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Striking Workers


Shubhangi Domokos, shubhangi@calaborfed.org / 916-934-6963

California Elected Officials Show Overwhelming Support for Bill to Provide Unemployment Benefits to Striking Workers

California Lawmakers Face Critical Vote This Week on Labor-Sponsored SB 799

SACRAMENTO – (Monday, September 11, 2023) – This week, California lawmakers in the State Assembly and State Senate will vote on legislation to provide unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers who have been on strike for at least two weeks. Senate Bill 799, authored by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), has gained momentum since Labor Day, amassing endorsements from elected officials across every level of government. Statewide leaders, members of Congress including all three candidates for U.S. Senate, California’s big city mayors, and local elected officials have joined the chorus of Democrats in the Assembly and Senate voicing their support for the bill. The Legislature has until September 14 to send the bill to the Governor’s desk.

“It’s cruel to allow workers exercising their right to strike to go hungry, bankrupt, or lose their homes because they are temporarily out of work. This should frankly be a no-brainer for any lawmaker in California,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and former State Assemblymember who authored a similar law in 2019. “It’s time we end this unfair exclusion of striking workers from accessing unemployment insurance. They’ve already earned these benefits, SB 799 is a commonsense policy and the right thing to do.”

Extending UI benefits to striking workers is essential to help California’s economy in the midst of a strike wave. When workers on strike can make their rent payments on time, when they can afford to buy groceries for their families, that not only provides a critical safety-net to their families, it benefits small businesses and entire communities. Economists estimate that for every $1 spent on unemployment benefits, $2 worth of economic activity is generated, creating a “multiplier effect” that means vital assistance for depressed local economies. This modest benefit goes directly into grocery stores, restaurants, and childcare to preserve jobs and generate local revenue.

New York and New Jersey already allow striking workers to be eligible for UI after 14 days. The New York state statute was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and found not to be preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), paving the way for California to pass similar legislation.

Endorsements for SB 799

Statewide Constitutional Officers

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis: “It is unconscionable to ask hardworking Californians fighting for dignity and a living wage to run through their life savings while on strike. These workers are the economic engine of our state’s economy. We need to stand with them.”

State Treasurer Fiona Ma: “California’s workers are the force behind our state’s economic success and help generate the prosperity we all enjoy. They shouldn’t be punished when they advocate for their own best interest by seeking better pay, benefits, and working conditions. This bill removes a critical barrier of progress by supporting workers who chose to take a stand.”

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara: “Workers are the backbone of our economy. As long as striking workers are ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, we make it more difficult for workers to fight and advocate for better working conditions, higher wages, and improved benefits so that they can provide for their families and themselves. Senate Bill 799 will help move our economy forward and keep California as a leader in protecting workers’ rights, including the right to strike.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond: “When workers have to strike for a fair contract, it impacts their entire family. No one should run out of food or face homelessness simply due to a strike. Unemployment Insurance benefits sustain families through hard times and striking workers should not be excluded. We want kids to have as much stability as possible outside of school so they can succeed when they get to school. This is a simple way for California to strengthen our safety net to benefit our families, so I strongly support SB 799.”

Attorney General Rob Bonta: “Here in California, the fight for workers’ rights is part of our DNA. This year, we have seen California’s labor movement leverage its members’ collective power on an unprecedented scale. We’re all the better for it. I’m in support of SB 799, because no one should be driven into poverty simply for standing up for what is right. Workers and labor leaders have pushed our nation and the Golden State forward, it’s time to make sure they have the support they need so we can continue our progress together.”

Members of Congress

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi: “Together we don’t agonize — we organize and unionize for workers who deserve decency and dignity on the job and unemployment benefits when they strike. We need SB 799.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, candidate for U.S. Senate: “From hotel workers to nurses to screenwriters and actors, tens of thousands of Californians have bravely gone on strike this summer in a historic demonstration of solidarity for fair wages and conditions for all. I support SB 799 to ensure striking workers in California qualify for unemployment insurance. Nobody should go into debt or lose their home because they’re exercising their right to strike.”

Rep. Katie Porter, candidate for U.S. Senate: “Waiting workers out is a cruel but all too common tactic corporate bosses use to get their way during a strike. SB 799 puts a wrench in these kinds of schemes by making it possible for workers to keep paying for their basic needs while on strike. I urge the state legislature to respect the right to strike and side with workers, not greedy corporations.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, candidate for U.S. Senate: “Workers deserve to make their voices heard on the picket line fighting for better wages and benefits, without putting their families in financial jeopardy. Unfortunately, many striking workers can’t afford to go without pay, or have to dip into their savings to pay their bills and keep food on the table for their families — big corporations shouldn’t be able to wait out striking workers to avoid paying workers what they’re worth. That’s why it’s critical that the California legislature pass SB 799, to ensure workers can receive unemployment insurance benefits.”

Rep. Robert Garcia: “Proud to join California Labor this Labor Day to support SB 799. Workers who strike to improve conditions for all face enormous risk and they need basic protections. Let’s support this bill to ensure unemployment benefits for these workers.”

Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. John Garamendi
Rep. Jimmy Gomez
Rep. Ted Lieu
Rep. Kevin Mullin
Rep. Linda Sanchez
Rep. Norma Torres
Rep. Maxine Waters

Los Angeles
Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass
Mayor of Burbank Konstantine Anthony
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Hilda Solis
Los Angeles City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez
Los Angeles City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez
Los Angeles City Councilmember Imelda Padilla

San Diego
Mayor of San Diego Todd Gloria: “Striking workers deserve access to unemployment benefits. California Labor priority bill SB 799 will do just that. I support this commonsense legislation and I hope the California Legislature will too.”

Chula Vista Councilmember Andrea Cardenas

Alameda County
Mayor of Oakland Sheng Thao: “Striking is a basic workers right and no one should face losing their home or going bankrupt for standing up for their rights. UI benefits for striking workers will help workers and families and will put money directly into the local businesses that depend on them. This is why I’m a strong supporter of SB 799 — our workers earned these benefits.”

Mayor of Emeryville John Bauters: “Workers don’t take the decision to go on strike lightly, but they risk it all for a better future for their families. SB 799 provides striking workers unemployment benefits, allowing them to buy groceries & basic necessities to survive.”

Alameda City Councilmember Malia Vella
Berkeley City Councilmember Terry Taplin
Emeryville City Councilmember Courtney Welch
Emeryville City Councilmember Kalimah Priforce
Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Bas
Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan

Mayor of Sacramento Darrell Steinberg
Mayor of West Sacramento Martha Guerrero
Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela
Sacramento City Councilmember Karina Talamantes
Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra
Rancho Cordova City Councilmember Garrett Gatewood
SMUD Board Member Rosanna Herber
SMUD Board Member Gregg Fishman
Former State Senator Richard Pan
Former Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen

San Francisco
Mayor of San Francisco London Breed
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Connie Chan
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Aaron Peskin
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Dean Preston
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Hillary Ronen
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Ahsha Safai
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Catherine Stefani
San Francisco Board of Supervisor Shamann Walton
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins

South Bay
Santa Clara Board of Supervisor Cindy Chavez

San Mateo
Mayor of Belmont Julia Mates
Vice Mayor of South San Francisco Mark Nagales
San Mateo Board of Supervisor Ray Mueller
South San Francisco City Councilmember James Coleman

Napa-Solano/North Bay Counties
Mayor of Napa Scott Sedgley
Rohnert Park City Councilmember Jackie Elward
Vallejo City Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga

Orange County
Costa Mesa City Councilmember Manuel Chavez

The California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO represents over 1,200 affiliated unions in California with over 2.2 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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