By Robert Acosta, PCL Construction
California’s Central Valley has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state and it’s the reason Governor Newsom said in his first State of the State Address in 2019 that he was committed to unlocking the enormous potential of the Valley. Coming out of the pandemic, the Central Valley is working hard to get back on its feet and we’re encouraged that the State Legislature recently passed a host of bills to protect workers from facing unemployment amid the pandemic. Yet it’s baffling that a legislator would introduce Senate Bill 419 authored by Senator Stern of Los Angeles – a bill that puts Central Valley workers in the state’s oil and gas industry out of work in the most disadvantaged region of the state.
Senate Bill 419 displaces thousands of Central Valley workers and fails to take in account the years of job training, education, and experience that many hard-working Central Valley oil and gas employees have gained throughout their careers – deeming them unqualified for jobs that they’ve been doing safely for decades.
California’s oil and gas industry supports millions of jobs in the Central Valley – with 1 in 7 workers in Kern County working in a job connected to the oil and gas industry. And that number doesn’t even consider surrounding businesses that benefit from this economic activity. For example, a local restaurant owner recently shared that his restaurant could face dire consequences if there is a drop in oil and gas workers in the area. We’re his customer base. In the Central Valley, we produce more than 80 percent of California’s oil and gas. While this legislation was introduced under the guise of safety, it fails to consider that the oil and gas industry is already one of the safest industries in California and the nation.
California’s oil and gas workers have impressive safety records and many of them have worked in the industry for decades while maintaining safety as a top priority. California has one of the most stringent regulations in the world having more than 25 federal, state and local agencies overseeing oil and gas production. In 2019, safety data shows that California’s oil and gas industry kept the Total Recordable Incident Rate, a measure of occupational safety and health that compares working conditions in workplaces and industries, at an impressive low – even more so when compared to similar industries.
Working under strict government regulation and top-notch industry standards established by the Building Industry Association of California, I have worked for 15 years in the oil and gas industry where safety is paramount and I’m just one example. The Central Valley has thousands of workers who have amassed roughly 12 million hours of work experience, education and training in their professions who will be put out of work if Senate Bill 419 becomes law.
It’s why we’re calling on Senator Stern and our state leaders to look beyond Los Angeles and consider the impacts this bill will have on Central Valley workers – single moms, second chancers, immigrants, veterans, and hard-working families. Jobs security is critical and we need our state leaders in Sacramento to consider the damaging consequences that Senate Bill 419 will have on California’s struggling Central Valley.
Robert Acosta is a Central Valley resident and has worked at PCL Industrial Services as a Gas Foreman for more than five years, with more than 15 years of experience in the Oil and Gas Industry. PCL Industrial Services is a member of Associated Builders and Contractors of California.
To support us, please visit ProtectCentralValleyJobs.com to get involved.