We were told that this governor wasn't going to be controlled by special interests. Specifically, the governor said he was going "to represent your interests, not special interests." What happened?
The California Restaurant Association has donated a sizeable amount to Governor Schwarzenegger's political campaigns this year, and it has hosted successful fundraisers for Schwarzenegger's future campaigns. Why? Primarily because they want an end to the laws that force them to give breaks to their employees.
If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.
Restaurants were so accustomed to violating the meal and rest period laws in California that most workers thought that lunch breaks and ten minute rest breaks were not permitted, much less required, in the restaurant business. And before the enactment of Labor Code § 226.7, the law didn't provide enough incentive for workers to actually enforce their rights in court. However, since 2001, when the law began to require an hour of pay for each day of meal or rest period violations, most restaurant chains in California have been brought into court for meal and rest period violations. We aren't aware of even a single company that has prevailed in defending such lawsuits.
Not content to simply adjust their business practices, the restaurants have looked to the Schwarzenegger administration for their salvation. Lobbyists for the California Restaurant Association were instrumental in the drafting of the ill-fated proposed emergency regulations to effectively end meal period obligations the restaurant and other industries.
An administration undersecretary testified in a recent deposition that he was approached on the day of Schwarzenegger's inauguration by a Chamber of Commerce lobbyist who wanted changes made to the meal and rest break rules. The chief lobbyist for the California Restaurant Association testified that he met with administration officials in February 2004 to complain about the meal and rest break rules. They even asked to have new rules applied retroactively, to affect pending lawsuits.
And the administration is trying everything in its power to accommodate them. Apparently, when the governor said he was going "to represent your interests, not special interests," he was speaking to what the rest of us would consider special interests. And when he said "special interests" he actually meant regular working people. Or perhaps when he said "special interests," he just wasn't considering the restaurant business, because, after all, there's nothing special about modern restaurant chains.
However you want to spin this, one thing is clear: Schwarzenegger is all about special interests, and like any other actor, he can be bought, but he can't be bought cheap.