Stronger California 2022 Wins Advance Rights for Women, LGBTQ+, and Immigrant Workers
October 6. 2022
For Immediate Release
Oct 6, 2022
SACRAMENTO – Following the Sept. 30 deadline for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto all bills passed by the state legislature, a coalition of women’s and worker rights organizations is celebrating 9 California new laws that address the most pressing needs of women, workers, and low-income families.
Known as the Stronger California Advocates Network, the 65 nonprofit and advocacy groups chaired by Equal Rights Advocates worked in close partnership with community members and the California Legislative Women’s Caucus to advocate for the new laws, which will make workplace laws more inclusive of LGBTQI+ people, advance pay equity, protect domestic violence survivors, ensure access to bereavement leave, protect Californians from pregnancy-related and abortion criminalization, improve fast food industry conditions, and more.
The new rights come at a particularly crucial time for low-income workers and families, who are suffering increased financial instability due to growing income inequalities, rising child care costs, and other results of the pandemic and its economic fallout. The new laws are:
- Pay Transparency for Pay Equity Act – SB 1162 (Limón) will require employers to openly list salary ranges on all job postings and provide salary ranges to existing employees upon request. It will also increase pay transparency by requiring employers with 100 or more employees hired through labor contractors to submit pay data reports to the Civil Rights Department broken down by sex, race, and ethnicity, which is necessary to combat a growing trend of large corporations hiring through third-party contractors to skirt existing equal pay laws and other labor laws.
- Leave for Chosen Family – AB 1041 (Wicks) will ensure California workers can take time off work to care for loved ones by expanding the definition of “family member” for purposes of family caregiving leave and paid sick leave. Loved ones covered by these laws will now include those not necessarily related legally or by blood, which is important for the growing number of households that don’t follow outdated nuclear family models, and will be particularly impactful for LGBTQI+ families, immigrant families, and people living in multigenerational households.
- Accessible Paid Family and Disability Leave for Low-Income Workers – SB 951 (Durazo) will increase the Paid Family Leave (PFL) and State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits wage replacement rates from 70% for low-income workers and 60% for all other workers, to 90% and 70%, respectively. This helps ensure everyone can afford to take time off to care for a new child or ill family member, or to recover from their own health condition, including pregnancy. Nearly every worker pays into these state programs through automatic paycheck deductions, but often only those with middle to high incomes can take advantage of them, because only they can afford to live on a reduced percentage of their income. This means the lowest paid were funding paid leave for the highest paid, while often being unable to take that time off for themselves.
- Job-Protected Bereavement Leave – AB 1949 (Low) will allow workers to take up to 5 days of job-protected bereavement leave following the death of a loved one. Previously, workers could legally be fired for taking a single day off work following the death of a spouse, child, sibling, parent, grandparent, or domestic partner. Low-income workers were especially affected because they are less likely to have employer-provided leave. All workers deserve and need at least a few days off work to make funeral arrangements and grieve without fear of being fired or retaliated against.
- Fast Food Industry Accountability and Standards – AB 257 (Holden), or The FAST Recovery Act, creates a Fast Food Sector Council consisting of workers, employers, and government regulators who are charged with proposing and implementing improved industry-wide standards. The industry is notorious for its low wages, wage theft, sexual harassment, retaliation, and unsafe working conditions. Nearly 80% of fast food workers are immigrants or people of color, and two-thirds are women. This first of its kind law aims to empower frontline workers and increase corporate accountability.
- Housing Protections for Domestic Violence Survivors – SB 1017 (Eggman) expands California’s existing eviction protections for survivors of abuse to include survivors of violent crime. It also closes loopholes in current eviction protections, increasing documentation options for domestic violence survivors, and expands the situations survivors can present in order to access this crucial protection and avoid eviction and homelessness for themselves and their families.
- Decriminalization of Abortion and Pregnancy Loss– AB 2223 (Wicks) ensures no one in California can be investigated, prosecuted, or incarcerated for ending a pregnancy or experiencing pregnancy loss.
