It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future these days. Tea Party extremists are threatening to push our federal government into default. Federal immigration reform is on the back burner until the shutdown and debt ceiling messes are sorted out. In a host of states, anti-worker governors are hell-bent on gutting workers’ rights while giving more power to corporate special interests.
But in California, a decidedly different story is playing out. The end of the legislative session here brought huge gains to workers and their families that boost our state’s economy and bolster the middle class.
With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25, Gov. Brown signed AB 10, taking California’s minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016, a 25 percent wage increase for low-wage workers in the state. While immigration reform is stalled in DC, Gov. Brown signed a slew of bills to protect immigrants and ensure greater inclusion. We’ve tackled the underground economy. Promoted good jobs. Axed a boondoggle of a corporate tax break that wasted taxpayer dollars.
This all comes on the heels of the passage of Prop. 30 in 2012 (which funded our schools and stabilized our budget) and the election of Democratic super-majorities in both the State Assembly and State Senate, ensuring Tea Party extremists couldn’t hold California hostage like they’re doing with the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle in DC.
In short, California is accomplishing what few in Washington DC can even imagine these days: Progress for working people.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
Labor led the way this year in bringing real equality and progress to working people in California. We reformed tax breaks that cost jobs, we won rights for domestic workers and car wash workers, we brought greater equality to hard-working immigrants, and we began the essential work of rebuilding the state’s middle class. With these new laws, there’s no question that California is the national leader in supporting workers and their families.
Among the notable legislative victories this year were the following bills Gov. Brown signed into law:
• AB 10 (Alejo/Steinberg): Increased the minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016.
• AB 60 (Alejo): Expanded drivers licenses to all Californians, with key protections for immigrant drivers.
• AB 93 (Assembly Budget Committee): Reformed the wasteful Enterprise Zone corporate tax breaks to reward employers who create good jobs.
• AB 241 (Ammiano): Granted daily and weekly overtime protection to domestic workers who have been excluded from most labor laws.
• AB 263 (Hernandez)/AB 524 (Mullin)/SB 666 (Steinberg): Enacted the strongest protections for immigrant workers in the country to stop retaliation when workers speak out about unfair wages or working conditions.
• AB 537 (Bonta): Improved process for public sector bargaining to resolve disputes more effectively.
• AB 1387 (Hernandez): Protected car wash workers by preserving the car wash registry and increasing the bond to crack down on the underground economy.
• SB 7 (Steinberg): Raised wages for construction workers by incentivizing compliance with prevailing wage laws.
• SB 168 (Monning): Helped protect workers working for farm labor contractors by providing successor liability to ensure wages are paid.
• SB 400 (Jackson): Helped domestic violence survivors keep their jobs and promotes a safer workplace by asking employers to work with survivors to identify and minimize the risk of workplace violence.
• SB 770 (Jackson): Expanded paid family leave to include time providing care for parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.
If America needs a path forward, it ought to be looking to California. Big things are happening here. And we’re just getting started.