California lawmakers are pushing a last-minute bill that would extend unemployment benefits to workers on strike.
SB 799, authored by Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino of Burbank, would allow workers to access unemployment funds if a labor dispute stretches beyond two weeks.
“SB 799 will help workers put food on their table when they need it most, in the middle of a labor negotiation,” Portantino said in a statement. “It’s better for the worker and the economy to have job security and a seat at the table as we negotiate the future of the workforce, while business and economic models change.”
It comes amid a “hot labor summer” that does not appear to be cooling in the Golden State: Hollywood writers and actors, Los Angeles hotel workers, and health care workers across the state continue to picket for better wages and working conditions.
“We don’t expect what we’ve seen this summer to stop,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who heads the California Labor Federation. “We know this will be an ongoing issue, so it’s best that we deal with this now.”
Gonzalez Fletcher pointed to reports that film and television studio executives are waiting to starve out writers on strike.
“They want them to lose their leases, to go hungry. That is exactly why we need to make sure they have a safety net,” she said.
The bill was amended late in the legislative session and does not yet have a listed fiscal impact. It would need fast-tracked approval in the Assembly and Senate before lawmakers’ September 15 deadline to arrive on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
The legislation does not currently have an urgency clause, which would allow it to take effect immediately, if signed. Gonzalez Fletcher said it could be added later if there is enough support from the required two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber.
Gonzalez Fletcher proposed similar legislation when she was an Assembly member in 2019.
“Of course, at that time, we weren’t seeing the strikes and prolonged strikes that we’re seeing now,” she said.
Last year, Newsom signed legislation to allow striking workers to access subsidized health care during labor disputes.
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