What’s cooking in the state legislature?
Cooperative Law 101
If you’d like to be your own boss, join a worker cooperative. This type of business (like the Cheeseboard or Arizmendi) is democratically owned and run by its worker-owners. Legislation proposed by Alameda Assemblyman Rob Bonta (AB 816) will make it easier for worker co-ops to form and grow in California, thereby helping small businesses, creating new jobs, and keeping business income in the hands of local workers. You can help this bill gain momentum by faxing a letter of support to Assemblyman Bonta at 916.319.2118. The Sustainable Economies Law Center supports the bill and is also starting up a worker co-op academy in Oakland. At the Academy, teams of three or more people can learn to operate democratically run, worker-owned enterprises through an intensive multi-month training course. Info: theselc.org
California Offers a Bit of Breathing Room for Chickens
Two new laws related to chickens and eggs went into effect in California on Jan 1. In combination, the two laws prohibit eggs produced in extreme-confinement conditions from being sold in California, regardless of where the eggs were produced. Proposition 2 was a ballot proposition passed back in 2008 requiring that certain egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal, and pregnant pigs must be confined in cages that allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. However, upgraded living quarters for chickens would cost money and cause farmers to raise the price of their eggs. To prevent egg farmers in other states from undercutting California’s prices with eggs produced in more crowded conditions, California egg farmers and animal-welfare advocates joined forces. They worked to pass a companion law making it illegal to sell eggs in California unless they’re produced in compliance with the new space requirements. The result is that hens in California and those from farms nationwide that sell eggs in California will be raised in slightly more humane living conditions.
2014 Legislative Wrap-Up
In its annual report on food and farming legislation, the California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) says that 9 of its 22 priority bills were signed into law in 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown. The CAFPC is a statewide network of urban and rural advocates that encourages progressive food laws by tracking and publicizing legislators’ voting records. Now in its second year, the Council is made up of representatives from 19 community organizations, including the Berkeley, Oakland, Marin, and Richmond food policy councils.
Legislation that passed in 2014 includes AB 1789, a bill that protects bees; AB 1930, which streamlines aspects of the federal benefits program CalFresh; and AB 2413, establishing the California Office of Farm to Fork, which sets the stage for needed food system change.
Although these are positive steps, many other initiatives collapsed. “We need real leadership in Sacramento to overcome the vested interests that prevent us from a healthy, sustainable, and just diet for all,” said Martin Bourque, Ecology Center executive director and Berkeley Food Policy Council spokesperson. Bills that failed to advance include AB 1437, which focused on protecting the effectiveness of antibiotics; SB 935, which ensured a livable minimum wage, and SB 1381 and 1000, which required labeling for GMOs and sugar-sweetened beverages. In November’s election, a soda tax was voted down in San Francisco, but passed with 76% approval in Berkeley.