In our efforts to broaden and expand the membership of The California Pool and Spa Association, formerly SPEC, we regularly stress that it is critical for the industry to have a professional and well-funded trade association with a strong presence in the State Capitol to fight against unwarranted new laws and regulations. Just recently we came across one of those stories of what can happen when an industry does not heed this warning and fails to maintain a strong presence at the Legislature.
This story affects the car wash, polishing and detailing industry in California. There are an estimated 1600 car wash facilities in California, not counting the non-staffed facilities and individual car wash and detailing operations. Together it is estimated that these facilities employ some 22,000 employees. It is no secret that some of these facilities have perhaps had more than their share of wage, hour and working condition violations, and failure to comply with state workers’ compensation laws. Also many of the employees of these facilities are paid minimum wage and do not receive other employee benefits.
In 2003 the state enacted legislation to regulate these car wash, polishing and detail entities. The governing statute imposed a $300 annual registration fee, enacted certain mandated reports, required the Department of Industrial Relations to promulgate regulations governing this industry and required the business to obtain a$15,000 bond. That statute contained a sunset clause that required the law to expire in 2007 unless the act was extended by the Legislature. The Legislature extended the sunset until January 1, 2014.
This past legislative session a bill, SB 1387, was introduced to eliminate the sunset clause and make the car wash regulatory law permanent. There was no opposition to this bill and it should have sailed through the legislature without a problem. However, organized labor interests had other ideas. They saw an opportunity to organize and collect dues from 22,000 potential new members. Amendments supported by the unions were added to the bill which increased the existing $15,000 bond requirement for each licensee to $150,000. Under this amendment the bond requirement is waived if the car wash had a union agreement covering its employees!
The public rational for this major increase in the bond requirement was that the bond was not sufficient to cover the amount of wages if there was a violation or dispute involving unpaid or underpaid wages and overtime. However, the reality of the situation is that the bond never came into play because the restitution fund in the original legislation, funded by the car wash registration fee, is utilized for this purpose before the bond, which is in third position after the employer and the restitution fund. In fact, the restitution fund reportedly has an estimated $2.5 million balance and has only ever paid out approximately $85,000 in unpaid or underpaid wages since its existence. As such, this relatively simple bill to eliminate the sunset clause on a state regulatory bill was turned into a union organizing tool. SB 1387 was passed on aparty line vote in both houses of the legislature. Democrats voted for the bill and Republicans voted against the bill.
How did this happen? The car wash industry was nowhere to be seen in Sacramento. The policy committee analysis on SB 1387 indicates that no opposition to the bill was received. On the other hand, SB 1387 was supported by the AFL-CIO, Steel Workers Union, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, CLEAN Car Wash Campaign and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Bottom line, an industry cannot oppose unwarranted laws and regulations if it is absent under from the process where such legislation is being considered. An industry cannot organize fast enough to stop bad ideas unless the industry is already organized and has created a presence at the Capitol before long before such bills are introduced or amended to target its interests.
For over 30 years SPEC, and now it’s successor, California Pool and Spa Association, have a history of showing up every day to defend the interests of the swimming pool and spa industry to fight against unwarranted new laws and regulations. The challenge is to broaden and expand the membership so everyone who benefits from these efforts pays just a small part of the cost, akin to the theory of insurance. Examples such as the car wash industry are like a picture, in that it tells the story better than we can ever fully explain.
CPSA, the California Pool and Spa Association, serves as the statewide public policy representative for the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. We advocate on behalf of industry interests before the California Legislature and state and local regulatory agencies, and for individual members dealing with enforcement issues. Working daily on the industry’s behalf, we have an unmatched track record in successfully negotiating and fighting against unreasonable and costly legislation and for enforcement
of unlicensed contractor laws. CPSA promotes the highest standards of professional conduct in pool construction, service, and repair, and seeks to educate the public on the proper maintenance and safe use of swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. For nearly 40 years, CPSA (formerly SPEC) has
been the only organization registered to lobby at the State Capitol on behalf of the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. CPSA is funded by membership donations. For more information on CPSA and legislation we are watching call 916-447-411
Reprinted with permission from John Norwood, President of The California Pool and Spa Association ( formerly SPEC) in his
California Capitol Report.
Mike the Poolman
Pool Service & Repair in Folsom, CA since 1995