Stronger California 2023 Agenda expands workers’ rights, advances economic security for women and families
April 20. 2023
For Immediate Release
Apr 20, 2023
SACRAMENTO – Today a network of more than 65 California nonprofits and advocacy groups announced a 2023 Legislative Agenda that addresses some of the most pressing needs of California working women and low-income families.
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 workers’ rights and economic security for women and families across the state.
The 2023 Agenda would:
- outlaw discrimination against employees based on their family caregiving status
- increase the number of employer-paid sick days from 3 to 7
- end “poverty tows” resulting from unpaid parking tickets
- fund doula services to incarcerated pregnant and birthing people
- make Paid Family Leave more inclusive by covering chosen family members
- protect survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination from defamation lawsuits
- extend unemployment benefits to those currently excluded due to immigrant status
- end the discriminatory exclusion of domestic workers from state health and safety laws
- increase the age limit for the Young Child Tax Credit
- safeguard privacy rights for those seeking abortion and gender-affirming healthcare, among other things, by limiting “reverse demands,” through which tech companies hand over of mass amounts of customers’ personal data to police;
and more. (Full agenda below.)
Read quotes about the bills from the advocates who are crucial to this work.
Take action! Visit our CA Action Center to email lawmakers about these bills with a few clicks.
Since 2015, the annual Stronger California Agenda has provided concrete policy solutions to the obstacles that keep many women from being able to attain economic security. California is the fourth largest economy in the world, but has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, which disproportionately harms women and children. Child care access is lower in California compared to other states, and women are paid less than their male counterparts in the same roles 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, less or no time off to care for sick family members, and limited 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 in Black, Latinx, Native, Asian American, and Pacific Islander families. The pandemic-induced recession was the first in which women lost more jobs than men.
Therefore, policies that address the myriad obstacles threatening the economic security of women and families are now more important than ever, and it is critical that women are centered in economic recovery efforts.
Quotes from Stronger California Pillar Lead organizations:
- Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director, Equal Rights Advocates; Co-Chair, Stronger California Advocates Network:
“When women and low-income families face barriers to economic security, they don’t face them one at a time. They’re dealing with a combination of discrimination at work, lack of adequate paid leave to care for their families in times of need, and systems that are blatantly stacked against them due to their race, immigration status, or LGBTQI+ identity. That’s why our agenda addresses a comprehensive overlap of issues harming women at work and home, in their healthcare and their wallets. More than 60 diverse California nonprofits agree on this agenda because we know these concrete policy solutions will significantly help women and families across the state.”
- Shimica Gaskins, President & CEO at GRACE – End Child Poverty California (Reimagining CalWORKS – AB 310):
“We dare to dream of a future in which every child is valued and free. Fundamental to that vision is to reimagine CalWORKs so our bedrock safety net program respects and supports families to exit poverty and pursue their dreams. The current program is the result of decades of federal and state policy based in racist, sexist, and classist stereotypes of people experiencing poverty. These are overdue reforms to fulfill the potential of CalWORKs to reflect anti-racist, family-centered values. We thank Asm. Arambula and Sen. Rubio for their leadership driving this transformative legislation.”
- Sasha Feldstein, Economic Justice Policy Director, California Immigrant Policy Center (The Safety Net for All Workers Act – SB 227):
“With the recent floods, we’ve seen how climate disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, causing people to lose their homes and their livelihoods. Unemployment benefits are a lifeline when disaster strikes, but over 1 million Californians are excluded from unemployment benefits simply because of their immigration status, even though taxes on their wages contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the UI system every year. Unemployment benefits for excluded immigrant workers will ensure that all Californians are cared for when the next storm, wildfire, or economic recession hits. All Californians, regardless of where they were born, deserve access to a safety net when they are displaced and out of work. The current fiscal forecast underscores exactly why this program and this investment cannot wait. California cannot continue to rely on piecemeal relief for undocumented Californians in times of crisis when our state is so interdependent. The volatility of our economy, our communities, and our climate necessitates that we make these crucial investments now to build a California that works for everyone.”
