California Lawmaker to Reintroduce Bill to Pay Striking Workers Unemployment Benefits

California Lawmaker to Reintroduce Bill to Pay Striking Workers Unemployment Benefits

Hollywood actors join the industry’s writers on the picket line after their union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), authorized a strike against major studios, outside of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on July 14, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

8/17/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

As Southern California’s “summer of strikes” continues, thousands of entertainment and hotel workers have gone without pay for weeks.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) hopes to change that soon by reintroducing a measure that would allow striking workers to collect unemployment pay.
“Given the unrest in the workforce in California right now, with the number of strikes, obviously the health and welfare of our workforce is on my mind,” Mr. Portantino told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Portantino, who also chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said he hopes the bill would be the impetus to resume negotiations.
“I think extending unemployment insurance to the workforce will shorten the time of strikes, and will get people back to work sooner,” he said. “I think it will overall have a benefit to the economy and allow this sort of big-picture, macro conversation to go forward to where everyone has a fair seat at the table.”
Thousands of unionized Los Angeles city workers walked off their jobs for a one-day strike on Aug. 8, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Thousands of unionized Los Angeles city workers walked off their jobs for a one-day strike on Aug. 8, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

While striking workers in New York and New Jersey can collect unemployment benefits, those who live in California aren’t eligible for the state payments. Mr. Portantino’s proposal would change that.
The bill would be similar to Assembly Bill 1066, a measure introduced in 2019 by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, which was approved by the Assembly but came up five votes short in the Senate. At the time, the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) labeled it a “job killer.”
Ms. Gonzalez has since resigned from the Legislature and now works as the executive secretary-treasurer and chief officer of the California Labor Federation, which asked Mr. Portantino to reintroduce the legislation.
“The labor federation asked me to author the bill, and I said ‘yes,’” Mr. Portantino said. “Obviously, like everyone else, I want people to get back to work. I want people to get fairly compensated. I want both sides to get in a room and listen and try to figure it out.”
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

CalChamber also opposes this year’s measure, claiming that it would increase taxes, according to a statement issued by the organization on Aug. 11.
“California’s [unemployment insurance] system is already $18 billion in debt,” Robert Moutrie, CalChamber’s policy advocate, said in the statement.
Extending the benefit, he said, is unfair to all California employers.
“These tax increases will hit all California employers—regardless of size—serving as a deterrent to hiring and future investment in the California economy,” Mr. Moutrie said. “It is irresponsible and unfair to increase taxes on every California employer, including those without any involvement in any strikes, to subsidize the striking workers in other industries.”

Strikes Continue

Although striking union members currently can’t access unemployment payments in California, some can apply for emergency aid through their unions.
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG–AFTRA) is on strike against Hollywood studios and producers.
The actors’ union began walking picket lines with members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on July 14 in the first combined strike in 60 years.
The union actors can apply to several programs for financial assistance during the strike, according to SAG-AFTRA’s website.
Writers on the picket line on the fourth day of the strike by the Writers Guild of America march past Netflix in Hollywood, Calif., on May 5, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Writers on the picket line on the fourth day of the strike by the Writers Guild of America march past Netflix in Hollywood, Calif., on May 5, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Its leaders updated members on Aug. 9, saying that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents more than 350 television and film production companies in the United States, hasn’t contacted the union since the strike began about resuming talks.
Meanwhile, the writers’ union said that talks have begun with the major studios, according to an Aug. 18 update on the union’s website.
Similar to the actors’ union, the WGA is offering emergency assistance to industry members and their families during the strike.
In the hospitality sector, Unite Here Local 11—the union representing 32,000 hotel workers in California and Arizona—also remains on strike in Southern California.
Meanwhile, some city employees in Los Angeles went on a 24-hour strike on Aug. 8.
Unite Here 11, SAG-AFTRA, and the WGA didn’t respond to requests for comment about employee benefits by press time.

Efforts to Expand Unemployment Benefits

If approved, Mr. Portantino’s bill would be the second in this session that seeks to expand who can receive unemployment payments in California.
A similar bill, Senate Bill 227, is well on its way to passing in both houses of the state Legislature and would allow the state to pay unemployment benefits to illegal immigrants.
The measure passed the Senate and was approved by the Assembly’s Insurance Committee before the summer break.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.