Dear Chairman Hill,
My name is Steven Greenhut and I am the Sacramento-based Western Region Director at the R Street Institute. R Street is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank devoted to pragmatic free-market solutions to public policy
challe nges. I write you in support of S.B. 448, legislation that “would exempt a small winery or small microbrewery
… that utilizes volunteers who perform part-time labor in exchange for hands-on training, from having these volunteers classified as employees or apprentices .”
These small wineries and breweries clearly deserve an exemption from this section of the labor code given that many people like the opportunity to volunteer at these businesses to learn about the trade. Such volunteers typically are older people who enjoy the wine and brewery culture. They aren’t interested in the money, but in learning about the fascinating process of making wine and beer. In fact, I’ve volunteered at a winery before with my church group where we picked grapes and made our own wine as part of an indescribably enjoyable afternoon.
In 2014, I wrote a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune about a small hobby winery in Castro Valley, with annual revenues of a mere $11,000. It relied on volunteers who valued the hands-on learning. “I have so much fun out here, I should actually have to pay (the owner),” one of them told me. But as I reported, “agents from the Department of Industrial Relations showed up unannounced … and slapped its owners with more than $115,000 in fines and assessments for using volunteer workers.”
The agency said it must “vigorously enforce minimum labor standards so that employees are not required to work under substandard conditions and to protect law-abiding employers from unfair competition by others don’t comply with minimum standards .” In these cases, however, no one is being forced to work in substandard conditions – nor do these tiny companies pcise any threat of unfair competition.
We have no problem with the state vigorously enforcing the labor code to protect workers, but such an unreasonable approach simply gives our state a bad reputation for business and keeps people from enjoying the many blessings our state has to offer. This bill offers a simple fix that doesn’t undermine any worker’s rights or protections.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Steven Greenhut R Street Institute