Stronger California 2021 Legislative Agenda Addresses Critical Needs of Women, Workers & Families Emerging from COVID-19
April 6. 2021
For Immediate Release
Apr 6, 2021
Jess Eagle, Communications Manager
Equal Rights Advocates
SACRAMENTO — Today a network of more than 50 California nonprofits and advocacy groups announced a 2021 legislative agenda that addresses the most pressing needs of California workers, women, and low-income families in the wake of COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis.
Known as the Stronger California Advocates Network, the groups 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. The bills and budget requests especially address the ongoing needs of low-income families, which have been highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic.
The 2021 agenda would:
- Include chosen family in workplace leave laws such as time off to care for loved ones to cover those whose chosen families don’t fit traditional outdated family models;
- Eliminate per-piece rate pay in the garment industry to end wage theft and ensure garment workers are paid legal wages;
- Protect survivors of economic abuse from the negative impacts of debts taken out in their name without their knowledge or consent;
- Extend basic workplace health and safety protections (CalOSHA) to domestic workers;
- Prohibit employer non-disclosure agreements in cases of racism and other forms of discrimination and harassment;
- Supply more child care options in underserved communities, expand child care subsidies and financial support for child care providers, and eliminate family fees through 2022;
- Reduce childhood hunger by providing free meal access to all public school children and creating a nutrition program with food benefits for when schools close and child hunger spikes;
- Grant job-protected bereavement leave to all workers;
- Increase SSI/SSP (social security) grants for people who have disabilities and older adults so that their income is no less than the federal poverty line;
- Require free menstrual products in public schools grades 6-12, community colleges, and CSUs to reduce menstrual-related absences among low-income and unhoused students;
- And more. (Full agenda below)
The Stronger California Agenda provides concrete policy solutions to address the fact that many women and their families in California face obstacles to enjoying economically secure lives. California has the fifth largest economy in the world, but one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, which disproportionately harms women and children. Child care access is lower in California than in other states, and women are paid less than their male counterparts for the same work in virtually every job sector. They are also more likely to work in low-wage jobs and have fewer opportunities to advance in their careers.
Nationally, two-thirds of minimum wage earners and 60% of essential workers are women. These positions are often underpaid and receive fewer (if any) job-protected sick days, time off to care for sick family members, and access to affordable healthcare plans. Prior to the pandemic, women were already experiencing significant barriers to economic security and were more likely to live in poverty. Financial insecurity was especially pronounced for Black, Latinx, Native, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women. The current crisis is the first economic recession in which more women than men lost jobs.
Therefore, policies that address the myriad obstacles threatening women and families are now more important than ever, and it is critical that women are centered in economic recovery efforts.
Quotes from Stronger CA Network Advocates
“Women and families in California already faced obstacles to economic security before the COVID-19 pandemic and have been hit particularly hard by the current economic crisis. The 2021 Stronger California Women’s Economic Security Agenda encompasses policy priorities that are critical to combatting the economic hardship that women, especially women of color, experience to ensure an equitable economic recovery that centers the needs of all Californians.”
- Jessica Stender, Co-Chair, Stronger California Advocates Network; Senior Counsel, Equal Rights Advocates
“We spent an entire year hearing about how essential care work is. And yet, domestic workers still do not have basic health and safety protections,” stated California Domestic Workers Coalition Director Kimberly Alvarenga. “This is a decades long exclusion rooted in the legacy of slavery in our country and that no longer has a place in the twenty-first century or in California, a state that has historically been a leading voice for change. Today, in year 2021, in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has devastated communities of color and after historical wildfires in California, domestic workers are organizing to end this exclusion and demand the change they need to see in their industry.”
- Kimberly Alvarenga, California Domestic Workers Coalition Director
“Mothers, particularly Black and other moms of color, need affordable, accessible, quality child care to return to the workforce and benefit in California’s economic recovery. We can solve that with the passage of AB 92 which eliminates unaffordable child care fees and uses new federal funds to replace the loss of those fees. Additionally, we are asking that state and federal budget investments go to help infants and toddlers who have been in isolation over the last year and ensure they have access to child care programs. Connected to this is the need to invest significantly to reopen child care and build back better. We need bold investments to undo the race, class, and gender inequities that fell on mothers the hardest this year. It’s time to heal the harm of the past and pass the Stronger California budget and legislative policies!”
