California Governor Jerry Brown Vetoes Key Labor
Legislation for Domestic Workers, Farmworkers, Immigrants,
and Grad Students: Three Stories
Domestic Workers Bill Killed In California By Jerry
by Sarah Bufkin
October 1, 2012
At 1 a.m., Patricia Aceberos drags herself out of bed
to give a round of medication to her patient. Four
hours later, the Fremont, Calif., caregiver is back up
for the next dose, hoping that she can squeeze in just
50 more minutes of sleep before beginning a full day of
cleaning, cooking and taking care of the elderly woman
whom she considers "like a second mom."
Aceberos works six days a week around the clock caring
for a woman who suffers from dementia and a failed
hip-replacement surgery that has left her unable to
Yet Aceberos doesn't receive any overtime pay. She says
she never manages a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
She eats what her client eats for every meal -- "lots
of soup." She has thought about quitting, but she says
affection for her patient keeps her around. Not to
mention the need to support herself and help her four
When the California state legislature on Aug. 30 passed
a bill to provide domestic workers with overtime pay
and a guaranteed eight hours of sleep, Aceberos hoped
her life would improve. But Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed
the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights late on Sept. 30,
ending a three-year grassroots campaign that mobilized
more than 8,000 workers and sent groups to the state
capital 15 separate times to end decades of exclusion
from labor protection laws.
"Seeing the domestic workers who have sacrificed so
many days to travel up to Sacramento -- to see them
crying was heartbreaking," said Andrea Cristina
Mercado, director of the California Domestic Workers
Coalition. "We believe that great movements create the
context for great acts of leadership, and we created
this opportunity for Governor Jerry Brown to lead the
nation towards progress and equality for a growing
workforce of women. And he made a very unfortunate
Formally known as AB 889, the vetoed legislation called
for protections similar to those that workers in other
industries have enjoyed for years, including overtime
pay and meal and rest breaks, as well as appropriate
sleep accommodations for live-in workers and the
ability to use employers' kitchens. Under the
companionship exemption in California's 1976 wage
regulations, domestic workers who take care of
individuals do not qualify for those protections.
For workers like Aceberos, such protections could
change the cadence of their lives.
Caitlin Vega, a legislative advocate with the
California Labor Federation, calls the eight-hour day
"something that workers fought and died to create ...
It's about the idea that working people deserve some
quality of life, deserve to be able to go home at the
end of the day and be with their own kids."
In a statement accompanying his veto, Brown pointed to
questions about the extra burden that the protections
would place on employers, echoing the stance of
business groups like the California Chamber of
"Employers in California have been hit by a ton of
class-action litigation over what a meal period is,
what it means to provide a meal period, and things like
that, costing businesses a ton of money," said Jennifer
Barrera, the chamber's labor and employment advocate.
The domestic workers' bill would have put "that same
type of burden onto working families who are
struggling, I'm sure, to already afford a nanny."
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who
introduced the bill, dismissed the "babysitter smear"
as a Republican attempt to distract from the heart of
the issue: The employers who would really be affected
are the third-party agencies -- "these multistate
corporations who don't pay their workers overtime or
give them rest breaks and don't want to pay their
workers any more," Mercado said.
Domestic workers have tried and failed to secure the
New Deal's labor standards for themselves for decades,
said Eileen Boris, a University of California-Santa
Barbara professor who has written extensively about
"This is not radical," Vega said. "We're not creating
new rights that no one has ever heard of."
In California, only 20 percent of domestic workers are
white, according to the 2006-2008 American Community
Survey. Almost 70 percent are Latina, and a whopping 93
percent are women.
According to a 2007 study that Mujeres Unidas y Activas
conducted of domestic workers in Northern California,
over 90 percent did not receive overtime pay and 11
percent brought in less than the minimum wage.
For Lupita Guzman, who works as a companion for a
disabled woman, negotiating over wages and time off is
a tricky business. "I have a hard time sometimes
setting boundaries because I have a fear of losing the
job," Guzman said. "I feel kind of afraid to ask for a
raise or for overtime pay."
Guzman is paid a flat $10 an hour, regardless of how
many hours she works. After joining a women's group at
a nearby labor center, she said she realized just how
poorly many of her peers were treated and became aware
of the struggle for legal protections.
