Workers to Testify in Strong Support of AB 2530 to Ensure Health Care for Those on Strike
Bill Provides Timely and Affordable Access to Covered California Insurance for Workers Locked Out or on Strike
(Sacramento) – Dozens of workers will attend the Assembly Health Committee hearing on AB 2530 (Wood) today to show strong support for the bill, which provides timely and affordable access to Covered California insurance for workers who lose health benefits due to a labor dispute.
The bill comes on the heels of AB 237, the Public Employee Health Protection Act, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last year. AB 237 prohibits public employers from terminating the health care coverage of employees and their families during a strike. AB 2530 would extend health care protections to workers in the private sector, ensuring that no worker loses health care coverage as a result of a strike or workplace lockout imposed by their employer.
Workers on strike or locked out from their job should never have to live in fear of losing their health care coverage. By passing AB 2530, the Legislature can ensure that workers aren’t victimized by having their health care stripped away.
“Health care is a lifeline for working people,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “No worker should ever lose her health care–and health coverage for her family–as a result of corporations weaponizing it against those just trying to get a fair deal on the job. AB 2530 is essential to preserving health care coverage for workers at a time when they are most in need.”
While Covered California is available to most Californians, barriers for workers who are locked out or on strike make it difficult to receive affordable coverage quickly if an employer decides to eliminate health care. AB 2530 will make coverage under Covered California more accessible and affordable by allowing workers who lose coverage to receive the same premium assistance and cost-sharing reductions as an individual with a household income of 133% of the federal poverty level and make coverage available immediately upon application.
“In 2018, I went on strike to make the Marriott hotel I have been working at for 16 years a better, fairer workplace—and we won big gains,” says Camucha King, a hotel worker at the St. Regis in San Francisco. “Healthcare is very important to me and my family—I was diagnosed with arthritis on my spine, and my daughter also has asthma. But if I were to have to go on strike again and risk losing my health insurance, I wouldn’t be able to afford the important out-of-pocket costs for medicine and care for myself and my daughter. As a single parent, it’s up to me to be able to cover her healthcare expenses.”
Going on strike takes tremendous courage for workers who are trying to negotiate a fair contract, as employers often use the threat of eliminating health care to stack the deck in their favor and against workers. And it’s not an idle threat. 500 striking oil refinery workers at Chevron—one of the wealthiest companies in the world—lost their health care coverage last week in Richmond.
“When workers go on strike for a fair contract including safety on the job, we have to consider a loss of our livelihoods, our mortgages or rents, and medical coverage for ourselves and our families,” said BK White, a striking refinery worker at Chevron in Richmond, and member of United Steelworkers Local 5. “Any of these issues could discourage someone from standing up for themselves and attempting to better their living conditions. Supporting workers by ensuring our health needs would be protected would allow California workers to make a decision void of the risk of possibly bankrupting ourselves if an illness occurred during a strike.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight how critical health care accessibility is to all Californians and to our efforts to fight the pandemic and prepare for future public health crises. There should never be any incentive to eject people from their health coverage because the consequences—to them, to their families, and to the entire population—can be disastrous, as essential workers who have been on the job since the beginning of the pandemic know all too well.
“When you have employers, whether corporations or school districts like the one I work for, that refuse to listen to your concerns and take you seriously, sometimes you have to go on strike to make your voice heard,” said Casondra Wills, a school bus driver at Sacramento City Unified School District for over 25 years who recently returned to work after a strike. “AB 2530 would prevent bad employers from using health care coverage as a weapon to keep us from standing up for our rights. Health care is important for me as someone living with multiple sclerosis—without health care, I could literally have an early demise. No worker should have to choose between respect on the job and health care.”
“Going without health coverage is terrifying—and big corporations like Ralphs know it—that’s why they hold the threat of a lockout over workers’ heads to get leverage at the bargaining table,” said Allen Finlay, Dairy Manager at Ralphs in Villa Park and member of UFCW Local 324. “AB 2530 means I can stand up for what I deserve at Ralph’s without worrying about my two sons losing their care. I urge the Assembly Health Committee to support this potentially life-saving bill.”
The California Labor Federation is a co-sponsor of the bill along with unions and worker and health care advocates. The bill will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee today at 3 pm.