Labor unions in California have achieved major victories in the state Legislature, having successfully passed bills to raise fast food wages to $20 an hour, require driverless trucks to have a human safety driver, and grant all workers in California a minimum of five paid sick days. They have also secured the passage of a bill gradually raising the minimum wage to $25 an hour for healthcare workers and extending health and safety protections to household staff. In addition, unions have won the right for legislative staff to organize unions and introduced a bill to protect entertainment industry workers from the use of artificial intelligence in contract provisions.
This year, labor unions in California have benefited from a confluence of factors, including the presence of new progressive lawmakers, the support of Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, and ongoing strikes in Southern California. The strikes have brought the struggles of workers to the forefront and garnered public support. The increased visibility of striking workers has influenced lawmakers, who now have constituents on the picket lines. The strikes have made the issue more relatable and tangible for legislators, leading to increased support for labor rights.
Public opinion also favors labor unions, with a recent Gallup poll showing that two-thirds of Americans approve of unions. In major labor disputes involving actors, writers, and auto workers, overwhelming majorities sided with the unions.
However, the California Chamber of Commerce has pushed back against the notion that unions are the winners in the legislative victories, arguing that higher costs and additional bureaucracy will ultimately harm workers and California’s competitiveness.
While it remains to be seen whether Governor Gavin Newsom will sign the bills into law, the series of wins for labor unions in the state Legislature represents a significant achievement and momentum for workers’ rights in California.
– Laurel Rosenhall, “Newsom in the hot seat after California passes bill to give striking workers unemployment benefits,” Los Angeles Times
– Laurel Rosenhall, “Will California health workers get a $25 minimum wage? Legislature sends bill to Newsom after long fight,” Los Angeles Times