Stronger CA: Crucial bills for underpaid workers, families headed to Governor’s desk

September 2. 2020


 

In a big win for California women, workers, and low-income families, 6 Stronger California priority bills have passed the legislature and are headed to the Governor’s desk! An extraordinary win during a challenging legislative session, these bills address the most pressing needs in our state in the wake of COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis.

This victory is the result of a monumental effort made by Equal Rights Advocates and partner organizations in the Stronger California Advocates Network, and individual supporters who called, emailed, and tweeted at officials to support civil rights and workers’ rights. 

If signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, these policies will help low-income families across the state weather the pandemic and resulting economic crisis by:

  • expanding access to paid family leave and job protection for low-income workers;
  • expanding child care options for essential workers; 
  • implementing critical health and safety protections for domestic care workers
  • ensuring workers who were laid-off or furloughed during the pandemic can be the first in line to be reclaim their positions (protecting workers from discrimination in the re-hiring process); 
  • exposing gender- and race-based pay discrimination;
  • ensuring low-income immigrant taxpayers and their families receive critical financial support through the California Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • and more

Read more about the specific bills and budget wins below.

The Stronger California Advocates Network is composed of 50+ nonprofits and advocacy groups who work in partnership with members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus every year to support policies that advance economic security for working women and families. 

If signed into law, these policies will address dire needs of workers and underpaid families that have been highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic. Congratulations and thanks to our partner organizations and legislative allies!

Stay tuned for ways you can contact the Governor in support of these bills.

 

The bills

  • SB 1257 (Durazo) – Eliminates the racist and sexist exclusion of domestic workers from California’s basic workplace health and safety laws (Cal/OSHA). 91% of domestic workers are women, and 57% are Latinx, Black, or Asian. This bill would finally end the exclusion of domestic workers from Cal/OSHA, which has no justification in today’s economy and is particularly egregious considering the occupational health and safety hazards domestic workers normally face, in addition to the risks of COVID-19.
  • SB 973 (Jackson) – We can’t fix what we can’t see. This bill would expose racial and gender pay discrimination, wage gaps, and occupational segregation by requiring employers with 100+ employees to submit an annual pay data report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, aggregated by workers’ gender, race, ethnicity, and job category. This will allow state agencies to identify wage disparities and more effectively enforce the California Fair Pay Act and the Fair Employment & Housing Act, in addition to encouraging employers to analyze their own pay practices to ensure they are fair and lawful.
  • AB 1947 (Kalra) – Ensures workers’ access to justice by giving them more time to file workplace retaliation complaints with the Labor Commissioner, extending the deadline from 6 months to one year. The bill also gives workers the ability to seek reimbursement for attorneys’ fees when they prevail, specifically in whistleblower retaliation claims in court. This will strengthen our state anti-retaliation and whistleblower protections  by giving vulnerable workers with limited access to resources more time to gather necessary evidence and materials to file a complaint and ensuring low-paid workers are able to obtain legal assistance.
  • SB 1383 (Jackson) –  Makes California’s Paid Family Leave fair. Most California workers pay into the state’s Paid Family Leave program through automatic paycheck deductions, but about 40% of them   disproportionately low-paid workers and workers of color are unable to use the program when they need to, because it does not include job protection. The lowest earners end up paying for high earners’ leave. This bill provides job protection so everyone who works for an employer with at least 5 employees can take Paid Family Leave to care for a sick family member, attend to their own health, or bond with a new child, without losing their job or worrying they’ll be laid off.
  • AB 3216 (Kalra & Gonzalez) – Directly responds to the COVID-19 crisis by ensuring that those who were laid off or furloughed during the pandemic in especially hard-hit industries can be the first in line to reclaim their positions. This protects against discrimination in the rehiring process, as well as retaliation for whistleblowers and those who previously spoke out against discrimination, harassment, and other workplace violations.
  • AB 1876 (Reyes) – Builds on this year’s earlier Stronger California budget win to provide for the full inclusion of ITIN filers — Californians who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file taxes, many of whom do not have citizenship documentation—in the California Earned Income Tax Credit. If signed by the Governor, approximately 600,000 low-income immigrant workers and their families who have been systematically and structurally left out of state and federal recovery relief will receive critical financial support through the CalEITC.

 

Budget Wins in signed 2020-2021 Budget

  • Child Care Budget Allocation: Protects and expands child care access for essential workers, and provides financial support to child care programs that remain open during the pandemic.
  • CalEITC Budget Allocation – Expands eligibility for claiming the California Earned Income Tax Credit to ITIN filers with a child under 6, including undocumented workers for the first time. This is crucial to ensuring all workers who pay taxes in California — including those who don’t have citizenship documentation — are able to file for this tax credit, which is a proven anti-poverty tool. In light of COVID-19 and resulting economic crisis that has hit low-income families the hardest.
  • Social Security Budget Allocation — Increases SSI/SSP (Social Security) grants for people with disabilities and the elderly so that their income is no less than the federal poverty line, and permanently restores the cost of living adjustment (COLA). Per a California Budget and Policy Center report, women and people of color represent a significant majority of SSI/SSP recipients due to labor market inequalities and rely on this benefit as their sole source of income. Current grant amounts are proven to leave the state’s lowest paid, most vulnerable individuals either homeless or struggling to stay housed.

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