Laboring over reports

More work, less pay: The Legislature celebrated Labor Day weekend by working their butts off, making up for slacking off, recessing and playing politics most of the year.

Putting in grueling 14-hour days in the last week before the deadline for approving bills is admirable in the same sort of way that we admire triathletes and students cramming for exams, even if it can’t possibly produce the most well-thought-out results. But there’s another story in this issue about what happened at the bitter end, and frankly, Bites is as tired of talking about these guys as you are of hearing about them.

Instead, we’ll talk about a couple of the many status reports triggered by the occasion of Labor Day, the most interesting of which was “The State of Working California” by the California Budget Project, a well-respected non-profit group.

It finds that workers aren’t sharing in the California economy’s tremendous gains since 1989. Median income workers in California saw their paychecks increase by an inflation-adjusted 1.4 percent during that time, while the average American worker’s pay jumped 4.9 percent.

“California workers should have done better during the late 1990s. Our job growth was much stronger than that of the nation, but wage and income gains for the typical California family lagged behind those of the nation as a whole,” said CBP Executive Director Jean Ross.

The report also outlined a growing gender wage gap, a widening gulf between rich and poor and between union and non-union workers, declines in the wages earned by blacks and Latinos, and more families working longer hours for lower wages.

But the good news from “A Labor Day Briefing for California” by the state Employment Development Department is that California is outpacing the country in producing new jobs, with 3.2 million new jobs expected by 2010.

So that means Californians will have access to lots of new low-paying jobs, just in case the creditors beating at your door make you want to get a second job.

Milken it: Bites immediately considers the source when a report thumps down on my desk. So with “Manufacturing Matters: California’s Performance and Prospects,” prepared for the California Manufacturers & Technology Association by the Milken Institute, Bites knew what the conclusion would be before even opening it.

“California competitiveness is threatened by the high costs of doing business,” was its main conclusion, and the solution was that, “Policy makers should adopt new legislation and regulations to reduce costs and provide incentives for manufacturers.” In other words, more tax breaks and subsidies and an erosion of labor and environmental laws.

Bites has to admire the gall of these people, particularly during this era of corporate credibility problems. Here is one of the biggest corporate lobbying groups in the state, issuing a report written by the think tank that junk bond king Michael Milken started after getting out of prison for his high corporate crimes, with a completely straight face.

“The evidence is presented in black and white,” CM&TA President Jack Stewart said incredulously. “All that’s left to do is act on it.”

Simple. Simply unbelievable.

Black and white: We might as well make it a clean sweep by mentioning yet another report with implications for Sacramento. In accordance with a gutted racial profiling bill that Governor Gray Davis signed last year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote “An Evaluation of Racial Profiling Data Collection and Training.”

It’s a mostly technical report calling for standardization of the data on traffic stops that is collected by some police departments—including Sacramento’s—data collected in response to concerns that blacks are getting singled out by police.

But what’s interesting is that each of the five jurisdictions analyzed in the report showed that police stopped blacks more often than their percent of the population should indicate, and that most of these stops lasted longer than stops of whites.

Since last year’s report showed the racial profiling appears to be happening in Sacramento, cops here have responded with a drastically reduced number of overall traffic stops. And considering rampant lawlessness hasn’t broken out, maybe a reduced police presence in our lives isn’t such a bad thing after all.