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Lawmakers Urged to Protect Essential Public Sector Workers and Preserve Vital Human Services

Lawmakers Urged to Protect Essential Public Sector Workers and Preserve Vital Human Services
California Unions and Anti-Poverty Advocates Warn That Continued Outsourcing, Reliance on Temp Work, and High Service Job Vacancies Are Negatively Impacting Californians Who Rely on Public Services

Sacramento, CA – (Wednesday, April 17, 2024) – The California Labor Federation, SEIU California, and AFSCME delivered testimony before the State Assembly’s Public Employment and Retirement Committee (PERC) regarding the crisis facing the state’s public services sector, alongside policy experts from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, safety-net services advocates from End Poverty California, and workers representing public employee unions UAPD, AFSCME Local 146, and SEIU Local 721. Under the direction of Chair Tina McKinnor, (AD-61) PERC members were informed of record vacancy rates of up to 30% across the state, and came to understand the adverse impact on public services that these vacancies, and the accompanying push to outsource public sector jobs and replace human service providers altogether.

“Our public sector workers are heroic community members, and cannot be replaced by temps or bots. Everyday our public service providers make it possible for communities to get what they need, from clearing out storm drains and filling potholes, to helping kids without caregivers who can keep them safe find loving families, to ensuring cancer patients are able to add another candle to their birthday cakes,” said Lorena Gonzalez, Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation, representing 1,300 unions and 2.3 million union members. “Federal pandemic dollars have gone away, and service providers remain overworked, but instead of looking to fill vacancies, proponents of austerity are looking to eliminate service providers without regard to how it will impact those who rely on those services. According to economist Sylvia Allegretto, years of leaders promoting ‘fiscal restraint,’ left us with a service sector so thin that it was 342,000 workers understaffed when COVID-19 hit. Cutting service providers puts Californians at risk.”


Workers and advocates at the hearing emphasized that the vacancy crisis can only be solved in partnership with frontline workers and their unions. 

“When labor and management work together and prioritize the vacancy crisis – instead of management using it as an opportunity to save funds, engage in outsourcing, or otherwise degrade the public workforce – we can solve this problem and better serve the public,” said Simboa Wright, a Wastewater Collection Worker II for the City of Los Angeles and the Vice President of SEIU Local 721.

“AFSCME members from social workers to mechanics wake up every day to serve and support their communities. But, over the past several years, chronic understaffing in their workplaces means they’ve been overworked and under-resourced. This not only harms workers, but it harms the delivery of public services that our communities rely on to stay safe, healthy and strong. And it can lead to even more understaffing as excessive overtime hours and heavy workloads push workers to their breaking point.” said Alia Griffing, AFSCME’s Political and Legislative Director. “We applaud Assemblymembers McKinnor, Ortega and Ward for recognizing this crisis. These bills will require local governments to be transparent about the services they’re providing the community, develop a plan to attract more people to civil service and work directly with public service workers on building a stronger workforce.” 


In addition to working with state leaders on a budget that protects public workers and services, the California Labor Federation is sponsoring or co-sponsoring the following legislative proposals:

  • SB 1220 (LIMÓN) – BAN THE USE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO REPLACE PUBLIC SECTOR CALL CENTER WORKERS 

SB 1220 (Limón) will protect jobs and Californians in need by prohibiting state and local agencies from contracting out call centers that serve Californians using public services or benefits to firms that utilize artificial intelligence instead of California workers. (Co-sponsored by AFSCME California and SEIU California)

  • SB 1321 (WAHAB) – INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE EMPLOYMENT TRAINING PANEL 

SB 1321 (Wahab) will update labor standards on Employment Training Panel funds by prioritizing high-quality training programs, requiring plans for targeted recruitment and hiring plans, and increasing transparency and data submission to support accountability of public funding. 

  • AB 938 (MURATSUCHI) – RAISE EDUCATION WORKER SALARIES 

AB 938 (Muratsuchi) sets future school funding goals with the intent of raising the salaries of classified and certificated school workers to close the wage gap and improve recruitment and retention of school site staff. 

  • AB 2404 (LEE) – RIGHT TO RESPECT A PICKET LINE 

AB 2404 (Lee) will protect a public employee’s right to demonstrate solidarity with other workers by honoring a picket line during a labor strike. 

  • AB 2557 (ORTEGA) – ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING 

AB 2557 (Ortega) increases accountability and transparency of public sector contracts by requiring private companies that provide services for local governments to submit reports detailing the cost of services, workforce data, performance reports, and progress toward contract objectives. Reports will be provided to the local governments to determine effectiveness and efficiency and allow for non-payment if contractors do not meet performance standards. (Co-sponsored by AFSCME California and SEIU California)

  • AB 2489 (WARD) – EQUAL QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CONTRACTED WORKERS 

AB 2489 (Ward) requires private contractors that perform services for local public agencies to meet the minimum qualifications required of public sector employees. (Co-sponsored by AFSCME California and SEIU California)

  • AB 2561 (MCKINNOR) – PUBLIC SECTOR VACANCY RETENTION AND RECRUITMENT PLANS 

AB 2561 (McKinnor) protects jobs and the quality of public services by requiring local public agencies to develop, publish, and implement a plan to fill vacant positions when vacancy rates reach more than 10% for one bargaining unit in a six-month period. (Co-sponsored by AFSCME and SEIU California)

  • AB 2738 (L. RIVAS) – LIVE EVENT WORKER SAFETY ENFORCEMENT 

AB 2738 (L. Rivas) will expand the tools available to public enforcement agencies to ensure worker health and safety training requirements for live events at public venues are met. 

  • SB 1116 (PORTANTINO) – UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FOR STRIKING WORKERS 

SB 1116 (Portantino) will help workers make ends meet and protect them from going into debt by making workers who are on strike eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI). 

  • SB 1303 (CABALLERO) – THIRD PARTY LABOR COMPLIANCE ACCOUNTABILITY

SB 1303 (Caballero) will increase accountability of for-profit labor compliance entities hired by public agencies for the monitoring and enforcement of prevailing wage laws on public works projects. 

The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO represents over 1,300 affiliated unions in California with over 2.3 million union members in trucking, retail, hospitality, janitorial, construction, health care, local and state government, education, arts and entertainment, warehousing and logistics, manufacturing, and a variety of other sectors.

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