"Mistreatment. Really low pay. Finding a note that
says, 'Here's your last paycheck. Thank you. We don't
need you anymore,'" Guzman said, recounting stories she
Harassment and violence are also a real danger. The
same 2007 study reported that in the two months prior,
20 percent of workers had been insulted or threatened
by their employer, 9 percent had experienced some form
of sexual harassment and 9 percent were victims of
"Sometimes they are [hit] with a towel or [get] a
pinch," caregiver Rose Mejica told The Huffington Post.
But more than just protecting meal breaks, the workers
had hoped the bill would signal a fundamental shift in
the way society regards their work, said Vega, the
"We really, really, really need this bill," Aceberos
told HuffPost ahead of the veto. "Not only me, but all
the caregivers and their families."
New York state extended similar protections to its
domestic workers in 2010. So far, National Domestic
Workers United, a national advocacy group, has secured
more than $700,000 in unpaid wages and penalties under
"We really see that the bill has decreased the
vulnerability of domestic workers," said Helen
Panagiotopoulos, the group's communications director.
"It has established basic rights and recognition for an
industry that had been invisible."
Advocates in five other states are launching similar
campaigns for domestic worker legislation.
"[This struggle is about] educating people that the
systems that we have in place -- and our definitions of
what is work and who counts as a worker -- are not
natural," Boris said, "but were the product of social
policy, of financial decisions, of where money was
going to be allocated in this society. And so they are
subject to political struggle and change."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story
incorrectly described Eileen Boris as a professor at
the University of California-Santa Cruz. Boris teaches
at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Immigrant advocates blast Brown vetoes in Calif.
By Amy Taxin
October 1, 2012
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- Immigrant advocates blasted
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday for last-minute vetoes of
bills that could have brought sweeping change to the
state's large foreign-born population.
The criticism of his decision to nix measures to expand
the rights of nannies and house cleaners and protect
some illegal immigrants from deportation muted cheers
for a bill to give driver's licenses to some illegal
The advocates said Brown's signing of the bill offering
driver's licenses to young immigrants who qualify for
two-year federal work permits -- while welcomed by many
immigrants -- doesn't have the far-reaching impact that
backing the other measures could have had. They said
signing those bills could have further distinguished
California as immigrant-friendly compared to states
such as Arizona and Alabama, which have been cracking
down on illegal immigration.
''It is disappointing that Jerry Brown doesn't want to
be the anti-Jan Brewer,'' said Aarti Kohli, senior
fellow at the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy
at University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
''The advocates feel very betrayed. They feel like the
immigrant and particularly the Latino community have
been behind the governor ... and that he hasn't really
shown a deep understanding of these really serious
Brown vetoed the so-called TRUST Act, which would have
barred local law enforcement officers from detaining
suspects for possible deportation unless they were
charged with serious or violent crimes, and another
bill to provide overtime pay, meal breaks and other
labor protections to domestic workers.
Immigrant advocates questioned what drove the
Democratic governor to take the positions right before
the deadline to sign or veto legislation.
Some speculated that pressure from the federal
government to protect its flagship immigration
enforcement program, known as Secure Communities, and
opposition by some California law enforcement officials
-- including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca -- may
have played a role.
Advocates had hoped that Brown -- who supported Cesar
Chavez and a number of farmworker issues during his
first stint as governor -- would have backed the TRUST
Act, which aimed to curtail Secure Communities. The
program, which checks the immigration status of
arrestees, is touted by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement as a vital crime-fighting tool but reviled
by immigrant advocates who say it erodes immigrants'
trust in police.
Brown said in his veto message that federal agents
''shouldn't try to coerce local law enforcement
officials into detaining people who've been picked up
for minor offenses and pose no reasonable threat to the
community.'' He also noted the bill omitted too many
serious crimes that would warrant detention.
''He is willing to work with stakeholders to address
major concerns and improve it,'' Gil Duran, a spokesman
for the governor, said about the bill. ''Everyone
should take a deep breath and recognize the tremendous
Duran called the driver's license bill an ''obvious
next step'' to the Obama administration's immigration
policy. But some immigrant advocates said the signing
of the bill was a bittersweet victory that could help
thousands of young people move around the state once
they obtain work permits from the federal government
but won't help their families get relief from the
threat of deportation.
