Democratic lawmakers again kill work flex bill

In what has become an annual tradition in Sacramento, Democratic legislators have killed a bill to provide more flexibility in the hours that employees work.

Assembly Bill 907 would have allowed Californians to work more than eight hours in a day without overtime in exchange for additional time off,” said the bill’s author, Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, in a statement.

State law requires employers to pay employees 1½ times their normal rate when they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.

The bill’s opponents, including more than a dozen labor unions, are concerned it would result in employees being forced to work longer days at regular pay. They say that adequate scheduling flexibility is already provided under current law.

AB907 joins SB1335, SB187, AB2127, AB510, AB2217, SB1254, AB640 and AB244 on the slag heap of similar Republican bills that met their demise in Democrat-controlled committees in the last decade.

Despite that morbid legislative history, Conway and several business groups gave it another try before the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on Jan. 8. Conway recounted a tour that she took at the Kraft plant in her district.

‘I just want my four 10s’

“Some of the workers said, ‘I just want my four 10s back, Connie, I just want my four 10s. If I had that, I wouldn’t have to miss my son’s games. I’d go back to a schedule that I’m comfortable with,’” she said. “While nothing in life is perfect, I vowed to them that I would do what I could to try to help them with that goal.

“I think AB907 is also good for the environment. Less people commuting on a daily basis means fewer people on our roadways, which results in less traffic and less pollution. Members, we don’t live in a 9-to-5 world, we certainly know that. California workers need a work-life balance, and AB907 may help them achieve that goal.”

Jennifer Barrera, legislative director for the California Chamber of Commerce, said that California is one of only three states that require daily overtime pay, and California makes it much more cumbersome to waive the requirement than the other two states.

“California requires employers to navigate through a multi-step process to have employees elect an alternative workweek schedule that, once adopted, must be ‘regularly’ scheduled,” said the chamber in a statement. “This process is filled with potential traps for costly litigation, as one misstep may render the entire alternative workweek schedule invalid and leave the employer on the hook for claims of unpaid overtime wages.”

As a result, no more than 2 percent of California’s 1.3 million businesses have alternate workweek schedules, according to Division of Labor Standards Enforcement data.

The other flex-time option allows employees to take time off only if the time is made up in the same workweek, which doesn’t always fit with employees’ plans, said Barrera.

“So those existing procedures that we have here in California aren’t effective,” she told the committee. “We believe that Assembly Member Conway’s bill provides the necessary flexibility and protection for employees as well. Because it’s only at the request of the employee that the employer can adopt these flexible work weeks.”

Barrera pointed out that the bill prohibits employers from forcing employees to adopt alternate work schedules. Employees can sue if they feel that they have been coerced, intimidated or discriminated against for refusing to adopt a new schedule.

“So I believe there’s enough protection in here for those employees, and it provides the necessary flexibility that we need here in the work place to create jobs in California,” she said.

No coercion in evidence in 47 states with work flex

Chris Micheli, representing the California Grocers Association, argued that the employer coercion hasn’t occurred in the 47 other states with no daily overtime requirement.

“Where are the examples of the abuses, of the favoritism, of the intimidation, of the retaliation threats in those 47 other states?” he asked.

The construction industry needs to have flexible work schedules due to the vagaries of the weather and other factors, said Julianne Broyles, representing the Associated Builders and Contractors of California.

“We think that providing flexibility when you can is an important benefit to the worker in every way that you can provide it,” she said. “Having artificial barriers to individual schedules, I think hurts the workers of California, hurts commerce in California, makes businesses less likely to want to site here as a result.”

Caitlin Vega, legislative advocate for the California Labor Federation, explained why this issue is so important to labor:

“The eight-hour day is one of the most fundamental rights for workers in this state. And it’s a right that was established more than 100 years ago. For us the eight-hour day actually is about work-family balance. The whole belief in fighting for an eight-hour day is for the worker to be able to go home to their family after eight hours work.

“And if they’re not going to be allowed to do that, that they be paid premium time for the loss of that time with their family. That’s one of the reasons that it’s so important to us, and that we fight for it year after year after year.”

Employees would have to approve change

Vega said that alternate workweek schedules can be adopted through elections. Two-thirds of employees in a work unit must approve before adopting a new schedule.

“We think that process has been designed to give the employer tons of control over the way that they implement this process,” she said. “But also to balance. Fundamentally taking away the eight-hour day or taking workers off the eight-hour day is a pay cut. It is something that saves a lot of money for employers. Which creates such a huge financial incentive for there to be pressure on individuals to waive the eight-hour day. We see it already under existing law.

“The election process is designed to keep individuals from feeling pressured, feeling obligated, from being told that it’s what they have to do to keep the company going and all the various subtle forms that employers can use to influence the decisions of workers. So we believe that existing law was carefully structured to provide flexibility, but also to protect the rights of workers.”

