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Prez Candidates Speak on CA “Gig” Worker Bill

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Presidential candidates weigh in on California fight over “gig” workers

(CalMatters) In what could be another reflection of California’s newly relevant role in the presidential primary, Elizabeth Warren penned an op-ed supporting a California bill that would make it harder for companies to classify workers as “independent contractors.”

What was once an obscure, weedsy legal battle over labor classification in California is now well on its way to becoming a capital-I Issue on the presidential campaign trail.

This morning, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee supporting a California bill that would make it harder for companies to classify workers as “independent contractors.” In the process, she not only waded into what has largely been a California-specific debate, but provided yet another way to distinguish herself from the many other Democrats in what remains a very crowded field hoping to unseat President Donald Trump.

“All Democrats need to stand up and say, without hedging, that we support AB 5 and back full employee status for gig workers,” she said.

The bill, authored by San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, takes aim at gig economy titans like Uber, Lyft and Doordash whose drivers and delivery personnel are classified as self-employed entrepreneurs and therefore exempt from minimum wage guarantees and other legal protections extended to employees. The bill would codified a state Supreme Court ruling from last year (Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles), which applied a new, more restrictive “ABC” standard for labor classification in the case of a contract security guard.

As CalMatters has reported earlier this summer, the bill could also shake up traditional corners of the labor market as well, reclassifying truck drivers, nail salon workers and strippers.

Responding by email, Gonzalez said she thought it was “pretty damn cool” that her bill had the full throated backing of a major presidential candidate.

While Warren is the first candidate to take an unambiguous position on AB5, others have staked out similar stances in other ways.

  • Last year, immediately following the California Supreme Court ruling, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would write the stricter Dynamex ruling into national labor law.
  • While passing through San Francisco in June for the California Democratic Convention, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told a gathering of Service Employees International Union members that “if you’re working, that makes you a worker.”

Warren might not seem an obvious champion of a California bill. Her recent hire of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s former communications director, Kevin Liao, may have helped put the issue on her radar. (Asked about his role, Liao responded in an email: “I’m just a humble member of the team.”)

But her position on the issue also reflects California’s new prominence on the presidential primary calendar. With poll places opening on March 3, giving Californians who vote by mail the opportunity to cast their ballot as early as the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, making a good impression on policymakers and voters here could be a worthwhile investment.

The campaigns of California presidential contenders Sen. Kamala Harris and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer have not yet responded when asked their position on the bill. Neither have the campaigns for Sanders, Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Dan Morain contributed to this story.

This article is produced as part of WeHo Daily’s partnership with CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.

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Companies Cut Employment Despite Tax Cut Job Creation Promises

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WASHINGTON AT&T and other corporations continue to be under scrutiny for failing to follow through on their promises to use tax windfalls to create jobs, raise wages and increase investment in infrastructure.

AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson pledged to create 7,000 new jobs if President Trump’s corporate tax cuts passed. Stephenson also signed onto a statement as a member of the Business Roundtable committing to invest in employees and support the communities where they live and work. Instead, the company is cutting jobs and outsourcing work, including relying on lower wage subcontractors to build its 5G network.

AT&T earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2019 showed that the company continues to cut jobs and reduce investment even with record cash flow for 2019 and more than $5 billion in stock buybacks in the preceeding four months.

The company has cut 37,818 jobs since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect in 2018, including 4,040 in the fourth quarter of 2019. Capital expenditures declined by more than $1 billion in 2019 as compared to 2018.

AT&T notified the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in January of its plans to cut an additional 200 technician positions in California in February.

Meanwhile, AT&T has continued to cater to the demands of controversial vulture hedge fund Elliott Management, which purchased a small stake in AT&T in September 2019. Elliott is pushing AT&T to extract profits from the company by eliminating jobs, outsourcing work, and divesting critical assets. In early October, AT&T announced that it would sell its Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Island Mobility units to Liberty Latin America (LLA), putting at risk the deployment of FirstNet and nearly 900 union jobs.

Elliott has also won a commitment from AT&T to spend $30 billion on stock buybacks, which will drive up its share price to enrich a small group of wealthy investors, leaving fewer resources for building next generation wireless and fiber broadband networks and training workers for the jobs of the future. Credit-rating agency Moody’s has raised concerns that the large cost of the stock buyback plan puts AT&T at risk for a credit downgrade.

CWA has called on AT&T’s CEO, board of directors, the company’s 100 largest investors, and the Business Roundtable to reject damaging proposals from Elliott Management. Last month, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP) sent a letter to over 140 investors in Elliott Management on CWA’s behalf, highlighting the deteriorating performance of Elliott’s two primary hedge funds.

“The list of communities being destroyed all across America continues to grow with the elimination of jobs at AT&T, despite promises of job creation from company executives,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “To make matters worse, AT&T is using its profits to enrich wealthy shareholders instead of investing in building the next generation networks that Americans, especially in rural and underserved areas, so desperately need. CWA members and our allies will keep fighting until the company stops eliminating jobs so that they can provide the high-quality service that customers deserve.”

