Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler and Tara Zoumer chat after a Capitol press conference on Wednesday.

Good morning, California.

Gov. Jerry Brown  announced he’s sending National Guard troops to the border, to fight crime. That’s Brown’s use of jiu jitsu to end a fight with President Trump.

A #MeToo movement moment

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler and Tara Zoumer chat after a Capitol press conference on Wednesday.

Organized labor and big business tangle annually. This year, no battle will be bigger than one over arbitration clauses in employment contracts.

These are binding agreements that deny workers the right to sue in court if they believe they’ve been fired or denied promotions or pay unfairly. Instead, they must fight before private arbitrators in closed sessions.

On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat, convened a press conference about her bill to ban arbitration clauses and nondisclosure agreements. Labor and plaintiffs’ lawyers are backing it.

Gonzalez brought with her Susan Fowler, the software engineer who blew the whistle about sexual harassment at Uber, ultimately leading to the ouster of founder Travis Kalanick.

Also there was Tara Zoumer, who detailed her experience at the San Francisco startup, WeWork, in a 2016 op-ed in The Sacramento Bee. She recalled being expected to play hard, hustle harder, and carry out menial tasks such as changing beer kegs.

Zoumer bridled, tried to organize workers, and was told to stop. A few weeks later, she said, managers presented employees with contracts that included arbitration clauses in which they would waive any right to a jury trial or sue in a class action. She refused to sign, and was fired. The upshot is unclear, for now.

Gonzalez is requesting that the Assembly take the rare step of issuing a subpoena to Zoumer so she could testify freely about her experience. Speaker Anthony Rendon is considering the request.

California Chamber of Commerce vice-president Jen Barrera is working to kill the bill:

“It’s definitely a high priority. It just creates further litigation for employers.”

Déjà vu: The bill has come up in various forms over the years and failed in the face of fierce lobbying by the California Chamber of Commerce and other businesses.

What’s different: The #MeToo movement, attention brought to such clauses by former Fox personality Gretchen Carlson, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and other developments suggest the tide is turning. Speaking of Carlson, she is expected to testify at the Capitol, as labor, plaintiffs’ lawyers, and Gonzalez pull out all the stops.

Kids these days

More bad news for California Republicans:

Starting this year, 16- and 17-year olds can “pre-register” to vote when they turn 18. Newly  released data show that of the first 100,111 pre-registered teenagers, 38 percent are Democrats and a mere 10 percent are Republicans.

But Democrats ought to worry, too. More than 43 percent of the future voters of California selected no-party preference. Add kids who leave the party line blank or sign up for the confusing American Independent Party, and more than 47 percent of new voters shun the major parties.

Biological clock: Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc. has researched party affiliation of people who fall off voter rolls because they die. As it happens, they don’t skew toward one party or another. They are more partisan, either Democrats or Republicans, unlike young people. That’smore evidence of the rise of independent voters.

Speaking of obituaries

CALmatters’ Dan Walters, contemplating the 11 candidates aspiring to become lieutenant governor, takes a walk down lieutenant governor memory lane. He recalled such greats as Goodwin Knight, Ed Reinecke, and Mike Curb—what, no Cruz Bustamante?—and noted a light guv’s main job: To check the obituaries each morning to see if the governor is breathing.

Morning coffee

Over coffee, Sen. Henry Stern, a Democrat from Chatsworth, recalled Mark Zuckerberg from their Harvard days, back when you needed an email that ended in edu to get on The Facebook.

Long story short: Stern is the Senate Elections Committee chairman and looking to protect California elections from Internet-spread malevolence. That will require better civic education for young people, and some updated laws.

Stern and his Assembly counterpart are working on a bill that would be make it a crime to confuse voters by giving them bogus information about polling place location, voting or registration requirements, or the date of an election. It also would impose requirements to protect voter registration data from hacks.

Who knew back in the day the Internet would used to meddle in elections?

Said Stern: “Just like the authors of the Second Amendment didn’t anticipate AR15s, the authors of the First Amendment did anticipate Twitter.”

Money matters

On Wednesday, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan gave $1 million to a committee established to help former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa win one of two top-spots in the June 5 primary for governor.

Sounds familiar: LA billionaire Eli Broad gave $1.5 million and Netflix founder Reed Hastings gave $7 million to that same committee last week. There’s little indication of big money flowing to independent committees for frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Yet.

Speaking of money: Liberal San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer endorsed state Sen. Kevin de Leon’s effort to unseat fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Kind words are nice. But will Steyer, part with money to help de Leon?

“I don’t have any concrete plans for that,” he told The LA Times.


I misstated the Internet Association position on Sen. Scott Wiener’s net neutrality bill in Tuesday’s WhatMatters. It’s neutral.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.