Chairman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, was the only committee member to weigh in on the issue: “Having the privilege and opportunity to sit in this chair, I’ve had the chance to visit folks in manufacturing factories, small and large. And today I believe that there is a system that allows for workers and employers to strike a balance. There should be a workplace balance in terms of making sure that there is a safe working environment for workers.”

After the five Democrats voted down the bill (two Republicans voted in favor), Conway invited Hernandez to visit her district and vowed, “We’ll continue to study this issue and make sure we get it right.”

17 comments

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  1. eck
    eck 17 January, 2014, 19:41

    WTF? Employees get to define their compensation criteria?? Who the “F” is in charge here? What a total communist kind of takeover. “The workers(state of CA) run this business, “f”off!. Absolute insanity and in the “death wish” category.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 17 January, 2014, 21:23

    Such ……..shocked……where on where art the moderator?

    Reply this comment
  3. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 18 January, 2014, 11:02

    Just another Republican attempt to screw low wage workers out of their overtime pay.

    Reply this comment
  4. billybs
    billybs 18 January, 2014, 16:25

    Agree with Skipping Hog, and U ho, and others collecting govt Pensions, Disability. Work? Work? Are you kidding me? Work? What’s that?

    Reply this comment
  5. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 19 January, 2014, 14:58

    Except this story isn’t about government employment or pensions at all. It’s about non-government workers losing their retirement pay at the whim of their employer.

    Please try to keep up with the class, billy.

    Reply this comment
  6. billybs
    billybs 19 January, 2014, 16:10

    Sorry, Skipping Hog, another great example that Gov t should own all companies for fairness and undoubtedly efficiency. Workers paradise, ah bliss. How long have you collected Disability? Are you doing that free phone thing,too? Really “working” it, good job, Comrade.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 20 January, 2014, 14:30

      LOL…..BB pwning Skipping HOG! And Teddy and U HO…. so funny.

      Skippy is our basic GED cop with the brain power of a circus chimp.

      Right Skippy! Just let that “prepaid” legal service take care of ya lil buddy!

      Reply this comment
      • SkippingDog
        SkippingDog 21 January, 2014, 11:40

        My legal services worked fine, Rex. So did those used by Freedom Communications. You now owe something close to $200,000 in attorney fees and litigation costs due to your frivolous lawsuits.

        You’re never going to inherit or own anything because of your legal debts, so you should start figuring out where you’re going to live once your dear old mom passes from the scene and you get evicted from her basement.

        Reply this comment
      • The Ted Steele Conceptual Abstraction Unit
        The Ted Steele Conceptual Abstraction Unit 21 January, 2014, 13:34

        The poor Poodle— not the sharpest tool in the shed…….lol

        Reply this comment
  7. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 19 January, 2014, 20:52

    BillyBob

    Skippy, Saw, Teddy provide dignified fair and balanced levity to CWD……if they get food stamps, government cheese, Section 8 or wear a XXXXXL T-shirt are not reasons to berate and demean them……

    Lighten up Bro…….

    Reply this comment
  8. billybs
    billybs 20 January, 2014, 06:04

    Useless U ho, Comrade, Surely you jest, praise to Lenin, Debs, and their way to thriving times, equality, and fairness. Praise SNAP, free and assisted lunch, 2.7 pensions,Fireman Disabilty for sore elbows, and spiking. Gotta love it.
    Down with capitalism. Up with SEIU. I am on your side.

    Reply this comment
  9. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 20 January, 2014, 07:24

    BillyBob…..you’re truly need to be watched 24/7. For your welfare! Concerned for you Bro,

    Reply this comment
  10. Darren
    Darren 20 January, 2014, 07:27

    Although I really like the idea of OT after 8, I could see where this would be nice for some types of jobs and for peeps with long commutes, think of the fuel savings per week/month. I liked working 4 tens a week. And as long as the protections are in place as stated above, and employees make the call, I don’t have a big problem with it.

    Reply this comment
  11. Darren
    Darren 20 January, 2014, 07:40

    “………there should be a workplace balance in terms of making sure there is a safe workplace environment for workers…. R Hernandez, dem, West Covina…. Leave it to a typical dumb dem to play the overused “safe workplace” card. While very important, safety, in the context he used it, wasn’t/isn’t an issue in this discussion. I’m not into people like that. It’s like STFU or bring a real idea to the convo.

    Reply this comment
  12. billybs
    billybs 20 January, 2014, 14:11

    It is admirable component of the totalitarian state that they rightfully accuse those, who do not get it, that they are mentally not quite right, and need some retraining. Comrade Useless, thanks for your compassion, but I can assure you that all is quite well on this end. A toast to the Motherland, the workers paradise!

    Reply this comment
  13. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 20 January, 2014, 22:40

    Most obliged…..Comrade!

    Reply this comment

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