COURTESY OF CA LABOR FEDERATION
California Labor’s 2021 Legislative Agenda focused on recognizing the essential workers who have served our state and communities during an historic pandemic, as well as to help those who have suffered job loss during this time find meaningful opportunities to access good jobs with livable wages and safer working conditions. The pandemic continues to expose workers and their families to dangerous conditions every day and we leaned into our affiliates to ensure that we were supporting policies that helped elevate their work and their working conditions.
Overall, Labor had a successful year. We closed out this session having many of the Labor Federation’s priority bills signed into law by Governor Newsom. These bills provided important protections to wages and benefits, organizing and collective bargaining, racial justice, as well as workplace protections.
As California and the nation attempt to “Build Back Better,” the Labor movement must remain vigilant on the disparities brought to light by this pandemic: from worker health and safety, access to good paying jobs, and inequities in our health care and justice systems. If the defeat of the Newsom Recall and “Strike-tober” has shown us anything, it is that our success comes from our collective power to mobilize for worker’s rights and hold our elected officials accountable to protect working people.
Some laws that will benefit working families include:
The Garment Worker Protection Act (SB 62 – Durazo). This legislation expands and strengthens enforcement of wage theft liability in the garment manufacturing industry, ensuring that retailers cannot use layers of contracting to avoid responsibility under the law. It eliminates the piece rate in the garment industry, while still allowing for bonus and incentive payments. This law will ensure that workers are paid for all time while working.
Health Care Protection for Striking Workers (AB 237 – Gray). This legislation makes it an unfair practice for a public employer to fail or refuse to maintain or pay for health care coverage for a public sector worker or their enrolled dependents, for the duration of the employee’s participation in an authorized strike. This law also makes it an unfair practice for a covered employer to fail to collect and remit the employee’s contributions, if any, to this coverage, or to otherwise threaten an employee or their dependents’ continued access to health or medical care during or because of the employee’s participation in a strike.
Protection from Harmful Quotas for Warehouse Workers (AB 701- Gonzalez Fletcher). This law strengthens warehouse workers’ rights against arbitrary and abusive work quota systems by requiring companies to disclose work quotas to employees and state agencies and establish statewide standards to minimize on the job injuries for employees working under strict quotas. It also prohibits and employer from retaliating against or firing an employee for failing to meet a quota if it does not allow a worker to comply with health and safety laws.
Minimum Wage Increase. On Jan. 1, California’s minimum wage increases to $15 an hour for large employers (26 or more employees) and $14 an hour for small employers as part of previous legislation.
Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021 (SB 2 – Bradford). This Act creates a process for revoking or suspending the license of police officers who commit serious misconduct and prevents those officers from leaving one law enforcement agency for another if found to have committed serious misconduct by creating a statewide tracking system.
Strengthen Public Employee Orientation (SB270 – Durazo). Current law requires that public employers provide the bargaining representative with a list of new and current employees on a periodic basis. Some employers choose to ignore this law and do not provide this critical information. This law will establish an enforcement mechanism at the Public Employment Relations Board.
Protect Collective Bargaining at UC (AB 1550 – L. Rivas). Requires the University of California to maintain the union status of a position that transfers to the Academic Senate.
Layoff Parity for Classified Employees (AB438 – Reyes). This is a parity law that ensures that the lowest wage earners in schools, who are predominately women of color, receive the same layoff notice protection as teachers and highly paid administrators. Classified employees can be laid off any time of the year with only 60 days notice with no hearing rights. This law standardizes the process.