Good morning, California.

“In broad terms, this is about much more than pay. This is about the soul of our schools and the way L.A. does or does not build a culture to collectively invest in our future.”—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as a strike by teachers continued against the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Fight over the future of work is moving front and center

Uber drivers are among the gig economy workers that will be the focus of legislation in 2019.

Legislators last year punted on grappling with the California Supreme Court ruling that requires companies such as Uber and TaskRabbit to count gig workers as full employees, rather than independent contractors.

Not this year.

Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego made certain the issue front and center by introducing Assembly Bill 5. The bill would put into statute last April’s ruling in Dynamex Operations West Inc. For CALmatters’ primmer on the issue, click here.

Here’s what to expect:

  • In the coming weeks, Gonzalez, who is close to organized labor, will add details to her bill.
  • Business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce will push one or more bills to soften the impact of the ruling.
  • The ruling’s scope is breathtaking. It could be applied to emergency room physicians, health care workers such as dietitians, barbers, insurance agents and many more professions. Expect many of them to be carved out in legislation that leaves their status relatively unchanged.

Labor lobbyists are seeking worker protections:

  • Workers’ compensation in case they are hurt on the job.
  • Guaranteed minimum wage.
  • Unemployment benefits.

Gonzalez sees the issue as basic to “rebuilding middle class.” If companies for which gig workers work don’t provide basic protections, the cost of, say, health care for an injured worker falls to taxpayers, the Assemblywoman said.

“You can have flexibility. But we have to have have rules.”

No issue matters more to business and labor than how to compensate and protect people who work in the gig economy.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said it’s among the topics he must address:

“You will be hearing a lot more in the coming days.”

‘Independent’ truckers win right to sue

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week grants independent truck drivers greater power to sue trucking companies for benefits or employment status, and could apply to other independent contractors.

The L.A. Times: The ruling bolsters efforts by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has been fighting trucking companies at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over classification of more than 20,000 drivers as contractors rather than employees.

The case involved New Prime, Inc., of Missouri, which uses 5,000 contractors and regularly advertises for drivers. One, Dominic Oliveira, alleged that the company failed to pay him and other workers the legal minimum wage and sought to avoid labor law by calling them contractors.

Oakland-based Public Justice, which helped argue the case:

“Like many trucking companies nowadays, Prime requires many of its drivers to sign a contract that contains an arbitration clause, which states that drivers may not sue the company in court.”

By an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court rejected Prime’s claim and sided with the drivers.

P.S. Blue state attorneys general including California’s Xavier Becerra joined on the side of Oliveira.

New #MeToo finding against an ex-legislator

Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

Former Assembly Democrat Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who resigned from his seat in 2017 citing health issues, likely harassed two legislative staff members while he was in office, an investigation commissioned by the Assembly revealed Wednesday.

CALmatters Laurel Rosenhall, who has been tracking #MeToo complaints against legislators (15 and counting), quotes from the report:

“He walked me to my car and … he basically kissed me. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth. I could feel his erect penis on my leg. I told him I wasn’t interested.”

Despite being rebuffed, the Assemblyman continued to call and text the staffer.

Ridley-Thomas represented Los Angeles for four years and is the son of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, himself a former state legislator.

In January 2018, a month after quitting the Legislature, the younger Ridley-Thomas was accepted into a USC master program, tuition free, and got a job teaching at the university.

In July, USC fired Ridley-Thomas amid questions about his appointment and a $100,000 donation to the school from his father’s campaign funds, as detailed by the L.A. Times.

Rosenhall: The Legislature is releasing the report in accordance with a change of policy ushered in by last year’s #MeToo movement. Even though state law says the Legislature can keep its investigations secret, the new policy calls for making investigations public in cases that substantiate complaints against elected lawmakers or high-level staff.


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And in Congress, a call for an ethics investigation

Congressman Tony Cardenas, Democrat from Pacoima.

A woman suing Congressman Tony Cardenas of Pacoima for alleged sexual assault when she was a teenager is asking the House to open an ethics investigation, the L.A. Times reported.

The woman, Angela Villela Chavez, 28, accused Cardenas of groping her in 2007 while driving her to the hospital after she collapsed while playing golf with the congressman.

Cardenas, a former state legislator and Los Angeles City Council member, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He has denied the allegations. A trial over her suit is set to begin in August.

The Times quotes Cardenas’ lawyer, Patricia Glaser, as saying the call for a congressional investigation is a sign of weakness in Chavez’s suit.

In the 2018 campaign, Republicans cited the allegations and sought to make an issue of Cardenas’ role as chairman of Bold PAC, a committee dedicated to electing more Hispanic Democrats.

Several candidates who received Bold PAC money won. Cardenas remains chairman.

California Legislature lags other states in gender equity

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, with her daughter, at her swearing in last month.

The California Legislature trails Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, New York and many other states in its number of women lawmakers, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports.

Castillo cites the latest count by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Take some solace: California has a greater percentage of women legislators than Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, an Alameda County Democrat, has a suggestion. On Wednesday, he announced legislation that would increase the amount of campaign money candidates can spend on child care.

Commentary at CALmatters

The Camp Fire, 2018.

Catherine Brinkley, UC Davis: PG&E’s likely bankruptcy could mean the utility would be unable to meet goals for renewable energy. It doesn’t have to be that way. Many countries have reduced their greenhouse emissions while growing economically. Sweden, for example, has reduced per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent since the 1970s.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Seven years ago, Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished redevelopment. There are efforts to bring it back, but Brown’s successor as governor, Gavin Newsom, has thrown cold water on the idea.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.