Field Rep and Political Coordinator Leslie Simmons breaks down new laws that took effect in 2023.
With the dawn of 2023, several new worker-friendly laws in California went into effect. Although some may not directly affect TAG members, they are laws that labor unions endorsed and lobbied to pass, and it’s important to share in the victories of all our fellow union members across the state.
MINIMUM WAGE: California raised its minimum wage to $15.50/hour on Jan. 1. Although some cities like Los Angeles and Pasadena set their own minimum wages, which are higher than the state, other cities, such as Burbank, do not. Instead, they use the state minimum wage rate.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 3.2 million Californians – 18.9% of the workforce – benefited from the new increase. And while TAG members make above minimum wage, others working in animation who do, such as non-unionized production workers, have a little bit more money in their pockets – until they organize with Local 839 and negotiate higher rates, of course!
PAY EQUITY: Thanks to the work of State Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Senate Bill 1162 was signed into law requiring employers with 15 or more employees to reveal salary ranges of workers and list them on job postings. The bill was championed by First Partner Jennifer Siebel and the state’s Legislative Women’s Caucus.
This requirement removes the curtain employers have hidden behind in terms of pay equity for women and members of the BIPOC community. If employers fail to disclose this information, they face up to $10,000 in fines from the California Labor Commissioner.
Not only do employers have to disclose this information, but third-party staffing agencies and labor contractors must report as well.
FAMILY LEAVE/STATE DISABILITY: In 2020, as COVID-19 took hold, the state temporarily raised the wage replacement percentage for the state’s Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance programs from 55 percent to between 60 and 70 percent and extended leave from six to eight weeks.
That change was set to expire at the end of 2022, but thanks to State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Senate Bill 951 extended this increase for another two years – and then it will increase again for the state’s lowest paid workers. Effective Jan. 1, 2025, the bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will increase from 60 to 90 percent the share of workers’ wages paid by the programs for those in lower-wage jobs.
According to Legal Aid at Work, “These programs will be accessible for Californians who need to take paid time off from work to recover from serious illness, care for their seriously ill family member, or bond with a new child without jeopardizing their economic security. Before this legislation, workers in low-paid jobs were effectively locked out of a benefit they’ve paid for through deductions from each of their paychecks. What’s more, low-wage workers who are disproportionately people of color have been subsidizing the paid family leave benefits of higher earners.”
The Bill was championed by more than 450 organizations that are part of the California Work & Family Coalition, a statewide alliance of com- munity organizations, unions, non-profits, and individuals dedicated to helping parents, caregivers, and families thrive. (The coalition has a great informational website with videos and information on filing for EDD, Disability, and Paid Family Leave. Visit https://www.paidfamilyleave.org/ to check it out.)
BEREAVEMENT LEAVE: Under Assembly Bill 1949, California employers with five or more employees must allow workers five days of unpaid job-protected leave in the event of the death of a close family member, including a spouse, child, sibling, parent or grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. This protected leave allows time for people to grieve without the fear of losing their job. Employers can still provide better terms and pay its employees for their time off as well. The law does allow employers to require documentation, such as a death certificate, published obituary, or verification from a funeral home/mortuary.
ABORTION RIGHTS: Senate Bill 1375, written by State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), makes it easier for experienced nurse practitioners to qualify to perform abortions, independent of a physician.
In addition to the laws highlighted above, many others were passed to better the lives of farmworkers, construction workers, and fast food workers.
FARMWORKERS: Following a 24-day, 335-mile march from Delano to Sacramento last August, and the support of President Joe Biden and others, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 2183, which makes it easier for farmworkers to unionize. Under the previous law, union elections, usually held on the growers’ property, were monitored by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board. This new law allows the workers to vote by mail or drop a ballot card at the board’s offices.
The United Farm Workers union said the bill levels the playing field, especially after the June 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision which allowed landowners to keep union representatives off their property. The law expires in five years, however.
CONSTRUCTION WORKERS: Two new laws, Senate Bill 6 and Assembly Bill 2011, requires residential construction workers building affordable housing projects in certain corridors to be paid “prevailing” wages – usually union-scale wages.
This bill came out of the fact that for commercial projects with government funding, paying a prevailing wage to commercial construction workers was a requirement. Given the uptick in affordable housing projects in the state, this bill focuses workers skilled in residential construction on residential projects in corridors previously zoned for commercial use.
FAST FOOD WORKERS: The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (Assembly Bill 257), sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), establishes a 10-member Fast Food Council to regulate wages, hours, and working conditions across chains with at least 100 outlets nationwide. This council, the first of its kind, would include worker delegates, industry representatives, and state officials.
However, the new law has hit a snag. Fast food corporations, including Chipotle, Starbucks, and In-N-Out Burger, have collected one million signatures to get a referendum on the 2024 ballot to overturn the law. As a result, a judge has delayed implementation of the law,
If implemented, the council could raise wages as high as $22/hour and enact health, safety, and discrimination standards.