Political patronage is not a new concept. A certain amount of it is expected, and no one protests too much when the “backup” jobs are handed out to those whose election hopes failed. But even then, one expects the job handed out to be something the loser is at least somewhat qualified for, even if only on paper.
In Jerry Brown’s administration, they’re not even trying to masquerade anymore, as the case of losing Congressional candidate Isadore Hall (D-Compton) illustrates.
Hall, termed out of his Senate seat, ran for an open congressional seat and lost. Immediately after leaving office at the beginning of December, he was appointed as “interim executive director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute, a public policy center at Cal State Dominguez Hills,” and there’s no record of anything he did there before his real plum appointment was announced in early January.
On that fateful day, January 9, the chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board resigned in a huff (Brown’s admin wasn’t as left-wing as he’d like), and Gov. Brown appointed Hall to replace him. The part-time position pays $142,095 – an enormous jump from his $100,013 Senate salary.
Now, assuming he is confirmed by the full California State Senate – the same body from which he just termed out and which is controlled by a Democrat supermajority – he will be on a board which is “responsible for the prevention of those practices which the [California Labor Relations] Act declares to be impediments to the free exercise of employee rights.”
Hall will be responsible for preventing practices which are impediments to the free exercise of rights? The same Isadore Hall who never met a civil right he didn’t want to pass a law to infringe?
The same Isadore Hall who told Second Amendment advocates they have “dirty filthy mouths that need to be washed with soap” for daring to exercise their right to speak out against proposed gun laws – then accused them of defending the Orlando terrorist attacks and blamed them for “terrorizing our streets”?
Isadore Hall is an unconventional choice for this board, to say the least. Unlike other board members, Hall is not a lawyer, nor did he grow up with migrant farm worker parents or work in the fields himself. His Assembly and Senate districts were in urban Los Angeles – hardly a mecca of agricultural industry. Other than extorting campaign funds from labor unions, he has no experience in labor relations or in deciding labor law cases.
Hall is SO unconventional a choice that even the Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial condemning it. (Either that or someone from up above told them it’s time to stick a few knives in Hall’s back.)
The concern about experience is reasonable. This quasi-judicial board rules on workplace disputes over allegedly unfair labor practices and other complaints, some brought by the UFW. It’s pretty complicated stuff, which explains why other the members of the board are lawyers or have significant experience in labor relations, or both.
But as history shows, out-of-work politicians don’t need a relevant resume to get a plum appointment. All they need is experience as a loyal party operative. And it sure doesn’t hurt if they took one for the team.
If these are truly important jobs that require full-time, six-figure salaried staff, shouldn’t they go to people with on-the-job experience? The answer, of course, is yes, and the Legislature should make that a requirement. But this practice is unlikely to end so long as it requires the vote of the same people who some day might need a cushy appointment of their own.
The ALRB isn’t a stranger to controversy. It’s been embroiled in legal actions with Fresno-based Gerawan Farms and its farmworkers for more than three years.
It’s a long, complex story, but the thumbnail sketch is that after the United Farm Workers won the right to represent Gerawan workers in 1990, they were absent until 2013, when UFW sought to have their original contract implemented. Gerawan’s farmworkers, who didn’t want to pay union dues to a negligent entity, filed a petition to have the UFW decertified at Gerawan. When a decertification election finally took place, the Board held the ballots and refused to count them, alleging that Gerawan broke the law. Though an administrative law judge agreed, a federal District Court judge did not, ruling that instead the Board withheld information positive to the grower.
This same union – the United Farm Workers – gave generously to Hall’s Congressional race.
A few months later, Hall was the principal co-author of legislation the union wanted to pass in regarding farmworker overtime.
Just this week one California lawmaker invited the FBI to investigate ties between the ALRB and the UFW. Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) described the Board as a:
“corrupt UFW protection racket [that] comes down not only on the grower, but on thousands upon thousands of farmworkers.”
Who needs soap now, Mr. Hall? You should have a few bars left from those sent to your office by Firearms Policy Coalition and their supporters last summer:
Considering the cast of characters involved with this board, it’s clear Hall’s appointment was not an accident. And it shows that, for liberals in California, a career is but a series of patronage appointments.