Juan Santiago, 24, said he was pleased he would be able
to get from his home in Madera to his college classes
30 miles away once his work permit application is
approved. But he said the measure does little for his
mother, who brought him across the Arizona desert into
the U.S. when he was 11.
''It was a happy and a sad day for us,'' Santiago said.
''The fact that the governor vetoed the TRUST Act, it
means there's nothing to protect the rest of my family
Angela Chan, senior staff attorney at the Asian Law
Caucus, said the governor failed to step up and show
bold leadership on immigration with his veto.
But she said she saw a silver lining in Brown's veto
message, in which he offered to work with lawmakers to
fix the bill's wording to include crimes such as child
abuse, drug trafficking and weapons violations.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the bill's sponsor, said he
already had received a call from California sheriffs
and they agreed to discuss the measure, which he took
as a good sign. He said he'd like to reintroduce the
bill as early as January.
Brown also took a mixed approach on other
immigration-related bills. He signed a measure that
aims to keep families together when a parent faces
deportation and vetoed a bill to strengthen regulations
requiring growers to protect farmworkers from extreme
Louis DeSipio, a political science professor at
University of California, Irvine, said making these
decisions on deadline is a sign the bills were among
the tougher issues Brown faced in a state where
immigration has, at times, played a critical role in
politicians' fate. He cited former Gov. Gray Davis, who
saw a recall effort spurred after he supported driver's
licenses for illegal immigrants.
''He hasn't been a strong immigrant advocate,'' DeSipio
said of Brown, but added that perception could change
if he works with advocates on revamping the TRUST Act.
If not, he questioned how Brown might fare among
Latinos in a future election.
''Would he have that same level of Latino support
should he run for re-election?'' DeSipio said. ''I
don't think so.''
Associated Press Writer Gosia Wozniacka contributed to
this report from Fresno.end of story marker
Brown's Vetoes and Signings
Monday, October 1, 2012
Not every human problem deserves a law, Gov. Jerry
Brown declared when vetoing bills last year. In sorting
through nearly a thousand bills on his desk this year,
Brown has turned more practical as he faces a towering
deficit and a favorite tax measure that needs voter
In broad terms, Brown showed his moderate side in
signing 876 bills and vetoing 120 others, generally
keeping California within known policy and financial
boundaries. He was conciliatory, even solicitous, as he
zapped measures dear to legislators, inviting them to
try again. It's a tempered outlook, maybe due to the
close polling numbers on his prized Prop. 30 to raise
taxes for a deficit-ridden state budget.
His biggest feat - a deal to stem public pensions - was
a start on a broad problem that could cost California
hundreds of billions in retirement costs. He fell far
short of a 12-point plan he outlined nearly a year ago.
Brown and the public union-dominated Legislature have
made a start on a major issue that needs more work.
Other major decisions:
Immigration: He backed a plan for driver's licenses for
an estimated 400,000 young people brought here as
children illegally by parents. But he vetoed a bill
that barred law enforcement from informing federal
authorities of a suspect's illegal status, saying it
lumped minor offenses with more serious ones.
Labor: He vetoed bargaining rights for graduate
students at public universities and further benefits
for survivors of firefighters, saying the measures were
too costly. He also shot down a bill that gave meal
breaks and overtime to nannies and home-care providers.
Regrettably, Brown refused to sign changes designed to
give farm workers water and shade, saying sufficient
laws were on the books.
Education: One major bill he signed amounts to a change
of mind. After vetoing a similar bill last year, he
signed a deserved overhaul of the Academic Performance
Index to include other criteria besides math and
reading in rating a school's performance.
Law enforcement: Brown signed a ban on brandishing
shotguns and rifles, a sensible idea backed by police.
Also, the governor signed a measure that allows some
300 prisoners, given life sentences while juveniles, a
chance to make the case that their sentences should be
reduced after they serve 25 years. But in a bill that
was more about government transparency than public
safety, Brown caved to prison officials in refusing to
allow media interviews in state lockups, citing
identical arguments used by his predecessor, Arnold
Tech: Brown signed a measure barring employers from
requiring workers to hand over website passwords, an
intrusive idea. But he went along with major telecom
firms who didn't want state oversight of Internet phone
service, a bad idea that may lead to abuses.
In sum, there were no phrases in Latin or wry asides,
both Brown trademarks. Instead, this year's bill
signings were the work of a practical governor
concerned about Sacramento's ability to perform.
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