Jerry Brown signs subcontractor bill

In a major victory for California labor unions, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he has signed legislation that will hold businesses liable when subcontractors violate wage, workplace safety or workers’ compensation rules.

The legislation was a priority of organized labor, and it was one of only two bills given the California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” label to make it to Brown’s desk this year.

“California workers received a much-needed measure of protection tonight with Gov. Brown’s signature on a landmark bill to curtail abuses of subcontracted workers,” Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said in a prepared statement.

He said the legislation “is a historic new law that holds corporations accountable when workers hired using labor contractors are cheated out of wages or forced to work in unsafe conditions. By holding corporations jointly liable with subcontractors and staffing agencies, the governor closed a loophole in the law that many big companies were using to violate the basic rights of workers with impunity.”

The legislation, Assembly Bill 1897, by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, was opposed by business groups who said imposing liability for the behavior of subcontractors would increase costs and degrade the state’s business climate.

“Worker protection laws in California are already in place for labor violations and should be enforced,” John Kabateck, executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said at a news conference at the Capitol last week. “The only thing this bill is going to do is hurt our state’s economy and jobs.”

The bill was one of dozens Brown announced action on Sunday. The Democratic governor signed the measure without comment.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star