Letter to Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement On SB 448: Related to Labor Code and Small Wineries
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
I write you in support of S.B. 448,
legislation that “would exempt a small winery or small microbrewery
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
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.”
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