- Mary Ignatius, Executive Director, Parent Voices CA (Increasing Access to Stable, Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Care And Education – AB 596 and SB 380)
“Working mothers need affordable, accessible, quality child care to remain in the workforce and benefit in California’s economic recovery. We can solve that with the passage of AB 596 and SB 380, which would end the state from subsidizing our child care system on the backs of mothers of color — who pay unaffordable child care fees — and the child care workforce, 96% who are women and majority women of color, who have been paid poverty wages for far too long. Only with bold investments can the state undo the race, class, and gender inequities and commit to build a more dignified and just child care system. It is time to pass the Stronger California budget and legislative policies!”
- Katie Duberg, Political Organizing Director, California Work & Family Coalition (Paid Sick + Safe Days – SB 616):
“We need SB 616 to ensure that California workers have an adequate number of paid sick days. Current California state law requires employers to provide only 3 paid sick days per year. This is simply not enough. When workers run out of paid sick days, staying home can mean losing their job or necessary income, forcing many workers to keep working while sick. Paid sick days also make sure that parents can stay home to care for sick kids instead of sending them to daycare or school, that family caregivers can take their loved ones to the doctor, that workers sick with contagious illness can stay home and protect their customers’ health, and that survivors of intimate partner violence can get the services they need. It’s time to improve our state law so that no worker has to work sick or risk losing their income or job.”
- Julia Parish, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work (Paid Family Leave for Chosen Family (AB 518) and Paid Family Leave Improvements – AB 575):
“Paid Family Leave is a lifeline for working families, providing income when people need time off from work during critical life moments, like welcoming a new child home or caring for a seriously ill loved one. Wicks’ and Papan’s bills (AB 518 and AB 575) will remove barriers that keep families from being able to care for one another when they need it most. We applaud these efforts to make Paid Family Leave more equitable.”
- Mariko Yoshihara, Legislative Counsel & Policy Director, California Employment Lawyers Association (Family Caregiver Anti-Discrimination Act – AB 524):
“While several states and many other localities have already taken steps to protect family caregivers from workplace discrimination, California has yet to enact these important protections. We have an urgent obligation to ensure Californians can care for their families without suffering from biased assumptions and unfair treatment at work based on their caregiving responsibilities.”
- Becca Cramer-Mowder, Legislative Advocate, ACLU California Action (Stop Surveilling Our Bodies Act – AB 793):
“As states across the country pass laws criminalizing reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, California must step up and say no to invasive surveillance that targets people seeking that care in our state and beyond. AB 793 would protect us from a form of invasive digital surveillance that poses an especially grave risk in a Post-Roe, increasingly divided America. ‘Reverse demands’ can compel companies to search their records and reveal the identities of potentially thousands of people who looked up a particular keyword online or drove down a particular street. Such information could reveal who may have sought reproductive healthcare or merely searched for information on abortions or other procedures. AB 793 stops government entities from requesting reverse demands, stops courts from issuing them, and ensures California is a true refuge for anyone seeking reproductive or gender-affirming care.”
- Kimberly Alvarenga, Director, California Domestic Workers Association (Domestic Worker Occupational Safety and Health – SB 686):
“It is shameful that the essential workers so many Californians depend on to care for loved ones and their homes have had to risk their safety while working through climate-accelerated disasters and a global pandemic, and have continued to suffer every day from high rates of injuries and illnesses because they are still excluded from basic occupational safety and health protections. The time has come for these outdated exclusions, which are rooted in so many years of racism and the devaluation of women’s work, to finally come to an end, and for California to lead the country by passing the Health and Safety for All Workers Act this year. Everyone deserves a safe workplace.”
To see a full list of Stronger CA Roundtable member organizations, click here.
The 2023 Stronger California Agenda
Fair Pay, Job Opportunities, & Workplace Justice
- SB 476 – Worker Freedom from Funding Corporate Lobbying Act (Introduced by Senator Limón)
Assembly Bill 476 modifies existing law to prevent employers from using worker-provided money to fund corporate lobbying efforts aimed at suppressing workers’ wages. It also requires employers to pay for workers’ time and fees associated with taking the mandatory training course required to obtain their food handler card within 30 days of hire. It would also prohibit an employer from conditioning employment on having an existing food handler card.
