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Business Groups Battle Bill on Schedule Changes

It’s shaping up as one of the biggest battles between business and labor in Sacramento this year: AB 357, brought by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would enact a “Retail Workers Bill of Rights” modeled on a law recently passed in San Francisco.

The bill would require major chain retailers to provide additional pay for making changes to employee work schedules with less than two weeks’ notice. The less advance warning retail operators give their workers for most schedule changes, the more additional pay they would have to fork out.

Chiu and labor supporters said the bill is necessary because last-minute schedule changes make it difficult for low-wage workers to plan child care or fit in a second job to make ends meet.

“Without fair and predictable work schedules, more and more Californians, particularly part-time and low-wage workers, are struggling to plan for basic life necessities,” Chiu said in a press release introducing his bill.

Individual retail and restaurant chain operations were unwilling to comment publicly on the bill. But one local restaurant chain executive speaking privately called the bill “an onerous proposal on many fronts.”

The bill is opposed by a coalition of roughly 50 business groups around the state, including the California Chamber of Commerce, California Retailers Association, California Restaurant Association, Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce and a group of chambers in the San Gabriel Valley. They contend the bill would hamper the ability of retailers to adjust to last-minute orders, reservation cancellations and other changing circumstances.

“AB 357 fails to consider the reality of business demands, fluctuation in customer attendance or even leaves of absence that employers must adhere to that create short-notice schedule changes for employers and employees,” the coalition said in a letter to lawmakers last month.

Chiu has amended the bill to only apply to retail and restaurant operations with more than 10 stores and 500 employees in the state. Franchise operators would be subject to the bill if their holdings exceeded this threshold. In addition, a spokesman for Chiu said the bill contains exceptions for when an employee calls in sick or requests a last-minute schedule change and the retail operator must find someone to take over that shift.

Workers’ Comp Rate Cut

An insurance industry advisory group last week recommended that insurers cut their workers’ compensation premiums 10 percent for policies renewing after July 1.

It’s the first time in at least four years that the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau has recommended lowering the premium rate; in recent years, the bureau has recommended double-digit increases. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones whittled down those requests to single-digit increases; Jones is expected to issue his final recommendation for this midyear adjustment in a few weeks.

In recommending the rate cut, the bureau cited legislative reforms enacted three years ago that are only beginning to reduce the costs of workers’ compensation insurance claims.

Under California law, workers’ compensation insurance premium rates are generally set by the market; the insurance bureau and commissioner can only make recommendations. But most insurers generally peg their rate changes accordingly.

Insurance broker Jim Scanlon, area president in Woodland Hills for brokerage Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. of Itasca, Ill., said that after five years of across-the-board premium rate increases for his clients, he’s finally starting to see premiums stabilize for those with few or no workplace injury claims. He hopes that with this recommendation, prices will start heading down.

“This move creates downward pressure on pricing and rates,” he said. “For those clients with good workplace experience ratings, the era of large rate increases is over, at least for now.”

Accelerator Contest

The U.S. Small Business Administration will open its second annual Accelerator Growth Fund competition for accelerators and incubators to compete for grants of $50,000 this week.

“Last year’s event was so successful, we’re launching a second competition to spur even greater opportunities for America’s small businesses,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “Accelerators provide valuable resources to potential startups.”

The competition is designed to support the development of accelerators and, in turn, their support of startups, in parts of the country where there are fewer conventional sources of access to capital.

That could mean the 60 or so accelerators and incubators in Los Angeles County face long odds, since in the last couple of years the region has become a focus for venture capital and private equity. (See the Venture Capitalists List on Page 27.) Indeed, of the 50 winners last year, only one was from California, and that accelerator was in La Jolla.

The application period will open Friday and run through June 1.

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

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Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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