Topping the list of victories are bills that make it easier for farm workers to unionize, help set higher minimum wages and conditions in the fast-food industry, and increase the amount employees receive through family leave. paid.
Here’s POLITICO’s breakdown of the new state labor laws slated to go into effect on January 1:
Victory of the agricultural workers
Newsom took political observers by surprise this year when he climbed the steps of the state Capitol and signed a bill making it easier to unionize farmworkers – one he had threatened to veto a few weeks earlier.
AB 2183 Remove rules that require farm workers to vote in union elections at a physical polling place, and instead allow them to express their interest in unionizing by signing a card. This change is vital, according to United Farm Workers, to protect undocumented workers from deportation for showing up to vote.
The issue captured national attention after Newsom’s office hinted it would veto the bill and thousands of UFW supporters approached the Capitol after a week-long march since the central valley. This position has drawn rebuke from the highest levels of the Democratic Party, with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi all urging Newsom to sign the legislation.
Newsom, UFW and the Federation of Labor reached a last-minute deal that avoided a veto and in many ways signaled the resurgence of the iconic farmworker union founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
Fast food industry standards
In one of Sacramento’s most contested legislative battles this year, labor activists won a fight to establish an advisory body that will help set higher conditions and wages at fast food restaurants. BA 257 creates a statewide board that could give fast food workers a $22 hourly wage. Promoters have faced immense pressure from the fast-food industry, which ran advertisements claiming the legislation would drive up prices.
The bill, which has barely passed the Legislative Assembly, could give workers leverage in an industry that has historically been difficult to organize – if it comes into force.
Industry interests are now trying to use the state ballot initiative system to block the law. If their referendum petition collects enough signatures, AB 257 will be suspended until the November 2024 election, when voters decide to abandon it permanently.
Meanwhile, CalChamber says it fears the bill will set a precedent for other corners of the California economy. “It’s a bit troubling in the sense that we’re doing this for fast food,” said CalChamber lobbyist Ashley Hoffman. “Does that mean they’re going to try to do this in other industries?”
More money for family leave
For nearly two decades, California has offered employees a percentage of their pay for at least six weeks when they’re sick, caring for a family member, or bonding with a newborn. Soon they will receive an amount closer to that of their regular paychecks – a change that worker advocates say is essential for low-wage workers who cannot afford any drop in income.
SB 951 State Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) will keep state wage replacement rates at the current 60-70% next year and increase them to 70-90% in 2025. This Change comes at a price of $3 billion a year, and workers — the highest paid, in particular — will pay more into the system to cover those costs.
Newsom hesitated to endorse the plan. He vetoed a similar proposal last year, shortly before his recall election, noting his financial burden on workers who contribute to the program. But pressure has increased this year, as the wage replacement rate was due to return to pre-2016 levels in January, and he agreed to a provision that removes the cap on social security contributions.
Upcoming salary scales on job postings
Pay transparency advocates didn’t get everything they hoped for this session, but there are some big changes coming to state law.
One of the main provisions included in SB 1162 is a rule that requires companies with 15 or more employees to include pay scales in job postings. According to the researchers, this policy gives job applicants, especially women and people of color, more leverage in negotiating salaries.
The bill will also collect demographic data from temporary help agencies, which labor advocacy groups say often underpay contractors and don’t offer them the same benefits as employees. The contracting industry has traditionally been exempt from data collection at both the state and federal levels.
The legislation does not include a rule that would have required large companies to publish the amount they pay their workers, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. This was removed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), who drafted the bill, said she plans to continue pushing for the change.
Stay home in case of emergency
It will soon be illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who refuse to show up or stay at work in an emergency. This policy would apply during forest fires or other natural disasters, as well as in emergencies triggered by criminal activity.
This bill, SB 1044initially drew overwhelming opposition from business groups, but some of its enemies — including CalChamber — backed down after a handful of amendments providing exceptions to the policy.
The bill does not apply to employees who frequently work in emergency situations, and an amendment clarified that the legislation does not include health pandemics in its definition of an emergency condition.
Family Leave Extensions – and Bereavement Leave
California employees will soon be able to take time off work to care for friends and “chosen family,” not just partners and close relatives. They will also be guaranteed a week of unpaid leave after the death of a parent, child, spouse or other close relative.
Most workers can already take at least three sick days and at least 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to care for sick family members. Below AB 1041they will be able to use this policy for anyone.
Advocates say the law will benefit employees living in households with non-family members as well as LGBTQ+ employees who cannot live with relatives. But professional organizations pushed back on the legislation. CalChamber has warned that employees will be able to exploit the law and that small businesses will be forced to approve claims to avoid costly litigation they cannot afford.
California will also require employers to offer bereavement leave. Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) has previously pushed for such a policy, prompted by the toll of the pandemic. His FY 1949 will grant workers five days of unpaid leave which they can use over a period of three months after the death of a close relative.