Newsom’s labor dispute, pay equity, PG&E’s lobby fight, death on the streets, and Delta tunnel

Good morning, California.

“All of us, generally speaking, are free to move from job to job, but what we cannot do is stuff our pockets on the way out.”—U.S. Attorney David Anderson in San Francisco, announcing the indictment of Anthony Levandowski on charges that he stole self-driving car secrets from Waymo when he moved to Uber.

  • “Uber/Lyft/Handy. Your Technology Doesn’t Trump Workers Rights.”— a union banner that will be displayed at a rally at the Capitol today urging that gig economy workers be treated as employees.

Newsom disinvites labor leader

Robbie Hunter

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration revoked the appointment of one of California’s top labor leaders to a soon-to-be announced Future of Work Commission on Tuesday, in an escalating dispute over how to treat gig employees.

Robbie Hunter, head of the The State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, is insisting that gig employees, including construction workers who get jobs through Handy, be treated as employees, not independent contractors.

Hunter and Newsom’s chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, argued over the issue earlier this month, leading Hunter to conclude the administration would make concessions to companies such as Uber, Lyft and Handy.

On Tuesday night, a top aide to Newsom called Cesar Diaz, the building trades’ chief lobbyist, to say Hunter’s appointment was revoked—this after the administration emailed a draft press release to Hunter on Friday afternoon announcing his appointment.

  • The email: “Please keep in mind that this is to remain confidential until our press office makes a public announcement.”
  • Diaz: “My response was that that’s probably for the best because Robbie Hunter doesn’t agree with the administration’s vision for the future of workers.”

The building trades, which represents 450,000 workers, will demonstrate at the Capitol today in support of legislation that would require that gig workers need to be treated like employees.

Indicating a rift within labor, the Service Employees International Union will be rallying with Uber and Lyft drivers.

P.S. Newsom’s office had no comment. Newsom won election in 2018 with labor support. Hunter joined Newsom on his campaign bus.

Siebel Newsom seeks pay equity

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, author Elaine Marie Welteroth, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, hosting an #EqualPayCA event Tuesday night, made an impassioned plea for pay equity.

Siebel Newsom moderated a discussion at Sacramento State University with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and author Elaine Marie Welteroth, highlighting the gender pay gap, and pay inequality women of color face.

  • Siebel Newsom: “If the pay gap was closed in California, the average woman here could pay for five and a half more months of rent, about nine more months of childcare and almost a year of food for her family. And that’s why we started Equal Pay California, and that’s why we’re here today.”

Compared with many states, California’s pay gap is narrow. But women here are paid 89 cents for every $1 a man is paid, according to a 2019 National Partnership for Women and Families report.

Anti-PG&E ad blitz alleges ‘bailout’

Photo of fire snaking along hillside
Fire burns around PG&E transmission towers last year. Photo, Bay Area News Group

Consultants for hedge funds that hold $10 billion in PG&E bond debt are launching a sharp-elbowed ad blitz today aimed at blocking legislation they say would amount to a bailout of the bankrupt utility.

Hedge funds seeking control of Pacific Gas & Electric are allied with the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association, farmers who worry about rising electricity costs.

The campaign, a type of lobbying, will include old and new, at a six-figure cost:

  • A newspaper ad in the Sacramento Bee.
  • Digital ads aimed at swaying individual legislators and driving traffic to a website called Stopthepgebailout.com
  • There already has been a radio spot.
  • The website: “For ratepayers, this bailout means higher rates. Period. … For California taxpayers, this bailout is unfair.”

Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley has proposed legislation authorizing California to sell $20 billion in bonds to help PG&E pay off past wildfire costs. Mayes says PG&E shareholders would pay off the bonds, not ratepayers or taxpayers.

PG&E and its allies, including funds that hold PG&E stock, advocate for Mayes’ legislation, contending it will help extricate the utility from bankruptcy.

  • PG&E: “This proposal makes sure that 100% of the cost of paying the wildfire claims falls on PG&E alone, not our customers.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins has not yet decided to grant a rule waiver opening the way for a vote on the bill. 

Time is short. Lawmakers leave for the year in 2.5 weeks.

Sunshine bills go dark

Smoke from nearby wildfires obscure the late afternoon sun in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California. Wildfires are becoming more common all over the west coast due to climate change. Photo by Velvetfish.

You’ll be largely be left in the dark about a digital ad war between wealthy investors over the future of California’s largest electric utility.

Investment houses that hold Pacific Gas & Electric stock and are aligned with the company have begun a digital ad campaign supporting proposed legislation to “help wildfire communities put the pieces back together.”

Investors who hold $10 billion in PG&E bonds and seek to gain control of the company have launched negative spots calling the legislation a bailout.

The campaigns are a form of lobbying. But there is far less disclosure of lobbying than of campaign spending.

  • Lobbyists must file public reports disclosing how much they’re spending and which bills they’re focusing on. 
  • Unlike campaign spending, which must be disclosed within hours, lobbyists and their employers file quarterly. 
  • Reports covering third-quarter lobbying won’t be filed until the end of October.

There are several other similar campaigns to influence bills.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, of South San Francisco, introduced bills to require monthly reporting by lobbyists and more disclosure when they spend money on ads to influence legislation. Both bills stalled.

The reason: No one, not business, not labor, not civil libertarians, not advocacy groups, and definitely not lobbyists, support greater disclosure of their activities.

Take a number: 132.

A homeless man asleep in downtown Sacramento in March

In 2018, 132 homeless people died on the streets of Sacramento County, The Sacramento Bee reports based on data from the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. That’s the highest number of homeless deaths on record.

  • More than a fourth of the deaths involved methamphetamine.

Sign of life for Delta tunnel

An egret in the central Delta. Lauren Korth Photography, courtesy Restore the Delta.

After months of virtual silence, the California Department of Water Resources revealed via its blog on Tuesday that it is pursuing work on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s scaled-back Delta tunnel project.

Newsom announced in February that he was dropping former Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to bore two tunnels to transport water from the Sacramento River 30 miles south across the Delta to massive pumps near Tracy.

Instead, Newsom is proposing a single tunnel

The departments says in its blog it is “continuing to work on the environmental planning and permitting to modernize State Water Project infrastructure in the Delta.”

The blog promises “significant engagement with the public, especially Delta communities.” 

It’ll be tough. Delta interests have been vehement in their opposition, and San Joaquin Valley farmers, who might benefit from the project, are skeptical that a single tunnel would deliver more water.

Commentary at CalMatters

Costas Christ and Caroline Beteta, Visit California: At Visit California, the aim is to surf the tourism wave to its fullest potential as a force for long-term economic good. If ever there was a place that can help lead the positive transformation of the travel industry through innovation and best practices, that place is California.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Although the state’s “enterprise zone” program was eliminated as ineffective, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to revive it with a new name.

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See you tomorrow.

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