Labor Union

California Labor Federation

Website:

calaborfed.org

Location:

Oakland, CA

Tax ID:

94-0362030

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(5)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $10,289,139
Expenses: $7,315,080
Assets: $10,125,568

Type:

Labor Coalition

Formation:

1901

Executive Secretary:

Art Pulaski

The California Labor Federation (CLF) is a labor union in California associated with the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The Federation includes more than 1,200 member unions which claim to represent over 2.1 million California workers. [1]

CLF advocates for the implementation of left-of-center policy in California and across the country. In recent years, CLF has supported increased property taxes for commercial buildings, the implementation of affirmative action at state institutions, and strict COVID-19 regulations. [2] [3] [4] CLF became well known across the country for its work to defeat Proposition 22 in California, which allowed “gig workers” like rideshare drivers and food-delivery personnel to remain independent contractors. [5]

Aside from its legislative initiatives, CLF leads left-of-center and far-left campaigns to support Democratic candidates and left-progressive ideologies. In 2021, CLF organized the “Boots on the Ground” campaign to assist California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in his recall election campaign, organizing thousands of union members to walk over 4,000 miles in door-to-door canvassing. [6] In 2020, CLF published a radical-left resolution banning all police and border patrol officers from the union, claiming that police officers and border patrol officers are agents of “oppression, authoritarianism, and cruelty in all their forms” and alleging that “policing in America has its origins directly in slavery.” [7]

CLF has faced several controversies in recent years. In 2020, the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) sent a white paper to its members advising them on how to negotiate labor peace agreements in order to avoid damaging their businesses. CLF, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT or Teamsters) responded by sending a letter to Democratic politicians in California asking them to “refrain from engaging with” the CCIA, damaging CCIA’s relationships and preventing it from passing legislation. CCIA then abruptly signed onto a CLF proposal, with some alleging that it had been pressured to do so by CLF and its partner unions. [8]

In 2020, domestic worker Carmel Foster accused CLF and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) of “abuse” and alleged that she had been “exploited” by the unions. [9] [10] Foster alleged that the unions took advantage of an extramarital affair she was having with influential California Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) to manipulate her testimony in support of California AB 5, a bill to reclassify most independent contractors as employees that the unions supported. [11]

History

The California Labor Federation was founded in 1901 as the California State Federation of Labor. The organization was one of the earliest labor unions in the state, formed following the discovery of gold and subsequent rapid urbanization in California. Over the 20th century, CLF supported a number of left-of-center proposals on labor regulations, the expansion of entitlement programs, and the New Deal. [12] [13]

Today, CLF is made up of more than 1,200 unions which claim to represent over 2.1 million workers in the retail, manufacturing, entertainment, construction, hospitality, health care, and public sectors. [14] CLF is also the California state affiliate of the powerful, controversial AFL-CIO, which assists in setting CLF’s agenda and guiding its initiatives. [15]

CLF is structured as a collection of local unions within California. The organization is run by an executive secretary-treasurer, a president, and 47 vice presidents who are elected biennially to the executive council to represent affiliated unions and central labor councils in CLF. [16]

Legislative Advocacy

CLF frequently supports left-of-center legislation and is known as a major political force in California. Despite California having some of the strictest labor regulations in the country, CLF has argued for increased, far-left economic proposals, including a minimum wage above $15 per hour. [17]

Even on issues unrelated to labor, such as health care, CLF has supported left-of-center policy implementation. In 2018, CLF backed a proposal to give a state board the authority to regulate the prices that health insurance plans would be allowed to charge for medical procedures, using Medicare prices as a baseline. The measure was noted as a move towards a government-controlled healthcare system which seeks to eliminate price-setting freedom for insurance companies and medical providers. [18] Two years later, CLF supported a bill which would allow the California Attorney General’s Office to monitor healthcare acquisitions and ban them unless they had a “substantial likelihood” of increasing access to care for underserved populations. [19]

In 2021, CLF supported a bill passed by the California Assembly to end the practice of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) picking up illegal immigrants from jails to deport them after they committed crimes in the United States. [20] CLF has also published a legislative agenda for 2021, with priority issues including strengthened liability against employers who breach labor codes, the removal of a cap which prevents teachers from taking a leave of absence to work for labor unions for more than 12 years, and increased taxes in California. [21]

Ballot Campaigns

2020 Elections

In 2020, the California Labor Federation supported Proposition 15, a failed measure which sought to increase California property taxes on commercial buildings. [22] As part of its campaign, CLF worked with a coalition including the left-wing Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to send out mailers and call voters urging them to “tax the rich.” [23] Proposition 15 failed, with 52% of voters opposing it. [24]

