Plan to spend $1.5B in climate money includes union boost


California lawmakers gave a boost to a union looking to organize Tesla workers Friday as they approved a plan to spend $1.5 billion on environmental initiatives using money from the state’s recently renewed program that charges polluters to emit greenhouse gases.

The spending is outlined in two bills now heading to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Much of the money will go toward pay for incentives and rebates to promote a cleaner vehicle fleet, including passenger cars, commercial trucks and port equipment.

Up to $140 million is earmarked for rebates for people who buy clean vehicles, but that money comes with a catch. Under a provision requested by a labor union, state officials will have to certify that participating automakers are “fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.”

The provision comes as the United Auto Workers pursues an increasingly acrimonious drive to unionize thousands of workers who assemble high-end Tesla electric vehicles at a plant in Fremont. It directs the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency to come up with criteria for certifying that an automaker treats its employees fairly and responsibly.

The Legislature shouldn’t insert in a labor dispute that should be handled by the National Labor Relations Board, said Carl Guardino at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a business group that includes Tesla.

A number of lawmakers, including Democrats, agreed, arguing the last-minute language shouldn’t have been added to the bill. Still, both bills easily passed.



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