Assembly Bill 1362
Narrative by Daisha Benjamin (AFSCME Council 36)
On September 28, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1362 into law. While it may have been just another bill on his table to sign, for our AFSCME Local 830 members, this bill meant that Food & Agriculture Code (FAC) 486 would finally be amended.
FAC 486 stated, in part, “…for agricultural inspector services, if the cooperative agreement requires that the county provide year-round services, unless not less than 66 percent of the agricultural inspector aides and not less than 75 percent of the agricultural inspector associates not afforded protections as permanent employees employed under the cooperative agreement are afforded protections as permanent employees under the county’s civil service or other personnel system.” The goal of FAC 486 was to grant permanent employee status to inspector aids, which it did do. However, it also caused huge disruptions in the Agriculture Department’s workflow. Even though it was a major accomplishment for inspector aides, it limited the job duties of associate inspectors and considerably constrained members’ professional growth.
Local 830 exhausted all other options before deciding that the legislative route would be the best option to protect the worker rights that were gained with FAC 486, while also restoring their workplace to some sort of normalcy. “Knowing that it is a lengthy and tiresome process, the legislative route was not our first choice,” says Danny Estrada, President of AFSCME Local 830. “We sought various interpretations of FAC 486 which would circumvent legislative action, but unfortunately, the FAC 486 language and effects could only be ameliorated through legislation.” So, in 2017 they began the lengthy process of pushing a bill through California State Legislature.
There were major obstacles along the way. There were several state Legislature members that were interested in authoring the bill, but ultimately did not. Then, California went into a state-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing the state legislation process to a complete halt. Ultimately, California State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo authored Assembly Bill 1362. AB 1362 removes the provision from FAC 486 that forbids a cooperative agreement with Los Angeles County if 75 percent or more of agricultural inspector associates are not granted permanent civil service employee protections. It will allow inspector aides to retain their permanent employment status while also expanding the kinds of tasks associate inspectors can be assigned to. It will remove the constraints on their workplace that they have been dealing with for years.
With so much support from different organizations and elected leaders, AB 1362 passed through the California State Legislature unanimously. “Despite all the setbacks our team never wavered, and we are elated to finally see it pass,” says Romalyne Villar, Vice President of AFSCME Local 830. The passing of this bill would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Local 830 members, such as Romalyne Villar, Oliver Magsino, and Sergio Zaragoza. These members along with Council 36 Political Advocate, Isabelle Franz, played a vital role in seeing this process through to the end.
While legislation can be a drawn-out process, it offers our members another avenue to better their workplace and their community. Our political power at AFSCME District Council 36 is unparalleled and members should consider being more politically active. Especially, if it means improving your workplace.
If you feel that the California State Legislature would be the best option to solving some of the issues you are having at your workplace, please reach out to our Political Advocate Isabelle Franz. She will be able to provide you with more information.
Questions used for the narrative
Questions answered by Danny Estrada and Romalyne Villar
When did you all start the legislative process?
-The legislative process started in early 2017 as an amendment to Food and Agriculture Code (FAC) 486, at this nascent stage, we circulated a petition to our membership to gage general interest and support. We were able to obtain overwhelming support for the amendment, notwithstanding a handful of objections.
What made you all decide to go the legislative route?
-The language in FAC 486, although well intentioned, created a bottleneck in our workplace and workflow, considerably constraining our members’ professional growth and our department’s operations. Our legislative team also had to keep in mind the concerns of our members who did not agree with the amendment. The objections had merit, a small portion of our members feared that rather than amend FAC 486, which was the goal, it would be done away with altogether, which was not the goal. Despite the shortcomings of FAC 486, it was a massive victory, awarding permanent employee status to our Inspector Aid position and it attempted to do the same for the Associate Inspector position. Rather than gain permanent employee status for the Associate Inspector, which was always intended to be a non-permanent position, it caused a dilemma in assigning Associate Inspectors to certain job assignments, therefore affecting workflow and operations, thus necessitating legislative intervention or some other remedy.
Knowing that it is a lengthy and tiresome process, the legislative route was not our first choice. We sought various interpretations of FAC 486 which would circumvent legislative action, but unfortunately, the FAC 486 language and effects could only be ameliorated through legislation.
What does this bill mean to you and your coworkers?
-In a sense, Assembly Bill (AB) 1362 is a return to normalcy, all the while, protecting the rights afforded to our members through the original bill, FAC 486.
How will AB 1362 better your workplace?
-AB 1362 will have a tremendous impact on our departments’ operations and workflow, along with member satisfaction. As mentioned before, prior to AB 1362, our Associate Inspectors could only be assigned to a narrow set of assignments, but now, Associates Inspectors can be assigned to task more commensurate with their skills sets and experience.
What was this entire process like for you all?
The process was a lengthy and collaborative one. Our union started the process of the bill in 2017 and since then has had plenty of setbacks along the way. We went through several State Congress Members, had a change in our legislative advocate, and of course COVID-19 which postponed all aspects of legislation, including AB 1362. Despite all the setbacks our team never wavered, and we are elated to finally see it pass. The process also allowed our team to collaborate with a broad range of people and agencies. We received input from our members through surveys, worked alongside Council 36 Legislative Advocate, Isabelle Franz, as well as AFSCME President, Andres Jung, on language and best possible pathways. We were able to advocate the bill to State Assembly Members and even California’s Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross. We are very grateful for all those involved in helping AB 1362 pass and the betterment of our members.