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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

CEO State Rankings Latest in Deceptive Campaign on California Biz Climate

By Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

A recent survey of CEOs commissioned by Chief Executive Magazine – yes, there really is such a thing and fortunately it doesn’t feature a centerfold of Rupert Murdoch -- ranked California dead last in business climate.

Now, on its face, that might be cause for alarm. But when you scratch the surface, this survey is little more than corporate honchos throwing around their weight to try to further strip working people of important protections that improve lives.

So why would a CEO rank California low on the list of so-called business-friendly states? Easy. We have some strong laws and regulations in place that protect workers from abusive conditions and our environment from being polluted. In fact, most of the regulations you hear business whine about – the eight-hour day, meal breaks, CEQA and our anti-global warming law – have the strong support of Californians. That’s because they are an overwhelming positive for our state. They make California a better place to live, work and raise a family. But according to America’s CEOs, what’s good for workers and the environment doesn’t really matter.

New York-based business consultant Peter Schaub, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee:

It makes me wonder if a so-called business-friendly state is one that just rolls over for business without any regard for things like pollution, business practices or treatment of workers.

Of course, business groups and Republicans are already using the survey to further their agenda of slashing workplace and environmental standards. But let’s examine their arguments. Are California businesses really engaging in a mass exodus from our state? The answer, according to the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, is no. So maybe California’s regulations are hindering job growth, as Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce are prone to claim. Uh, not really.

So what’s behind this survey and the incessant claims from corporate executives and the Republicans they bankroll about California’s “unfriendly” business climate? For CEOs, it’s all a matter of dollars and cents. The fewer regulations there are to deal with, the more money they can slip into their own pockets. Even at a time when corporate profits and executive bonuses are soaring, CEOs want more.

Even though excesses on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms created the financial debacle that cost millions of jobs, CEOs want more. They’re not content with the millions they rake in every year, so they’re trying to tear down some of the few protections workers have left to make themselves even richer.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski breaks it down.

A survey of CEOs ranking business climate is like having a survey of bank robbers ranking bank security. A low ranking may be bad for them, but it certainly isn’t bad for the rest of us. America’s CEOs continue to see their profits and bonuses skyrocket while the rest of us are mired in recession. For them to have the audacity to slam California’s necessary environmental and workplace protections shows just how out of touch CEOs are with the realities facing our families.

So, here’s a message for CEOs: Stop whining. Start acting more responsibly. Next time you fill out one of these ridiculous surveys, take into account the lives of workers and the health of our families. You’re nothing without the hard work of your employees.

Despite the claims of CEOs and Republican lawmakers about California’s demise, we have a bright future. Our laws and regulations protecting workers and the environment are a big reason for our optimism. We’ll turn around our economy because we value education, clean energy, infrastructure and the jobs they create.


California remains one of the most diverse and vibrant places on the planet. Our economy will rebound from the devastation wrought by Wall Street through investment in education, strong protections for workers and the environment and sensible job creation incentives that don’t sell out our families to pad the corporate bottom line.

Posted on 05/06/2011Permalink

More posts by Steve Smith

Reader Discussion

If it is SO BAD, why do majority of businesses remain here? Could it be that the benefits of being in CA actually outweigh the costs?

at 5:51 pm on Fri, May 6, 2011Posted by Neahle Madden, R.N.

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