CLF supported California Proposition 25, which aimed to eliminate the cash bail system. The proposition would have allowed all people charged with most misdemeanors to remain free before trial, while using a risk-assessment to determine whether those who had committed felonies posed a flight risk or a public safety risk. Even other left-of-center organizations, such as the NAACP, opposed Proposition 15, claiming that it would result in increased discrimination. [25] [26] The measure failed, with 55% of voters opposing it. [27]

Also in 2020, CLF supported Proposition 16, a ballot measure which sought to allow state institutions, including public universities, to consider race and ethnicity when making admissions and hiring decisions. The proposition was widely considered to be an attempt to allow affirmative action programs, which give racial and ethnic minorities an advantage in the hiring process. [28] Proposition 16 failed, with 57% of Californians voting against it. [29]

California Assembly Bill 5 and Proposition 22

CLF became known across the country for its advocacy in support of California Assembly Bill 5, a left-of-center bill which sought to limit when companies are permitted to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The bill sought to change millions of workers classified as independent contractors, who are not eligible for federal labor protections, minimum wage laws, and unemployment insurance, into full employees in order to expand the scope of labor regulations. Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law on September 18, 2019, though it immediately faced legal challenges. [30] [31]

CLF organized the initial campaign to pass the bill, alleging that the gig economy exploited low-income workers and created more income inequality. [32] Critics argued that the bill would drive up the price of critical services while also forcing workers to lose freedom and flexibility, as they would need to conform to scheduled hours and stronger oversight as employees than they did as independent contractors. [33]

After the bill passed, “gig economy” companies, including Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, raised $90 million in order to get the question of independent contractor status put on the 2020 ballot as a referendum. The ballot question, which became Proposition 22, sought to allow workers to remain classified as independent contractors, while also extending some wage and benefit guarantees. [34] CLF immediately responded to the proposal, saying it would “meet the gig companies’ absurd political spending” to defend AB 5. [35]

Gig economy companies spent more than $200 million in support of Proposition 22, while CLF led the campaign against it, raising just $20 million. [36] [37] [38] Nearly half of all donations in opposition to Proposition 22 came from organized labor, with CLF itself donating $1.1 million to oppose the measure. The 8 largest donors in opposition to Proposition 22 were all labor unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UFCW, and Teamsters. [39]

Proposition 22 passed in November 2020 with 58% of voters backing the initiative. CLF responded by claiming that technology companies had led a “deceitful campaign to strip workers of the essential protections they need” and accused them of having “cheated” the California unemployment system. [40]

In January 2021, CLF supported a lawsuit against Proposition 22, claiming that the proposition placed illegal constraints on the ability of rideshare drivers to unionize and excluded them from the state workers’ compensation program. The lawsuit also alleged that the proposition unconstitutionally prevented legislative amendments to the measure. [41] That same month, when grocery chain Albertson’s announced plans to use gig workers for grocery delivery in California, CLF claimed that the change had been made as a result of Proposition 22 in an effort to “erode the middle class.” [42]

CLF has continued to criticize gig companies outside the context of Proposition 22. In May 2021, the Biden administration announced an agreement with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to COVID-19 vaccination sites. CLF criticized the move, claiming that it risked “tacitly condoning a business model built for exploitation.” [43]

COVID-19 Advocacy

CLF has supported left-of-center policy on COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. CLF has admitted to using the COVID-19 pandemic in order to increase membership and union organizing. Following an AFL-CIO initiative to inform nonunion workers about the alleged benefits of unionization in promoting workplace safety, CLF set up a team to respond to nonunion workers trying to file for unemployment, bringing them into the scope of union representation. [44]

In May 2020, less than two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, CLF praised Gov. Newsom’s decision to create a presumption that any frontline worker who contracted COVID-19 contracted it on the job and was therefore eligible for worker’s compensation. [45] [46] Since late 2020, CLF has also called for legislation creating a statewide database of COVID-19 outbreaks in California, especially in workplaces. [47]

In March 2021, CLF joined with the SEIU California, UFCW, and the Teamsters to call on Gov. Newsom to provide at least $8 billion in bonuses to essential workers in California using taxpayer dollars. The proposal called for the $8 billion to be taken out of federal funding given to California for COVID-19 relief that had been intended to expand broadband access, improve state utilities, and address homelessness. [48] The proposal failed in the California legislature. [49]

In June 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards Board held a hearing on a proposal to allow fully vaccinated employees to be unmasked while outdoors or while in rooms in which everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19. CLF came out against the measure, arguing that employees should be forced to continue to wear masks and that employers should be required to maintain detailed documentation of vaccination status on all employees. [50] CLF went so far as to send a letter to Board Chair Dave Thomas urging him to reject the changes and claiming that they would cause increased workplace outbreaks of COVID-19. [51] The Board ultimately adopted the proposal in early June 2021. [52]

