Oppose Calif. Bill AB 2079 That Will Force Minority/Immigrant Cleaning Businesses to Close

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AB 2079’s Not So Hidden Agenda
This bill has been advanced as a method of preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence in the California janitorial industry, even though California law already outlaws both sexual harassment and sexual violence.  In reality, this bill is a thinly veiled mechanism for unions to force small business owners, who are primarily minorities and immigrants, out of business.  The unions anticipate that these small business owners will then be forced into an employment position with a much larger company, which will make it easier for the unions to attempt to unionize the industry.  And while improving conditions within the janitorial industry is a laudable goal, attempting to accomplish this by enacting duplicative laws and destroying the family owned businesses, that minorities and immigrants have overcome insurmountable odds to establish, is not the answer.

Union Created Oligopoly
In 2016, California enacted the Property Service Workers Protection Act (“CPSWPA”), which was accomplished without any industry input, because it was touted as a law to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.  However, its requirements go far beyond those necessary to accomplish its stated purpose of providing sexual harassment training.  AB 2079 further reinforces the oligopoly created by the CPSWPA by further reducing the available providers of the mandatory sexual harassment training, who are then free to charge any amount for the mandatory training. 

Under existing law, the CPSWPA, Section 1429.5, grants the power to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“LSE”) to appoint an advisory committee of its choosing, without any other vetting or approval[1].   Only this advisory committee has the authority to approve the organizations that can provide the mandated training.  Not even the LSE itself can approve qualified trainers.

Under AB 2079, in order to obtain the advisory council’s approval as a provider of the mandatory training, an organization must have:

  • at least 100 “qualified” peer trainers[2] or educators.  If a peer trainer is qualified, why would it matter how many similarly qualified co-workers that qualified peer trainer has?  How many organizations in California have at least 100 trainers or educators who meet the stringent requirements of AB 2079?  Very few.
  • at least five years of experience in training on issues specific to sexual harassment and assault or in workplace education within the janitorial or property service industry.
  • at least five years of experience in coordinating and managing statewide technical assistance and training efforts.  If a trainer is qualified, why do they have to operate on a statewide level?
  • access to local and regional sexual violence-related line trauma services and resources for local referrals documented through letters of support from service providers.  Are these service providers in the habit of providing endorsements to potential referring organizations? Are they then going to refuse services to referrals that do not come through an endorsed organization?
  • a commitement to ongoing education and development as documented by a minimum of 10 hours of professional development each year for qualified organization staff in areas of research and strategies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

With requirements this stringent, very few organizations will be able to provide the mandated training.  And while the CSWPA already mandates that the trainers be paid at least $25 per hour, there is no ceiling on what the trainers may charge.  And with oligopoly power, the costs can be prohibitive for the small business owners in the industry.

Backlash on Small Minority and Immigrant Owned Businesses
For franchisors in the janitorial industry, most unit franchisees are small, minority or immigrant business owners, often with only family members as employees.  As such small business owners, they often do not even have supervisory employees, as these are simply not necessary.  As a result, instances of sexual harassment and sexual violence in these small businesses is rare, far rarer than at larger employers in the industry, who already must provide mandatory training under the CFEHA.  Notwithstanding, AB 2079 will apply to these small businesses and the regulatory burdens are so high, many will be forced to give up their family owned businesses that they have worked so hard to build. They will not be able to afford the regulatory burdens of registering each year and providing training that is only available from a very few, non-governmentally approved training organizations.

[1] By contrast, the advisory committee established under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“CFEHA”) must be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The Governor designates the chairperson and has the power to remove a member of the council for neglect of duty, misconduct or malfeasance in office. The CFEHA is an existing law that already imposes prohibitions against discrimination and harassment in employment and housing relationships.  It applies to all businesses of any size, not just those in the janitorial services industry.
[2] To meet the requirements of a “qualified trainer,” among several other requirements, a trainer must have two years of nonsupervisory work experience in the janitorial or property service industry and be employed in the industry in a nonsupervisory capacity and must have employer responsibility to conduct investigations of sexual harassment complaints.

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