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Top 100 LGBTQ Equality-Driven Corporations in the US

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, a financial methodology and media company that quantifies corporate equality alignment with the LGBTQ community, has announced the full roster of corporations included in its LGBTQ100 ESG Index.

This is the first public disclosure of the comprehensive listing, which comes as the company introduces their LGBTQ100 Index Partnership Program.

“Our inaugural LGBTQ100 ESG Index is as historic as it is empowering, in that we have engaged the LGBTQ community to participate in our annual national survey with the large-cap businesses that represent our global financial Index,” said Bobby Blair, CEO of LBGTQ Loyalty.

“By announcing the 100 corporations included in the LGBTQ100 ESG Index, investors and consumers can embrace transparent insight into the corporations that implement diversity and inclusion best practices at the highest level, which are not only doing well, but are outperforming the marketplace.”

Corporate constituents in the top selection of the LGBTQ100 ESG Index include: NortonLifeLock, Inc.; Amazon.com, Inc.; Apple, Inc.; Microsoft; Visa; Netflix; Adobe; Target; CVS; Southwest Airlines and FedEx.

Click here for the comprehensive listing.

“This is a monumental Index milestone for the advancement of equality in Corporate America,” said Kevin Hopper, Chief Product Officer at LGBTQ Loyalty.

“The LGTBQ100 ESG Index is the first to incorporate direct input from the LGBTQ community into its Index methodology and constituent selection process, and we extend our congratulations to all of the companies included.”

The LGBTQ100 ESG Index Partnership Program empowers Index constituents to share, educate and align with the pursuit of advancing equality across the business community from coast to coast.

Leading the way with their diversity and inclusion initiatives, executives, managers and business owners can benefit and learn from these examples.

About the LGBTQ100 ESG Index

The LGBTQ100 ESG Index is comprised of 100 LGBTQ equality-driven companies from the nation’s top 500 large-cap publicly traded companies. The Index maintains industry sector grouping whereby each sector can represent up to 25% in the weighting calculation.

The Index also screens for ESG and LGBTQ equality compliance, performance and alignment with the LGBTQ community through an annual corporate survey response from LGBTQ constituents across the country and is reconstituted annually. The Index is listed on the NYSE, ticker symbol: LGBTQ100.

For more details and to monitor activity on the LGBTQ100 ESG Index, follow the hashtag #LGBTQ100 or visit LGBTQ100.

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DA Announces $18.8 Million Settlement with Time Warner

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has announced a historic $18.8 million settlement with Time Warner Cable LLC on behalf of more than 170,000 consumers throughout California who paid for internet speeds they did not receive.
 
It is the largest direct restitution order ever secured by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in a consumer protection lawsuit.

The vast majority of the money will be returned to consumers through automatic credits on their monthly cable/internet bills from Spectrum, the parent company of Time Warner Cable, following a May 2016 merger.

“This historic settlement serves as a warning to all companies in California that deceptive practices are bad for consumers and bad for business,” District Attorney Lacey said. “We as prosecutors demand that all service providers – large and small – live up to their claims and fairly market their products. When they don’t, my office will take legal action to protect consumers.”
 
The lawsuit, filed by the District Attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleged unlawful business practices. Specifically, prosecutors accused Time Warner Cable of using misleading advertising practices to lure consumers to pay for high-speed internet services the company could not deliver, beginning in 2013.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian signed the stipulated final judgment between prosecutors and Time Warner Cable on Feb. 14, 2020.
 
Under the settlement, $16.9 million in restitution will be distributed directly to eligible customers, based on the type of service they purchased from Time Warner Cable.
 
Some customers were issued outdated modems, making it impossible for them to receive the higher bandwidth they purchased. Others paid for higher internet speeds that Time Warner’s infrastructure could not deliver.

They are eligible to receive approximately $90 in a one-time credit on their cable/internet bills. A few consumers who both were issued outdated modems and paid for higher internet speeds will be eligible to receive approximately $180 in credit. Spectrum must automatically issue credits to all eligible consumers within 60 days.

In addition, all Time Warner Cable internet customers in California will be offered one of two free services. Those who are cable TV subscribers will be offered three free months of Showtime, if they do not already subscribe to Showtime, valued at $45.

Customers with only internet services will be offered one free month of an entertainment streaming package, Spectrum Choice, valued at approximately $40. The total value of these free service offers will depend on how many people sign up.
 
Time Warner Cable also agreed to pay $1.9 million to the three prosecuting agencies in the case to cover costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of this and future consumer protection cases. The amount will be split evenly among the three agencies.
 
As a result of this lawsuit, Time Warner Cable also agreed to a prohibition on advertising internet speeds it knows or should know it cannot consistently deliver during peak hours. The company also is required to ensure that its customers are issued equipment that can actually deliver advertised speeds.
 
Time Warner Cable cooperated in the investigation and resolution of this case but did not admit liability.

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