When it comes to organized labor, California is a friendly state. We long ago eschewed right-to-work status. Labor unions enjoy a web of laws that ease organizing workers, like farmworkers, refinery employees, teachers, and state and local government workers. Other laws give union contracts special status unavailable to nonunion employees, such as the ability to work longer days without triggering overtime and avoid the new sick leave mandate. Employers who obtain workers from a union hiring hall are not subject to the new joint liability mandate applicable to other labor contractors.
But who would have thought one of the most powerful union organizing tools may be the state’s premier environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
CEQA is best known as the vanguard of disclosure, transparency and mitigation of environmental impacts. More recently, CEQA has been fingered as an easy ticket to litigation by project opponents, NIMBY activists, or even business competitors. Labor unions have leveraged the law to obtain sweetheart contracts for construction projects.