Campaigns

Aside from its legislative efforts, CLF often organizes campaigns to support left-of-center candidates and initiatives. In recent years, CLF has supported Gov. Newsom in his recall campaign, led left-wing initiatives on race and criminal justice, and endorsed far-left candidates for public office. [53] [54] [55]

“Boots on the Ground” Recall Campaign

In June 2021, CLF came out in support of Gov. Newsom during his recall. The union claimed that Gov. Newsom had put essential workers first during the pandemic by implementing a number of left-of-center policies, including mandatory paid sick leave and mandatory workplace COVID-19 reporting. [56] CLF further called all those who opposed Gov. Newsom “anti-worker.” [57]

In support of Gov. Newsom, CLF organized the “Boots on the Ground” campaign, recruiting thousands of volunteers to walk precincts, knock doors, and communicate with voters. CLF claimed that the campaign would involve union members walking over 4,000 miles in door-to-door canvassing, targeting immigrant families with in-language outreach, and expanding digital outreach to maximize turnout among young voters. [58]

As of June 2021, CLF has an entire section of its website dedicated to recruiting volunteers to oppose Gov. Newsom’s recall. [59]

Police Union Ban

CLF has promoted left-wing views on race and the criminal justice system. On August 4, 2020, CLF released a resolution stating that the union would disaffiliate from police and border patrol unions. CLF claimed that policing and border control perpetuated “racial and economic injustice” and participated in “acts of violence.” [60] The resolution further claimed that CLF committed to “vanquish oppression, authoritarianism, and cruelty in all their forms,” arguing that police and border patrol agents engage in such “oppression.” [61]

In the preface to the resolution, CLF claimed that “slave patrols and night watches…became modern day police departments,” asserting that “policing in America has its origins directly in slavery.” The resolution further claimed that “too many all institutions in the US treat have been designed to keep Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color as second-class citizens” and called “racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and xenophobia…national pandemics.” [62]

In addition to banning police and border patrol unions from CLF, the organization called for a “mass movement in every state to defund local police departments.” CLF further pledged to support a range of left-of-center and left-wing social movements, including Black Lives Matter, Medicare for All, Fight for $15, and environmentalist campaigns.” [63]

To conclude the resolution, CLF vowed to “expel from this body any member or affiliate who is a member of any Fascist or White Supremacist organization or member or affiliate who pursues policies and/or activities directed toward the purposes of any Fascist or otherwise White Supremacist Ideology,” implying that police officers and border patrol agents are agents of fascism and white supremacy. [64]

Endorsements

CLF often endorses left-of-center political candidates and supports their campaigns. In November 2020, CLF endorsed President Joe Biden and worked on his behalf. Following the election, a CLF spokesman claimed that union members played a “critical role” in President Biden’s victory and even to admitted sending California union members to work in “battleground states, including Nevada and Arizona” on President Biden’s behalf. [65] When President Biden came out in support of worker unionization at Amazon, CLF praised the move as strengthening unions across the country. [66]

CLF often endorses far-left candidates in California primary races in order to push the Democratic Party to the political left. CLF has endorsed U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), all of which have been ranked in the top 55 most left-leaning members of Congress by GovTrack according to their congressional voting records. [67] [68]

California Cannabis Industry Association Conflict

In 2020, CLF clashed with the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), an organization representing 500 marijuana companies in California. In accordance with California law, CCIA signed a labor peace agreement which required it to not disrupt employee attempts to unionize in exchange for unions promising not to picket, boycott, or otherwise interfere with business. [69]

In 2020, CLF, along with UFCW and Teamsters, claimed that CCIA had distributed a white paper to its member organizations on how to navigate labor peace agreements. The leaked document explained to CCIA members that labor peace agreements make it “substantially more likely a union will successfully organize employees,” threatening business profitability. The document also provided members advice on how to secure favorable terms in peace agreements before signing onto them. [70]

CLF, UFCW, and Teamsters responded by sending a letter to Democratic politicians in California asking them to “refrain from engaging with” CCIA in order to block the organization from passing measures such as tax decreases and favorable zoning laws for marijuana companies. Following the union-backed letter, CCIA retracted its white paper and apologized for distributing it. [71]

The letter allegedly damaged CCIA’s relationship with top state lawmakers. After the unions distributed the letter, Gov. Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (D) were removed as speakers from a CCIA conference agenda, and a spokesman for Gov. Newsom said that he hoped “the industry association will correct course and partner with organized labor going forward.” Following the controversy, CCIA abruptly signed onto a CLF proposal to decrease the number of employees required to force a business to sign peace agreements from 20 to 10, with some alleging that it had been pressured to do so by CLF and its partner unions. [72]

