Yesterday, a California State Assembly Committee killed a bill that would have extended collective bargaining rights to a larger group of state employees – namely, legislative staffers. Existing state law excludes certain state employees from collective bargaining. The Legislature Employer-Employee Relations Act would “provide employees of the Legislature the right to form, join, and participate in the activities of employee organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of representation on all matters of employer-employee relations.” If passed, the bill would extend collective bargaining rights to nearly 2,000 California legislative employees. California’s Public Employment and Retirement Committee rejected the bill in a 2-3 vote this Wednesday, due to unresolved “procedural, legal, and administrative problems,” according to the Committee Chair.
Although unsuccessful, California’s push to provide collective bargaining rights for state employees follow the enactment of similar laws in Oregon and Washington just last year. Oregon’s law expressly allows legislative unions, and Washington’s Governor signed a bill this spring permitting the Washington state legislature to organize. The effort to unionize California’s legislative staffers also comes on the heels of a new U.S. House of Representative resolution giving staffers the right to collectively bargain. This trend towards permitting collective bargaining for a broader group of government employees is something to watch for, as the national labor movement continues to pick up momentum in a variety of sectors – including state and federal government.