- Protecting Vulnerable Populations Against Coerced Debt – SB 975 (Min) protects survivors of coerced debt from the negative impacts of debts taken out in their name without their knowledge or through coercion, such as domestic abuse survivors, the vast majority of whom experience financial abuse. It prevents debt collection against survivors who can demonstrate that the debt was a result of coercion and establishes parameters of supporting documentation. It also protects survivors’ credit reports and credit scores from being damaged as a result of the coerced debt.
- The HOPE for Children Act – Budget Trailer Bill (Skinner) will help narrow the racial wealth gap and create economic mobility for children who lost their parent(s) or primary caregiver to COVID-19 and eligible foster youth by providing them with state-issued trust funds.
Three bills included in the Stronger California 2022 Agenda did not move forward. The Network will continue fighting for these bills:
- Affordable Child Care Family Fees – AB 92 (Reyes) would alleviate the burdens that families face in paying for child care by creating an equitable sliding scale for family fees and waiving families for all families until October 31, 2023.
- Protections Against Family Responsibilities Discrimination- AB 2182 (Wicks) would make our workplaces more family-friendly by outlawing discrimination against employees due to their family responsibilities. It would also ensure workers have access to reasonable workplace accommodations to deal with unforeseen closures of schools and other care facilities.
- Excluded Workers Pilot Program – AB 2847 (E. Garcia) would create a pilot program to provide unemployment insurance to unemployed workers who are excluded from state Unemployment Insurance solely due to their immigration status.
Quotes from Stronger California Advocates:
- Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director, Equal Rights Advocates; Co-Chair, Stronger California Advocates Network:
“It is critical that California continue to enact robust policies to support working families. Prior to the pandemic, California women, workers, and families already faced incredible challenges to achieving economic security, and these challenges were further exacerbated by the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. The Stronger California 2022 Agenda addressed the myriad obstacles threatening women and families, and our wins represent concrete policy reform that will improve economic security for all Californians.”
- Mariko Yoshihara, Policy Director & Legislative Counsel, California Employment Lawyers Association:
“We celebrate the signing of SB 1162 as another step towards greater pay transparency in California. By requiring employers to disclose a position’s pay range in job listings and to employees who request it, this bill will empower workers to seek fair pay. Additionally, by requiring employers to include contractors in their pay data reports, this bill will help reveal pay inequities within this growing workforce that are often hidden from sight.”
- Krista Colón, Public Policy Director, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence:
“California has taken two steps forward toward economic and housing justice. SB 975 (Min) and SB 1017 (Eggman) address the impacts of coerced debt and help survivors remain safely housed. These bills respond to crucial economic stability needs of survivors, who experience high rates of financial abuse and homelessness. We are thrilled that the Governor signed these bills into law.”
- Jenya Cassidy, Director, California Work & Family Coalition:
“The Governor’s signing of SB 951 into law is a sweet victory for all of us and will make a profound difference in the lives of the millions of California workers, who will be able to bond with a child, care for a family member, or take time to heal. It definitely puts California back on the map as a model for progress for other states and the country!”
- Julia Parish, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work:
“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, more and more families are dealing with the loss of a loved one. They should not also have to deal with loss of a job because they are grieving. AB 1949 is particularly important for workers with low wages, who are less likely to have employer-provided leave. We thank Assemblymember Low and Governor Newsom for helping working families have time to heal.”
- Shimica Gaskins, President & CEO, GRACE/End Child Poverty CA:
“The fundamental problem for communities forced into the margins, especially Black children, is not savings but building wealth. The HOPE for Children Act of 2022 will promote economic mobility and help to narrow the racial wealth gap for children who lost their parent(s) or primary caregiver to COVID-19 and eligible foster youth. This support will help to set them on a path of greater financial stability throughout their lives and has the power to combat intergenerational poverty.”
About the Stronger California Advocates Network
Since 2015, the annual Stronger California Legislative Agenda has provided 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. Affordable 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 sector. Women are also more likely to work in low-paid 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 overlapping myriad obstacles threatening women and families are now more important than ever, and it is critical that women are centered in economic recovery efforts.