Isadore Hall’s appointment to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board is a symptom of what the Los Angeles Times editorial board calls the state’s “shameful” and “loathsome” crony politics.
“What does a career politician from urban Los Angeles County know about the state’s agricultural industry?” the Times asked, echoing not only farmers but farmworkers, too.
“The concern about experience is reasonable,” the Times editorial board said. “This quasi-judicial board rules on workplace disputes over allegedly unfair labor practices and other complaints, some brought by the UFW. It’s pretty complicated stuff, which explains why other the members of the board are lawyers or have significant experience in labor relations, or both”
Hall’s critics “are especially concerned about Hall’s ability to be fair to agricultural employers because, though he has no background in agriculture, he has been a faithful supporter of the labor movement, the United Farm Workers in particular. For example, as a senator, Hall voted for a controversial bill extending overtime protections to farm workers,” the editorial said.
“But as history shows, out-of-work politicians don’t need a relevant resume to get a plum appointment. All they need is experience as a loyal party operative.”
Reward from party establishment
Here’s how political patronage in Sacramento works. To sum up the Times editorial, Hall, a local politician who ran for Congress, “was supposed to win a race in November for the congressional seat,” because he “had the full weight of the Democratic Party establishment behind him, but somehow lost to underdog Nanette Barragan, a former Hermosa Beach City Council member and fellow Democrat.”
That was bad news for the obedient Isadore Hall: “He was suddenly out of a job, which must have been a blow for someone who had spent 16 uninterrupted years in public service,” according to the Times editors.
Now, the editors explain how California cronyism works:
“Fortunately for him [Hall], the chairman of the agriculture labor board stepped down in January. That same day, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Hall’s appointment to the post, which pays $142,095 a year — a significant bump from Hall’s senator base paycheck of $100,111 (state legislators’ base pay has since been increased to $104,115).”
Hall got cursory approval from his “former colleagues” on the Senate Rules Committee, and is likely to get full Senate confirmation.
“And so it goes in one of the more loathsome practices in state politics: lawmakers approving the appointments of their former friends and colleagues to the few board seats that pay real money,” according to the Times editorial.
Hall gets $142K a year for a part-time gig
“Most of the state boards and commissions are not full-time gigs, and board members are paid just for the cost and time of attending meetings. But a handful of these panels, including the agriculture board and Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, pay their members generous full-time salaries, even though they may meet only monthly,” the editorial said.
“Out-of-work” politicians get appointed to the ALRB and other state boards. State Senator Marty Block (D-San Dieg0) stepped aside so that former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) “could run for his seat as the top Democrat,” according to the Times.
Then, as a member of the Senate Rules Committee, Atkins soft-balled questions to former senator Hall during his March 1 confirmation hearing to sit on the ALRB. Crony corruption comes full circle, as the Times editors explained.
If these six-figure jobs are so important, shouldn’t they go to qualified people?
The Times then raised what its editors called “a larger question”:
If these are truly important jobs that require full-time, six-figure salaried staff, shouldn’t they go to people with on-the-job experience? The answer, of course, is yes, and the Legislature should make that a requirement. But this practice is unlikely to end so long as it requires the vote of the same people who some day might need a cushy appointment of their own.”