- Mary Ignatius, Parent Voices Statewide Organizer
“Combatting systemic racism and other forms of discrimination and harassment in the workplace cannot succeed unless workers’ voices are heard. Yet employers have increasingly been allowed to use silencing agreements to strip workers of their right to speak out about their experience in the workplace. SB 331 is critically important to ensure that workers never have to sign away their ability to speak out about harassment or discrimination as a condition of their employment or to settle a claim.”
- Mariko Yoshihara, Legislative Counsel and Policy Director, California Employment Lawyers Association
“All Californians deserve to be able to care for their loved ones. Our current paid leave laws exclude caregivers in the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, elders, and people living in multigenerational households, and others who care for people outside of the current narrow definition of family. AB 1041 (Wicks) would ensure that our laws reflect the reality and diversity of California families. This is a huge step toward realizing equitable leave laws for all.”
- Jenya Cassidy, Director, California Work & Family Coalition
“We have seen the devastating toll that the pandemic has taken on working parents – especially women – pushing families with children into poverty and exacerbating disparities. At Legal Aid at Work, we hear from parents daily who have been forced from the workplace or are trying to care for young children and work at once. We need to protect working families to ensure that these inequities do not persist.”
- Julia Parish, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work
The 2021 Stronger California Advocates Network Agenda
Ensure Fair Pay, Job Opportunities, & Workplace Justice
- SB 321 – Eliminating the Exclusion of Household Domestic Service in Cal/OSHA (Introduced by Senator Durazo)
This bill would eliminate the “household domestic service” exclusion in Labor Code §6303 (Cal/OSHA). California occupational health and safety (Cal/OSHA) requirements for employers to provide a safe working environment currently do not apply to “household domestic service.” The term is not defined, and there is no legislative history to help explain why the exclusion was added. This bill would remove a historical exclusion that has no justification in today’s economy and is particularly egregious considering the occupational health and safety hazards domestic workers currently face during the COVID-19 crisis.
- SB 331 – Silenced No More Act (Introduced by Senator Leyva)
This bill would expand the prohibition on non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s)—currently prohibited in settlement agreements involving sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex discrimination—to cover settlement agreements involving racism and all forms of discrimination or harassment. SB 331 would also expand the prohibition on overly broad confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in employment agreements to cover workers who are required to sign these types of clauses as part of a severance agreement.
- SB 62 – Garment Worker Protection Act (Introduced by Senator Durazo)
This bill will expand and strengthen enforcement of wage theft liability in the garment manufacturing industry, ensuring that retailers cannot use layers of contracting to avoid responsibility under the law. The bill strengthens protections for garment workers by: 1) Eliminating piece rate pay in the garment industry to ensure garment workers are paid legal wages for all time spent working, while still allowing for incentive-based bonuses above their legal wages; (2) Expanding liability for wage violations; (3) Creating a rebuttable presumption as to the identities of the brands based on garment workers’ testimony; and (4) Explicitly authorizing the Labor Commissioner’s Bureau of Field Enforcement to investigate and cite brand guarantors.
Expand Access to Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Care and Education
- Budget Request: Child Care
The Network supports ECE Coalition budget asks to eliminate family fees, expand child care subsidies and financial support for all child care providers, and build more supply of child care in underserved communities.
- AB 92 – Eliminating Family Fees (Introduced by Assemblymember Reyes)
This bill alleviates the burdens that families face in paying for child care by creating an equitable sliding scale for family fees and waiving fees for all families until October 31, 2022.
Support Family-Friendly Workplaces
- AB 95 – Bereavement Leave (Introduced by Assemblymember Low)
This bill would provide 3 days of unpaid, job protected, bereavement leave for employees who work for companies with 25 or fewer employees and 10 days of unpaid bereavement leave for employees who work for companies with more than 25 employees.
- AB 1041 – Chosen Families (Introduced by Assemblymember Wicks)
This bill would ensure that California workers are able to be there for their loved ones when it matters most by expanding paid sick leave, the California Family Rights Act, and Paid Family Leave to include family members who are related by blood or affinity.
- AB 1119 – Family Responsibility Discrimination (Introduced by Assemblymember Wicks)
This bill would protect California workers by ensuring that employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their family responsibilities. In other words, an employer may not treat a worker adversely based on assumptions or stereotypes associated with their family responsibilities.
