Meister: The Legislature shows Congress how

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Guardian columnist Dick Meister has covered labor and political affairs for more than a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which contains several hundred of his columns.

Forget for a moment what's happened ­­ or not happened  ­- in Congress. Concentrate instead on what's meanwhile gone on in the State Legislature, much of it for the benefit of California's working people.

 The State AFL-CIO cites, for instance, the Legislature's passage this year of more than a dozen decidedly worker-friendly bills sponsored by the labor
federation and strongly backed by the federation's Democratic Party allies in Sacramento.

The most important of the bills will raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour by January of 2016. Other key laws:

*Require overtime pay for domestic workers, who are currently excluded from
most labor laws.

*Will make it easier for immigrant workers to get drivers' licenses and
protect them from retaliation when they speak out about poor pay and working
conditions.

*Should make it easier for workers with criminal records who are denied jobs
despite their rehabilitation.

*Give corporate tax breaks to employers who create jobs.

*Increase the legal protections for the state's notably exploited farm
workers and car wash employees.

*Strengthen current laws that require builders holding state contracts to
pay their crews the prevailing wage for construction work in their areas.

*Encourage Employers and workers "to identify and minimize the risk of
workplace violence."

*Expand the law granting paid family sick leaves to workers caring for ill
parents and children to also include work time lost while caring for sick
parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents  and grandchildren.

*Ease the unjust impact of current immigration law enforcement on workers
and families by limiting the state's cooperation with the federal "Secure
Communities" program.

Art Pulaski, the State AFL-CIO's chief officer, rightly claims that with
passage of the laws, California undoubtedly has become "the national leader
in sporting workers and their families."

What's more, says Pulaski, passage of the laws marked a crucial start of
"the essential work of rebuilding the state's middle class."

If only we could expect even a fraction of such important work from our
squabbling federal legislators.

Copyright 2013 Dick Meister

Guardian columnist Dick Meister has covered labor and political affairs for
more than a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator.
Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which contains several
hundred of his columns.