For 26 years, a legislative bill labeled by the California Chamber of Commerce as a “job killer” has likely faced the death penalty.
The chamber, the most influential business organization in the state, inaugurated the annual practice of labeling the law in 1997.
Through 2022 it targets 824 measures, most of which are sponsored by labor unions, environmental groups and other allies of the dominant Democrats in the Legislature. Often, bills raise taxes, impose new regulations or increase employee benefits.
However, only 157 landed on the desks of five governors, three Democrats and two Republicans, and only 59 were signed. That translates to a 93% kill ratio for the business lobby.
Sponsors of the rejected legislation were outraged but never overcame the dreaded “dying on the job” epithet, even as Gavin Newsom became the most left-leaning governor in state history. In the first four years of his governorship, only eight of the 94 bills targeted by the chamber reached his desk and he signed five.
All of that, however, is history, and this year the groups sponsoring bills labeled “job killers” seem to be improving their records.
Only 17 bills were on the final list this year, one of the fewest numbers ever, and while eight of them died in the Legislature — mostly without votes — and two were amended enough to get the label, seven were sent by Newsom and he’ll probably sign most of them.
In fact, Newsom has already signed one he sponsored, which creates an office that will monitor fuel prices and fine refiners if they make profits that are deemed excessive.
The remaining six were all union-sponsored measures that would improve worker benefits or increase job security. Two major labor-management battles over wages in the fast food and health care sectors were removed from the list after compromises were reached.
The most controversial remaining measure, and the one most at risk of veto, is Senate Bill 799, which would allow striking workers to get unemployment insurance benefits.
SB 799 is a top priority for the California Labor Federation, and it and the business community led by the chamber mounted high-octane lobbying campaigns for and against Newsom’s signature.
The bill grew out of widespread labor union demands this year for more money and job security, backed by strikes, including those of writers and actors in film production.
Advocates say it will level the playing field in labor relations while employers say it will force them to underwrite strikes and put a new funding burden on Unemployment Insurance in the state, which already has a multibillion-dollar deficit.
Newsom didn’t say what he would do about SB 799 but expressed some skepticism, telling a recent Politico forum, “I think one has to be careful about that before you go in in the conversation about expanding its use.”
While labor unrest has boosted successful union efforts this year, another factor has been Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s segue from a state Assembly seat to the top position in the California Labor Federation.
Fletcher is one of the few lawmakers who has championed bills labeled “job killers” and brings that messianic drive to his new job as the state’s top union official.
Union successes in the Legislature this year have sparked some self-examination in business circles. Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, a prominent business group, complained in an interview with Politico that “we don’t feel like we have a seat at the table, and we need to get one and we need to do it quickly .”
Wunderman’s group formed an alliance with the Los Angeles County Business Federation, called the New California Coalition, to step up lobbying efforts.