in the KNOW

April 13, 2012

Blue Diamond Breaks Ground on New Plant

Ag Council member, Blue Diamond Growers, launched the first phase of its new manufacturing plant during a ground breaking ceremony in Turlock this week.

Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond President and CEO, said, “Blue Diamond made its last major investment in 1968 in its Salida plant. At that time, California was producing 140 million pounds of almonds. Compare that to this¬†year’s crop of about 2 billion pounds, and you can better understand why we are making a major investment to expand or business.”

“We have kept pace with upgrading new technologies in our plant operations over the last 44 years, but today we are celebrating the largest single investment in the 102 years of the almond industry’s existence. In fact, the year we will also complete¬†a state of the art Research and Development complex at our headquarters in Sacramento,” Jansen said.

The 88-acre property at N. Washington and Fulkerth Roads in Turlock will house about 200,000 square feet of building space for manufacturing and delivering almond products throughout the world. It is set to be completed May 2013. After that, the next phases of the project will result in approximately 500,000 total square feet of building space over the next 15 years.

Job openings at the facility will be announced this fall, with the exact number of jobs undetermined at this time pending investment decisions regarding new technologies.

Ag Council congratulates Blue Diamond as it implements this important project bringing economic investment to a key region and needed expansion for Blue Diamond.

Click here for a Modesto Bee article.


Long-Awaited Employment Case Decided

In a much-anticipated employment case, Brinker v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week that an “employer need not ensure that no work is done during an employee’s meal period.”

The Court was tasked with defining the parameters of an employer’s obligation to provide meal periods to employees in a lawsuit filed by workers’ attorneys against Brinker International (owner of Chili’s and other restaurants).

California law requires that employer’s “provide” employees working five or more hours with a 30-minute unpaid, off-duty, meal period, which has led to confusion given that an employer’s obligation was not specifically defined.

The Court in Brinker said an employer satisfies the requirement to provide a meal period, “if it relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage them from doing so.”

“What will suffice may vary from industry to industry, and we cannot in the context of this class certification proceeding delineate the full range of approaches that in each instance might be sufficient to satisfy the law,” the Court said.

Click here for a USA Today article on the Brinker decision.


Dueling Ballot Proposals

A tax proposal, that rivals Governor Brown’s ballot effort to hike taxes, received $2.15 million this week from its only financial backer in order to help gather more signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Civil rights attorney, Molly Munger, provided the funds and is leading the charge to qualify the measure on the November ballot. The measure would increase income taxes on nearly all wage earners in California to provide funds directly to public schools and early childhood development programs.

The measure must collect about 504,000 valid California voter signatures by May to qualify for the November ballot.

Backers of Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily raise income taxes on high wage earners and increase state sales tax have appealed to Munger to drop the competing tax measure to no avail.

Supporters of the Governor’s ballot measure believe that having both proposals on the November ballot will be confusing to voters and hinder the chances that the Governor’s measure would be approved.

Click here for a related SacBee article.


Latest Poll on Gov’s Tax Plan

In an online poll conducted by USC Dornsife, 63 percent of the registered California voters polled support Governor Brown’s ballot measure to raise the state sales tax by one-quarter of a cent and increase income taxes on those earning over $250,000 to fund public schools. Thirty percent oppose the ballot measure.

The USC Dornsife online poll shows only 24 percent of those polled support Molly Munger’s competing tax effort (described in the article above), which would raise income taxes on most California workers. Sixty-seven percent oppose Munger’s proposal.

The USC Dornsife online survey interviewed 1,874 registered California voters from March 19-21, 2012. The data carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percent.

Click here for further poll details.