Striking workers in California might soon be able to collect unemployment pay after two weeks of picketing if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a labor bill into law.
The bill is heading to the Governor for a signature after quickly making its way through the state Assembly and state Senate this week amid a summer of strikes across various industries in California.
It comes as hotel workers throughout Orange County – and Southern California – are demanding better pay and working conditions in a wave of temporary strikes.
[Read: The Summer of Strikes]
Various labor unions support the bill that they say would allow workers to support their families during a strike, instead of having no income.
A host of business interests and local chambers of commerce – including various ones in Orange County – say the bill would unfairly require employers to subsidize striking workers and raise employers taxes.
On Thursday, Democrats in the state Senate advanced the bill. Similar bills have been passed in New York and New Jersey.
Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), who authored the bill, said the move is critical for working families.
“Today, the Legislature responded to this rare moment in time when workers from many different business segments are striking for their future livelihood. From writers and actors to nurses and public workers, we see significant unrest and concern in the workforce across the state,” Portantino said in a Thursday news release.
“Sacramento’s action sends a strong message to the women and men on strike that we recognize the impact that strikes have on a family’s ability to pay rent and put food on a table.”
The bill’s opponents argue the proposal “fundamentally alters the nature of UI (unemployment insurance) by providing unemployment to workers who still have a job and have chosen to temporarily refuse to work as a negotiating tactic,” according to the bill analysis.
“Striking is obviously a federally protected right and has historically been a key strategy in labor disputes. But – to put it simply – being on strike is not the same as being terminated,” reads an opposition letter written by the California Chamber of Commerce.
Like the Orange County’s Assembly delegation, the county’s Senate delegation voted along political party lines.
Senators Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim), Dave Min (D-Irvine), Catherine Blakespeare (D-Encinitas) and Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera) voted in favor of the bill.
Senators Janet Nguyen (R- Garden Grove) and Kelly Seyarto (R-Murrieta) voted against it.
Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) did not vote.
The vote comes as workers in industries across California ranging from Hollywood actors and screenwriters to hotel workers hit the picket line demanding better pay and working conditions amid what is being called the summer of strikes.
Since the July 4th weekend, hotel workers in Anaheim, Irvine and Dana Point as well as Los Angeles have participated in a wave of rolling strikes demanding better pay to help them afford the rent.
The rolling strikes typically last a handful of days before the employees go back to work, then workers at other hotels will begin picketing.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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