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California Bill That Would Provide Jobless Benefits to Striking Workers Has New Life

California Bill That Would Provide Jobless Benefits to Striking Workers Has New Life

Labor supporters and members of the United Auto Workers union march during a strike outside the Stellantis Chrysler Los Angeles Parts Distribution Center in Ontario, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

5/27/2024

Updated: 5/27/2024

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A California bill to pay striking workers unemployment benefits has again passed the state’s Senate, despite being vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year.
Senate Bill 1116, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat, passed the Senate May 21 along party lines. The bill now heads to the Assembly.
Existing law currently prohibits striking workers from receiving unemployment benefits, which Mr. Portantino claims is a major obstacle for many striking workers.
“Workers do not go on strike because they want to—they generally do it as a last resort,” Mr. Portantino said in a statement April 24 after the bill passed the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee.
New York and New Jersey allow striking workers to collect benefits and recently expanded eligibility, he added.
If passed and signed by the governor this year, the legislation would allow striking workers in a labor dispute with an employer of any size to begin collecting unemployment benefits after two weeks.
Workers who stop because of a lockout, which is a work stoppage initiated by a company’s management during a labor dispute, would also be eligible for the benefits.
The bill is a repeat of last year’s Senate Bill 799, also authored by Mr. Portantino. Mr. Newsom vetoed that bill, he said at the time, because of the debt it would add to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, which is currently overburdened by debt following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The California Taxpayers Association—a nonprofit tax research and advocacy group—says it expects the fund’s debt to reach nearly $21 billion by the end of the year.
The California Chamber of Commerce tagged the bill as a “job killer” in March, saying it would raise taxes on employers across California and put the state’s Unemployment Insurance program at risk of violating federal law.
The bill would increase payments required of employers in the state but state officials don’t yet know how much more they would have to pay, according to an analysis of the bill.
The state’s Employment Development Department, which oversees the unemployment fund, said the bill could indirectly impact the repayment of California’s outstanding $18 billion federal unemployment insurance loan received during the pandemic, according to the analysis.
The measure is sponsored by the California Labor Federation and several labor unions, and co-authored by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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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.

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