New Year, New Laws to Help California Working People

The victories won by working people standing together in 2016 are already benefitting millions across the state. From raising the minimum wage to stronger workplace protections, California continues to lead the nation in championing laws and policies that raise standards for all.

On January 1st California’s minimum wage rose to $10.50 per hour from $10 for companies with more than 25 workers. There’s also several city-wide and regional minimum wage increases kicking in this year. As reported in the Orange County Register:

“However, some cities, citing the high cost of housing, already have boosted their minimums to $10.50, including Los Angeles, Malibu, Pasadena and Santa Monica. So has Los Angeles County, in its unincorporated areas.

In July, the rate will rise to $12 an hour for companies with more than 25 workers. Smaller businesses have an extra year to comply.

“If you live paycheck to paycheck, a 50-cent increase is a thousand dollars a year,” said Ada Briceño, secretary-treasurer of UniteHere Local 11, which represents 22,000 Los Angeles and Orange County hotel and restaurant employees.

“Many of these people perform backbreaking work.”

California is home to the strongest equal pay legislation in the nation and two bills passed in 2016 continue to build on that progress. It is now illegal for a boss to pay a woman less than her male coworkers based on her prior salaries thanks to AB 1676 (Campos & Gonzalez). SB 1063 (Hall) has also gone into effect, strengthening protections against discrimination by making it illegal for employers to pay workers doing substantially similar work different wages based on their race or ethnicity.

Another game-changing piece of legislation passed in 2016 will go into effect in July 2017. AB 72 will protect families against surprise medical bills, a practice that has been on the rise and causing severe financial burdens for far too many working people.

California is also preparing to enact historic legislation to put an end to rampant abuses against janitorial workers, signed into law last year after women in the industry banded together and held a hunger strike to call attention to the risk of sexual assault women face when working alone at night in these industries. The bill to end rape on the night shift – AB 1978 (Gonzalez) – also protects janitorial workers from fly-by-night contractors who routinely dodged workplace protections and laws.

Another bill, SB 1167 (Mendoza) addressed the growing need for new health safety standards to protect workers from excessive heat while working indoors. Previous standards only applied to outdoor workers and Cal/OSHA is now working to expand the regulations to apply to indoor workers, as well.

As we’ve seen in California, when working people stand together, we win huge victories for all. Onward to 2017!

Other notable bills signed into law last year include:

Farmworker Overtime – AB 1066 (Gonzalez). For 80 years, farmworkers have been among the only workers in California for whom the 8-hour day did not apply. This bill will phase in the 8-hour day over several years to finally give farmworkers the same protections as everyone else.

Worker Retention in Solid Waste Contracts – AB  1669 (Hernandez). When contracts change at the local level, workers lose their jobs and their union. This bill requires contractors to retain the existing workforce for at least 90 days after the contract changes hands.

Greater Security for Part-Time Faculty –  AB 1690 (Medina) and SB 1379 (Mendoza). This bill will create guidelines to provide greater security to part-time faculty who are otherwise treated as contingent workers with no guarantee of future employment.

Restrict Age Discrimination – AB 1687 (Calderon). This bill prohibits a commercial online entertainment employment service provider from publishing information about the subscriber’s age in an online profile of the subscriber to prevent the use of age information in hiring decisions.

Ease Voting Restrictions – AB 1921 (Gonzalez). This bill will improve voter turnout by allowing voters to designate anyone to return their absentee ballot, rather than just a family member.

Tuition Waivers for Survivors –  AB 2164 (O’Donnell).  This bill clarifies that the existing tuition waiver for survivors of fallen firefighters and peace officers applies to job related illnesses like cancer, heart disease, blood borne pathogens and other illnesses.

Promote Women in Pre-Apprenticeship Programs – AB 2288 (Burke). This bill requires pre-apprenticeship programs in the building and construction trades applying for funding from the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), to include a plan for outreach, recruitment and retention of women, and to incorporate the use of the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum.

Parental Leave for Classified – AB 2393 (Campos). Classified school employees are not covered by State Disability Insurance (SDI) and cannot access paid parental leave under that program. This bill will allow them to use “differential pay” so they can take parental leave.

Climate Change Policy that Create Good Jobs – SB 32 (Pavley) and AB 197 (Garcia). Against major industry opposition, Labor stood with environmentalists and communities activists to extend landmark climate change laws that have created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Build Infrastructure with Good Union Jobs – SB 831 (Budget Committee). In 2014, legislation authorized the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to construct a water transfer pipeline/tunnel between two lakes utilizing the design-build construction method with a Project Labor Agreement.  This bill appropriates $10 million to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to complete this critically needed project.

Add Skilled Workforce Requirements for Design-Build – SB 957 (Hueso). This bill provides healthcare districts with the authorization to use design-build so long as contractors and subcontractors at every tier hire a skilled and trained workforce to ensure maximum value for publicly funded infrastructure projects.

Preserve Overtime for Domestic Workers – SB 1015 (Leyva). Like farmworkers, domestic workers have been historically excluded from overtime, but won new protections in 2012. That law was set to end this year but this bill eliminated the sunset, making the protection permanent.

Improved Medical Care for Injured Workers – SB 1160 (Mendoza). Unnecessary utilization review, when an insurer reviews a doctor’s recommendation for treatment, has prevented many workers from accessing timely treatment. This bill removes delays to ensure prompt treatment for injured workers.

Retirement for All – SB 1234 (de Leon). This bill will allow more than 7 million private sector workers to participate in a state-run retirement savings program.

Resolution Against Epi-Pen Price Surge – SJR 29 (Hernandez). The cost of the lifesaving medication Epi-Pen has gone up over 600%, making it unaffordable for too many families. This resolution urges the FDA to approve generic alternatives and calls on the state and federal government to do more to keep down prescription drug costs.