Cities, counties, states and parishes from sea to shining sea, are in a great race to be considered among the most business-friendly places on Earth.
And then we have Los Angeles, where the City Council seems to be trotting in the opposite direction.
A recent example is the decision by some city councilmen to forge ahead with a plan that would, in effect, encourage building owners to allow their security guards to unionize.
Any proposal wouldn't actually force building owners to require unions, since that's not legal. But City Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jack Weiss are crafting an ordinance that would force building owners to provide certain levels of training and emergency-response capability. It also would force a minimum level of health benefits. And while it wouldn't force a minimum pay level, it would make building operators file reports with the city detailing the level of turnover of guards. Too much turnover could lead to fines. And the best way to avoid turnover, of course, is to boost pay.
All of this would make many building owners conclude that they may as well allow their security guards to unionize. At least, that way the building owners could score points with the pro-union City Council.
The putative rationale behind this move is to upgrade the training and professional standards of security guards, since we live in a post-9/11 world of heightened security concerns. But the councilmen haven't exactly rushed to blunt the perception that their planned ordinance would be a pro-union move.
This gathering effort by some city councilmen is part of a piece. It follows the pro-union ordinance a few months ago that would force any buyer of big groceries to retain workers for at least 90 days.
It's tempting to rationalize away these kinds of acts as well-intentioned. No one likes to see employees of groceries suddenly dismissed by a new owner. And everyone wants highly trained, professional security guards. So what's the harm, some might ask, if the city tries to encourage worker friendly workplaces?
There's no harm in that, per se. The harm is in the heavy-handed way the city is bullwhipping some employers to tow the pro-union line. For the city to create rules that force some employers to hire or retain certain employees is really no different than your homeowners association knocking on your door and handing you the new rules on which baby sitters you may hire and when you can and cannot dismiss your gardener. Either you have the right to hire a baby sitter on terms you both negotiate, or you don't. In this city, apparently, you don't.
All this, of course, could be dismissed as the usual political tussling except for this: Other locales are tempting our businesses to move. They offer lower taxes, lower costs of living and many offer to subsidize a business by giving it taxpayers' money to relocate. They tout the fact that they're "business friendly."
We, on the other hand, have high taxes, etc. And now we have a City Council that appears to be business unfriendly. It's not a great marketing slogan.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com .
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