago to combat skyrocketing workers' compensation costs is at it again.

The Independent Business Coalition was founded by Tom Hagerman, a Santa Fe Springs businessman, and Temple City attorney Irwin Trester. During the last workers' comp crisis, their group of small business owners showed up at hearings with picket signs, demanding cost-saving changes to the system. They also targeted key legislators with hit pieces attacking their record on business issues.

But once the Legislature passed a reform bill and workers' comp costs began to go down, the group essentially disbanded.

Now, Hagerman and Trester are back.

"We've been busy running our businesses and really don't have time for this sort of stuff," Hagerman said. "But after the Legislature passed that workers' comp bill, we got so mad that we said to each other we've got to start doing something again."

The recent bill substantially raises workers' compensation costs.

Hagerman and Trester have called upon small business owners to "stop whining about your comp bills and get ready to take political action."

State Labor Reorganization

Meanwhile, up in Sacramento, Gov. Gray Davis has proposed a reorganization of the various state agencies that deal with labor and employment issues.

Davis plans to create a super-agency, called the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, to oversee the Department of Industrial Relations, the Employment Development Department, the new Workforce Investment Board and a farm worker commission. The director of the agency would be a member of the governor's Cabinet.

The move is regarded by labor and business interests as a long overdue step to reduce duplicative efforts and centralize responsibility for labor and employment issues. But there is some opposition, particularly from farm worker unions who are concerned that the plan would strip the Agricultural Labor Relations Board of some of its autonomy.

The proposal must be approved by the state's Little Hoover Commission, which is set to consider the matter later this month. It does not need legislative approval, although the Legislature can veto it.

Airport Switch?

As expected, the L.A. City Council District Redistricting Commission voted to create an extra council district in the San Fernando Valley by taking Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's Sixth District in Westchester/Venice and moving it to the Valley. Westchester and Venice would be merged into Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski's 11th District.

But the City Council still has a last-minute proposal to mull over: taking Los Angeles International Airport out of the Westside district and putting it into the eighth district, the South-Central L.A. territory now held by Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Why take LAX and lump it with South-Central? It's a complicated chain of reasoning, dominated by the influence of term limits.

Galanter's term ends on June 30, 2003, as does Ridley-Thomas' term. But Ridley-Thomas just won the Democratic primary for a state Assembly seat, meaning he's a virtual shoe-in for the general election. So he will likely leave his council seat in December. That would allow Galanter to move into Ridley-Thomas' seat instead of moving with her Sixth District to the San Fernando Valley. The advantage for Galanter, of course, is that she would still have LAX in her district; Galanter has long campaigned against expansion of that airport.

Meanwhile, a special election would be held for the Sixth District in the Valley.

Galanter's office had no comment.



Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at hfine@labusinessjournal.com.

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