- AB 123 – Paid Family Leave Wage Replacement (Introduced by Assemblymember Gonzalez)
This bill would increase the wage replacement rate for Paid Family Leave to 90%, making it possible for millions of Californians to be there for their family when it matters most.
Build Economic Security by Addressing Poverty & Building Assets
- AB 1493 – Keeping Survivors Housed (Introduced by Assemblymember Rubio)
This bill would strengthen California’s existing protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or elder or dependent adult abuse. It will close loopholes in current eviction protections to ensure that no survivor can be evicted because of acts of abuse committed against them and strengthen the documentation that can be provided to demonstrate that the individual is a survivor of abuse and to assert the eviction defense.
- SB 364 – End Child Hunger (Introduced by Senator Skinner)
This bill endeavors to dramatically reduce child hunger and create a more sustainable and healthy school food environment by taking several important steps. First, it will provide meals to all public school children, free of charge, without having to apply for a means-tested program. Second, it will create the Better Out of School Time (BOOST) Nutrition program to provide food benefits when school campuses close and child hunger spikes. Third, it will support the purchase of California food prepared by California workers at school or district kitchens. Finally, SB 364 will strengthen existing law to ensure that, until school meal applications are no longer necessary to collect, the privacy of children is protected and that additional anti-hunger help is offered when an online school meal application is used by a school or school district.
- AB 367 – Menstrual Equity (Introduced by Assemblymember C. Garcia)
This bill would require free menstrual products in restrooms in public schools with grades 6-12, community colleges, California State Universities, and public buildings. Research shows that students lacking access to menstrual products experience higher rates of absence and are less able to focus and engage in the classroom. One study found that one in four girls missed class due to a lack of access to menstrual products and that one in five reported not being able to afford menstrual products. Such disruptions cost considerable time and resources, which can be particularly burdensome on youth, low-income people, unhoused people, and other vulnerable populations. By providing menstrual products in schools and public buildings, California helps ensure that people who menstruate have equal access to education and public life, and are empowered to reach their full potential, irrespective of their gender or economic status.
- SB 373 – Protecting Vulnerable Populations From Coerced Debt (Introduced by Senator Min)
This bill would protect survivors of economic abuse from the consequences of debts incurred in their name without their knowledge or consent, in two specific ways. First, the bill would prevent debt collection against abuse survivors when they can demonstrate that the debt was incurred as a result of economic abuse. The bill establishes a set of documentation that can be provided to demonstrate this. Second, the bill would prevent consumer credit reporting agencies from reporting these debts. SB 373 will protect survivors’ economic well-being by preventing them from needing to pay the costs of these debts and protecting their credit report and credit score from being damaged as a result of the debt.
- SB 691 – Tax Credit Expansions: Low Wage Workers and Unpaid Caregivers (Introduced by Senator Rubio)
This bill would permanently increase the California Earning Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) for workers excluded from the federal EITC, and extend eligibility for the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). SB 691 signals that lawmakers believe it is important to make sure that every family with young children can meet basic needs regardless of whether they work for pay.
- Budget Request: SSI/SSP
This request asks that SSI recipients be included in any future Golden State Stimulus, and fulfill the Master Plan for Aging by increasing SSI/SSP Grants for people with disabilities and older adults so that their income is no less than the federal poverty line. 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. Further, current grant amounts leave our most vulnerable community either homeless or struggling to stay housed.
Network Roundtable Organizations
9 to 5
ACLU of California
Act for Women & Girls
Alliance for Community Empowerment
American Association of University Women
California Asset Building Coalition
California Child Care Resource & Referral Network
California Domestic Workers Coalition
California Employment Lawyers Association
California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
California Women’s Law Center
California Work and Family Coalition
Center for Popular Democracy
Child Care Law Center
Child Care Resource Center
Equal Rights Advocates
Legal Aid at Work
Lutheran Office of Public Policy
Mujeres Unidas y Activas
National Council of Jewish Women
Organization United for Respect
Parent Voices CA
Raising California Together
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC)
United Tradeswomen, Inc.
UFCW Western States Council
Voices for Progress
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Women’s Foundation of California
YWCA- San Francisco & Marin