That relief felt by building owners and service contractors after the recent defeat of a state proposal that would have made it more difficult to fire workers? It may be only temporary. The measure is expected to come back next year.
The bill, AB 350, by Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, was backed by service worker unions and would have required building service contractors – such as security guards and landscape gardeners – to keep existing workers for 60 days after any switch of contractors.
So, for example, a food service company that won a contract to serve a building would be required to employ the same cafeteria workers from the dismissed company for 60 days. The proposal was modeled on similar laws that have been enacted in Los Angeles to protect grocery and hotel workers.
The bill fell four votes short of the majority support it needed to clear the state Senate on Sept. 9.
Service worker unions argued the bill was needed to reduce low-bid competition among building contractors that was driving down wages. But building owners and business groups said the bill was an unwarranted intrusion into the workplace and would make it much more difficult for building owners to switch contractors when complaints arose.
“This has to do with the basic right of employers to hire and fire workers based on business needs,” said Michele Dennis, chief executive of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles. “Our members are relieved that it failed this time, but we know that we likely haven’t seen the last of this bill.”
SEIU United Service Workers West, AB 350’s main sponsor, had backed similar legislation twice in prior years. In a statement after the bill’s defeat, union President Mike Garcia stopped short of saying the bill would return, noting only that the union will “continue our fight for dignity and stability in the workplace.”
Garcia placed the blame for the bill’s defeat on opposition lobbyists.
“The corporate lobbyists walking the halls of the Capitol scoffed at the very idea of being held to a standard of decent treatment of workers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Senate chose to side with corporate power over working families.”
But building service contractors, the main targets of the bill, said the provisions mandating they retain workers from previous contracts for 60 days would deter them from seeking new building contracts. That, in turn, would prevent them from hiring additional workers.
“This bill didn’t do anything to create jobs,” said Steve Jones, chief executive of Santa Ana-based Universal Protection Service, the largest building services contractor in Los Angeles County. “It was a bad business bill for California and we’re extremely happy that the Senate decided not to pass it.”
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