Yesterday marked an eventful occasion for workers’ rights advocates in Sacramento, as California Governor Gavin Newsom moved on a number of major employment rights bills at his desk. Among other measures, Newsom signed legislation to require businesses of over 100 employees to track and report employee compensation based on race and gender. The new law, S.B. 973, goes into effect in March of 2021. Newsom also approved a measure (S.B. 275) supported by the state’s largest healthcare workers’ union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which would mandate that hospitals stockpile at least 45 days’ worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) or face fines of up to $25,000.
Not all news from the governor’s mansion was good for labor advocates, however. After much anticipation, Newsom vetoed a union backed “right to return” bill, A.B. 3216, which would have guaranteed employees at hotels, airport businesses, janitorial spaces, event centers, and other select industries laid-off during the current state of emergency a place at their former worksites once businesses reopen. In his veto message, Newsom wrote that tying worker retention to the state of emergency would create a “confusing patchwork of requirements” for businesses across different localities. UNITE HERE Local 11 Presidents Ada Briceño, Susan Minato, and Kurt Petersen condemned the decision as undermining the economic security of low-income workers in the state, particularly women of color. Already, cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose have passed similar right-to-return ordinances in recent months.
Labor advocates have been busy this week at the local level, as well. As Leigh noted yesterday, Seattle became the nation’s second city to pass a minimum wage ordinance for rideshare drivers on Tuesday. The measure, approved unanimously by the Seattle City Council, seeks to set a minimum $16 net minimum wage for drivers through a combination of minimum payment rates measured per mile and per minute. Meanwhile, in Lynn, Massachusetts, city officials moved to amend the city’s wage theft ordinance, closing a loophole that had allowed developers in the city to collect local tax breaks without requiring their building contractors to disclose previous labor and wage-theft violations. The city’s actions come in response to the recent revelation that one of the Lynn’s largest developers had been using the loophole to employ chronic wage violators on some of its projects without oversight.
Two of the nation’s leading progressive icons, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), have withdrawn from the New Yorker Festival in solidarity with workers picketing the event in ongoing labor dispute with The New Yorker magazine. The New Yorker Union, which formed in spring 2018 to represent much of the magazine’s non-writing staff, has yet to reach a contract with management since receiving employer recognition that July. While magazine leadership claims to be eager for a deal, both sides continue to argue over workers’ demands for a just-cause employment standard.