It seems like the business community just can’t catch a break, and really, when do we ever? Within the last few years, businesses have been plagued with hardships beginning with the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought shutdowns that drove businesses under and created a labor shortage. It placed regulation on businesses by local and state authorities that made it a nightmare to operate due to constant disruptions in supply chains and agitative customer interactions (we’ve seen the videos).
For some reason, people think the business community can’t get enough strife, as if we thrive off daily tumultuous struggles to keep our businesses alive. But this year the new business obstacle is not new. It is an old nemesis who has found greater footing, with a more organized platform than before. I’m talking about labor.
Labor is difficult. To be specific, labor unions are difficult. The staff that comes in to help our businesses operate are to be appreciated as we struggle to keep them, as much as we struggle to keep our businesses going. Labor unions like to be the wrench thrown in the porcelain shop, looking to create chaos for nonunion businesses. Labor unions in California and Los Angeles maintain a stranglehold on our politicians.
The current “labor movement” in the United States has gone beyond the old-school picket lines and now incorporates social issues in its agenda, resulting in labor union support for ballot measures that force hotels to take in the homeless; for challenges to nonunion development projects on environmental concerns; for California’s recent legislation to create a fast-food labor council that would control wages, scheduling, and working conditions, taking power away from both fast-food franchisees and the legislature; and for the push for $25 minimum wage for private health care facility workers that has received pushback from other health care unions for undermining “safety concerns” in place of political wins that benefit a specific labor organization.
There are so many “and,” “or,” “including” examples, but the underlying thread under every single proposal is the reality that unions do not care about most workers. They simply care about their power and use bad public policy to recruit new members. Nothing else.
And how do they recruit new members? By something called a union exemption. A union exemption is written within most ballot measures, ordinances, and legislation that exempt union-represented employees from certain labor laws, including wages, break times, and many other issues that unions push for, claiming it benefits all workers. My question is, if they benefit all workers, then why would unions give them up for their workers? Of course, cynical me, I know the answer. It’s to gin up union membership. Unions are without shame to claim they support the conditions of all workers, only to force hotel workers to encounter homeless individuals who have mental health episodes but exempting union hotels. Or food businesses that have more than 30 locations nationwide be subject to California’s proposed “Fast Food Council,” unless the restaurants are unionized. Or 90% of health care facilities in Los Angeles would not be subject to the health care wage mandate which targets private hospitals, solely.
Unions have used the legislative process as their vehicle to push their agenda, forcing businesses in California to bend to the whims of unions, forcing businesses to concede to labor negotiations, or legislating businesses out of existence if they won’t meet union demands. Union’s ability to move their agenda through legislation and labor strikes creates wage compression across various sectors of the economy. These proposals have increased labor costs, not just for unskilled workers, but also skilled personnel who will now be demanding their own wage hikes. This will all lead to increased costs for consumers which, in this delicate economy rebounding from a pandemic and a potential coming recession within view, we simply cannot afford.
Where else can you find the irony that in the span of five years, the California Legislature has consistently rejected a bill to allow staffers to unionize, failing to provide staff the exact same benefits that their counterparts receive in the private sector, like overtime or meal and rest breaks, despite having a union friendly Legislature in Sacramento? It’s well known that legislative staff in Sacramento are worked tirelessly, often making less than minimum wage when you add up all the time spent working for your assemblymember or senator, and the reality is that most staffers do it for the passion of the work. But it’s quite telling that the people who are willing to work and support unions to draft legislation for businesses are very quick to turn around and kill the bill on the final day of the legislative session.
While unions and the Legislature work together to put businesses under union control, those who manage a legislative office know the same thing a business owner does: Unions simply don’t work for the workers or business, they only work to benefit themselves.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.