Exploitation Controversy

In 2020, married California Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) publicly apologized for having an extramarital affair with Carmel Foster, a domestic worker. Several years into their relationship, Foster testified on behalf of AB 5, becoming the first worker to testify in support of the bill to reclassify most independent contractors as employees. Assemblyman Ting was a strong proponent of the bill and had helped to author it. [73] [74]

Assemblyman Ting’s apology came in the wake of Foster reaching out to the conservative media outlet Communities Daily News (CDN) in order to detail the “abuse” she suffered during her relationship with Assemblyman Ting. Foster alleged that she was used not only by Assemblyman Ting, who lied about his identity when they met, but also by CLF and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) to bolster support for their supported bills, including AB 5. [75]

Foster claimed that the “unions controlled [her] testimonies, got stories out of [her], and then tossed [her] out,” calling the push for AB 5 a “payday” to support unionization, rather than an attempt to help workers. [76] According to emails provided by Foster to CDN, NDWA policy director Rocio Avila and former CLF associate Caitlin Vega pressured Foster to use her story in support of AB 5. [77]

Though CLF communications director Steve Smith said the organization had “absolutely nothing to do” with preparing Foster to testify, emails as early as August 2018, nine months before the hearing, show Vega corresponding with Foster, claiming that the organization “need[ed] your voice in this story” and offering to help “arrange” it. Vega sat next to Foster at the hearing in support of AB 5 and introduced Foster prior to her testimony. [78] Foster has since alleged that she was “exploited” by CLF and NDWA due to her close relationship with Assemblyman Ting. [79]

Leadership and Funding

CLF is funded by grants, contributions, dues from its affiliated unions, and revenues from its various employment services. [80] In addition to dues from affiliate unions, CLF has accepted grants from a number of left-of-center foundations, including the Energy Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation. [81] [82]

Art Pulaski is the executive secretary-treasurer of CLF. [83] Pulaski has been in the position since 1996, having begun his career in organized labor when he was 16 and working as a supermarket clerk. [84] Prior to becoming executive secretary-treasurer of CLF, Pulaski worked as executive secretary of the San Mateo Labor Council, a CLF affiliate, for 11 years. [85] During his time with CLF, Pulaski has also led other left-of-center nonprofit organizations, including the left-progressive Labor Project for Working Families, the Apollo Alliance, and the California Works Foundation. [86]

Kathryn Lybarger is the president of CLF. Lybarger is a professional gardener at the University of California, Berkeley, and has been involved in union organizing since 1999. Lybarger previously led the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, the University of California system’s largest employee union. Under her leadership, AFSCME Local 3299 organized a statewide University of California hospital strike. As of 2021, Lybarger works as international vice president of AFSCME, in addition to working as president of CLF. [87]

References

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  2. Glass, Fred. “Why Did California’s Tax the Rich Measure Lose?” Labor Notes. Labor Education and Research Project, November 19, 2020. https://labornotes.org/blogs/2020/11/why-did-californias-tax-rich-measure-lose. ^
  3. Guzman-Lopez, Adolfo. “Prop 16 Fails: California’s Affirmative Action Ban Stands.” LAist. Southern California Public Radio, April 21, 2021. https://laist.com/news/prop-16-fails-californias-affirmative-action-ban-stands. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 1956

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Dec Form 990 $10,289,139 $7,315,080 $10,125,568 $0 N $2,828,105 $6,854,010 $56,107 $1,287,598
    2018 Dec Form 990 $9,227,994 $9,780,148 $7,151,509 $0 N $2,430,081 $6,148,797 $25,910 $1,294,784 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $7,356,906 $6,775,737 $7,703,663 $0 N $1,421,936 $5,743,710 $14,592 $1,244,006 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $8,834,830 $8,536,747 $7,122,494 $0 N $2,104,487 $6,454,599 $15,292 $1,231,193 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $8,352,886 $7,094,525 $6,824,411 $0 N $2,464,115 $5,608,942 $4,716 $380,778 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $7,598,908 $7,687,113 $5,566,050 $0 N $1,417,384 $5,813,090 $4,478 $390,933 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $12,768,104 $13,258,842 $4,204,630 $0 N $7,158,455 $5,331,909 $3,665 $261,513 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $8,968,074 $7,780,667 $4,695,368 $0 N $3,483,912 $5,127,421 $3,722 $252,448 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    California Labor Federation

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    Oakland, CA 94610-3561