The Other 49 States Should Learn From California’s Mistakes

Tom Manzo
Founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance

In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse said the other 49 states “have a lot to learn from California” when it comes to labor policy. He’s right, but not in the way he meant it. The rest of the country has a lot to learn from our mistakes. 

Take the “RecycLA” program that Mr. Greenhouse praised as an example of successful labor-backed innovation. It’s a perfect example of how powerful interests in California–in this case, labor unions and the politicians they support–work together to advantage themselves at the expense of residents. The city of Los Angeles gave “exclusive” (read: monopoly) waste collection rights to unionized garbage haulers or those with a labor peace agreement. 

Unsurprisingly, prices rose along with residents’ tempers as they found waste hauling companies with sweetheart deals unresponsive to their complaints. 

This recycling scheme is just a drop in the ocean of bad policies that California businesses and residents grapple with daily. This is personal for me: In response to the state’s rapidly-rising minimum wage, the mid-sized manufacturing company that I’m president of (Timely Industries) has been forced to automate a number of jobs once held by employees. (I would challenge Mr. Greenhouse to describe how consequences like this are “pro-worker.”) 

Another harmful law birthed in California, the Private Attorneys General Act, allowed the plaintiffs bar to weaponize the state’s 1,000+ page labor code, wringing tens of millions of dollars from the state’s small businesses (including Timely) over the most-minute labor law violations. A trade association I founded, the California Business & Industrial Alliance, is suing the state to fix this law.

Mr. Greenhouse should spend less time reading the press materials of the labor unions he covers, and more time talking to the middle-class families and small business owners forced to deal with the consequences of their bad policies. 

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