Schwarzenegger Reverses Course on Lunch Break Rule
Statement by California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski
SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Schwarzenegger has reversed course on regulations that would have severely undercut the right of California workers to a lunch break. The withdrawal of the proposed regulation marks a departure from the Governor’s yearlong attempt to change lunch break rules that have been in place since 1947.
“We welcome the Governor’s retreat from this anti-worker proposal. This regulation would have jeopardized worker health and safety. The only winners would have been corporations, like Wal-Mart, that cheat their workers out of lunch breaks,” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.
Worker advocates and labor leaders had vociferously opposed the lunch break regulation since it was first proposed last year. At three public hearings, workers from agriculture, construction, and service industries testified about the pressure they face to work without taking breaks and the need for additional protection and increased enforcement. Experts say the rule would have made it harder
for workers to get the breaks needed to ensure workplace health and safety.
The regulation would have also reduced the statute of limitations on these meal break cases from three years to one year, giving a free pass to companies who violate the law by denying lunch breaks to their employees. Last month, an Oakland jury awarded $172 million to 116,000 Wal-Mart workers who were systematically denied lunch breaks.
“We are hopeful that this move is a sign of better things to come for workers in California,” said Pulaski.