Bill that provides unemployment benefits to striking workers gets approved

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CALIFORNIA – The California Assembly Appropriation Committee approved, Thursday, Senate Bill 799 – Striking Worker Bill. If passed into law, the bill would provide unemployment benefits to workers on strike for more than two weeks, starting in 2024. 

Bill author Senator Anthony Portantino says existing law and case history currently prohibits striking workers—and some locked out workers—from being eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. 

“California is seeing an unprecedented number of striking workers who are facing significant uncertainty about the economics of their industries and changing business models. From writers to hotel workers and allies, they are demonstrating unity and strength while demanding respect and fair compensation,” said Portantino

Portantino says SB 799 will help families put food on their table when they need it most – in the middle of important labor negotiations. 

SB 799 is a Job Killer

The California Chamber of Commerce described SB 799 as a job killer saying it would effectively require employers to subsidize striking workers – even if those workers or labor strikes had nothing to do with the employer.

“Unemployment insurance (UI) payments are intended to assist employees who, through no fault of their own, are forced to leave their employment. Federal law sets out the basic requirements for individuals to qualify, including being “ready and willing to immediately accept work” and “totally or partially unemployed,” and “actively looking for work,” says the August 2023 coalition letter.

RELATED: St. Mary nurses picket for safer workplace – says 370 nurses have quit since 2021

The coalition says by forcing employers to pay UI payments to striking workers, SB 799 would also raise taxes on employers across California, overturn more than 70 years of precedent, and put California’s UI program at risk of violating federal law.

“Striking workers have a job – they are just choosing not to work in order to create economic pressure and negotiate. That is not the same as having no idea where your next paycheck comes from,” says the coalition.

The bill heads next to a vote of the full Assembly.

To read the full SB 799 visit https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB799

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