So last week, I attended a “retreat” in San Diego, and some of you wanted to know about the turmoil I created there. So here we go. The disclaimer here is this is an entirely non-ideological discussion of the issues involved. But you need some background.
DOL is the US Dept. of Labor. They are one of the dumbest government agencies I deal with. They are in full-on Kafka mode, and the dictates of agency policy are adhered to rigidly, regardless of how appalling the outcome. Have you seen Brazil? You get the idea. I have one case where they managed to simultaneously bankrupt the employer while also ensuring that no compensation would be paid for deaths and serious injuries that happened in an accident on the way to work in the fields. They were not always this way. During Bush, they were easy as pie to deal with and we never worried about them. Obama changed their priorities, and they became a nightmare.
CRLA is California Rural Legal Assistance. This is a non profit law firm that gets most of its funding from the Legal Services Corporation. It is Legal Aid. Those funds come with rules attached, and they routinely break them. I tried to get those rules enforced a few years ago, and they sued me personally claiming that I habitually get workers they represent deported, which is not true.
They have used it to get press, attention, and fundraising dollars, all successfully. One of their lawyers had built her entire career around a narrative of me as a villian, and speaks all over the country about it. This lawsuit has been used politcally by the UFW because of my work representing workers against the union. They have two legislators agitating about me in Sacramento, and they are putting pressure on the State Bar to go after my license.
One of those rules used to be that as free lawyers. they could not ask courts to award attorney’s fees. Almost immediately after Obama took office, that particular regulation was changed, and they have been chasing fees ever since.
So I went down to San Diego for an event that is a series of roundtable discussions concerning labor in agriculture. I was feeling a bit ornery because of some developments in these matters, and I could not stand to look at the smug industry association reps, especially those from well funded and powerful organizations. These assholes sit on the sidelines, play golf with lobbyists and drink tea with Congressmen, and look down their noses at people like me who actually have to fight these battles. I am the person they come to when they are in deep shit and say “Save my business.”
Despite the anti-Trump rhetoric, nothing has changed with federal agencies in the labor and employment arena. EEOC continues to be extremely aggressive for women as well as gay and transgender people, moreso than the California agency. DOL continues to follow Obama enforcement priorities, and continues to be irrationally unreasonable. You may well think this is a good thing, but I think all would agree that it is an odd state of affairs for a Trump administration.
So I spoke up. I loudly questioned what is happening in DC. I pointed out that the industry’s enemies were given changes that helped them, like fees for CRLA and a more aggressive DOL/EEOC, and we can’t seem to get the same when we have an avowed anti-regulation, pro-business president. The industry association reps were most displeased. Later in the afternoon, one of them made a crack about legal fees and I said “At least we do what we get paid to do.”
They did not talk to me at the reception, which was fine, because I chatted with the son of one of my oldest clients, a family that has been farming here for over 100 years. Seems I got the young man riled up....
So this is in part why I blew off the next day and hit the road with Toby.
The choice seems fairly obvious to me.