Good morning, California.

“This move firmly positions the Wonderful Co. as the employer of choice in California’s Central Valley, and we encourage others in the agriculture industry to follow our lead.” — Wonderful chairman Stewart Resnick, announcing that the huge grower of pomegranates, pistachios and other crops is raising its wage to $15. Several Central Valley growers face labor shortages amid Trump administration efforts to deport undocumented workers.

LAUSD teachers prepare to strike

LAUSD teachers rally in advance of a threatened Jan. 10 strike.

The union representing 31,000 Los Angeles teachers, counselors and other school district employees announced Wednesday that it will strike on Jan. 10 and that it has no plans to return to the negotiating table.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles to The Los Angeles Times: “We are not going back into a bargaining process that has failed and that the district has not taken seriously for 20 months.”

The Times: “Although that hard line could be cast as brinkmanship, an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District seems increasingly unlikely as each side dismisses the other’s position as untenable.”

Union leaders contend L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner and his pro-charter school allies want to destroy traditional public education. Beutner says he wants to reorganize LA Unified to improve services to students and families by bringing more resources closer to schools.

  • The fallout: About 500,000 students would be affected by a strike at the district, which is the by far the state’s largest.

The big picture: Teachers rallying in L.A. have been wearing red, “an explicit callback to the Red for Ed movement that began with West Virginia teachers in February and quickly spread to Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Colorado in the spring,” writes New York Magazine. “In several of those states, teachers cited the prospect of privately-run charters siphoning funds from traditional public schools.”

  • LAUSD may not be the only big district to walk out. An Education Week data dive this month notes that 55 percent of teachers nationally are dissatisfied with their salaries, and the public thinks teachers should be paid more, too.

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Labor foes go after union funds

Unions protest the Janus ruling at the state Democratic Party convention.

A California State University professor has joined a years-long legal campaign by opponents of public employee unions, filing a suit demanding a refund of thousands of dollars in union fees.

Brice: The union takes stands that “are so far to the left that I don’t want to be a part of it. … It has infringed my free speech rights. They’re speaking for me and using my money and saying things I would not say. So it is coerced.”

Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan called the suit part of an “effort to weaken workers’ collective power by forcing unions to pay years of back fair-share fees that were collected in good faith reliance.”

The Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which long has battled organized labor, filed the suit on behalf of Brice and all other Cal State professors who seek to opt out of paying into public employee unions.

  • It’s one of several similar suits filed around the nation, and part of an effort to weaken organized labor, which is fundamental to the Democratic political base.
  • The faculty association spent $2.2 million on California campaigns in 2017-18, including $300,000 to help elect Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.

California prices squeeze migrants

Thousands of Central American migrants have lined the Mexican border seeking asylum. If they make it into California, they will find a state that is relatively welcoming, and federal courts that are more likely to approve their asylum claims.

  • But it’s also far more expensive in many parts of California than it is in less receptive areas, such as Texas. In the latest installment of CALmatters’ California Dream collaboration, KPCC’s David Wagner reports that migrants are having to move outside urban cores because of the high cost of living.

About that electric bus mandate

A Proterra electric bus

In an era of declining bus ridership and greater use of ride-sharing, the California Air Resources Board is mandating that California transit agencies switch to all-electric buses by 2040.

  • The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies issued a report earlier this year that noted buses in the Los Angeles area “are losing riders precipitously.” Among the reasons: competition from rail and the relative low cost of autos, plus bus travel’s inconvenience and unreliability.

Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said one way to increase mass transit use is to cluster housing near transit hubs and design routes that are more convenient. Another enticement is to make bus travel more attractive.

Nichols: “Clean buses are a piece of that equation.”

Ryan Popple, chief executive officer of the Burlingame-based EV bus company Proterra, which has manufacturing facilities in the City of Industry and South Carolina, said in a statement that the decision “will help accelerate adoption of zero-emission transportation, which benefits all Californians in the form of cleaner air and healthier communities.”

  • Proterra, like BYD Motors, another EV bus company, lobbied the Air Board on the rule. The rule will help. So will additional funding in the form of subsidies.

Popple: “Proterra will continue to work at the state and federal levels to ensure the transit industry has the funding it needs to make this historic transition from fossil-fuels to zero-emission vehicles.”

Air Board member Daniel Sperling, in a commentary for CALmatters earlier this year, offered several ideas for overhauling California’s transportation system while combating climate change.

Commentary at CALmatters

Jeffrey Mount and Ellen Hanak, Public Policy Institute of California: There’s reason for optimism that there can be a truce in California’s water wars. The State Water Board adopted the first phase of a far-reaching revision to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento‒San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom’s support and involvement will be essential to carry this effort to a positive conclusion.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Jerry Brown’s half-century of dealing with the political media culminated this week with an open-ended interrogation before the Sacramento Press Club. And we in the media have enjoyed having him to cover for all these decades. It’s never been a dull moment.

Please email or call me 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.