- SB 497 – Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Act (Introduced by Senator Smallwood-Cuevas)
Senate Bill 497 better protects employees who report a labor or equal pay violation from retaliation by establishing a legal standard (rebuttable presumption) assuming that negative actions taken against the employee within 90 days of their report is likely retaliatory. It also allows whistleblowers to collect a penalty of up to $10,000 that lawbreaking employers must now pay to the State.
- AB 933 – Protecting Survivors from Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits (Introduced by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and Assemblymember Ward)
Assembly Bill 933 protects survivors of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination from retaliatory defamation lawsuits. It makes it harder for perpetrators to intimidate survivors with legal threats and provides relief to survivors in the form of attorneys’ fees and damages for successfully defending themselves against meritless defamation lawsuits.
- SB 686 – Health and Safety for all Workers Act (Introduced by Senator Durazo)
Senate Bill 686 will end the sexist and racist exclusion of domestic workers from California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA). The specific exclusion of domestic workers—predominantly low-paid women of color—from state workplace protection laws makes domestic employees vulnerable to abuse and dangerous working conditions. In addition to ensuring adequate health and safety protections for the workers, the bill will also support their employers by creating a financial and technical assistance program to help implement the new requirements.
- AB 1356 – Protect Laid-Off Workers Act (Introduced by Assemblymember Haney)
Assembly Bill 1356 expands California’s layoff protection law, the WARN Act, increasing the number of days an employer is required to give an employee notice of a layoff from 60 days to 90 days in advance. This will help ensure a worker’s safety net is not tied up in severance negotiations, and includes contract workers in these critical protections.
Expand Access to Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Care and Education
- AB 596 (Gómez Reyes) and SB 380 (Limón): Increasing Access to Stable, Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Care And Education
Assembly Bill 596 and Senate Bill 380 will help childcare providers and families by transitioning providers to a single cost-based reimbursement rate, suspending family fees until an equitable sliding scale for family fees is established. It will require the California Department of Social Services to apply to the federal Health and Human Services Agency to amend the State’s current Child Care and Development Fund State Plan to change reimbursement rates to an alternative methodology to include a cost-based model consistent with government recommendations.
Support Family-Friendly Workplaces
- SB 521 – CalWORKs: Pregnancy or Parenting (Introduced by Senator Smallwood-Cuevas)
Senate Bill 521 helps pregnant, lactating, and parenting students in high school and college maintain their CalWORKs benefits. It exempts CalWORKs recipients at college campuses from Welfare-to-Work requirements if they fail to meet their academic progress or hours requirements due to lack of accommodations for pregnancy, parenting, and/or lactation reasons. It also eliminates sanctions for CalLEARN recipients and expands the list of exemptions from participation for teens who experience family destabilizing events such as homelessness, domestic violence, or mental health crises.
- AB 518 – Paid Family Leave for Chosen Family (Introduced by Assemblymember Wicks)
Assembly Bill 518 makes Paid Family Leave workplace laws more inclusive by updating the definition of “family member” to include chosen family and extended family, allowing workers to receive benefits to care for close loved ones who are not necessarily related by law or blood. This builds on Stronger California bill AB 1041, enacted in 2023, which gave workers the right to take paid sick days or job-protected family medical leave to care for chosen or extended family.
- AB 524 – Family Caregiver Anti-Discrimination Act (Introduced by Assemblymember Wicks)
Assembly Bill 524 prohibits discrimination against employees based on their family caregiver status, including parenting and other family-related responsibilities. Employers may not treat a worker adversely based on assumptions or stereotypes associated with their family caregiving status.
- AB 575 – Paid Family Leave Improvements (Introduced by Assemblymember Papan)
Assembly Bill 575 removes three major barriers to the state Paid Family Leave program so California workers can access the program in times of need–especially important since most CA workers fund the program via automatic paycheck deductions. The bill (1) ends the requirement that the employee use 2 weeks of accrued vacation before they can receive PFL benefits; (2) removes the provision preventing more than one caregiver from receiving PFL to care for the same family member at the same time; and (3) allows workers to take time off for child bonding in cases of newly appointed guardianship.
- SB 616 – Paid Sick + Safe Days (Introduced by Senator Gonzalez)
Senate Bill 616 increases the number of paid sick days employers are required to provide to each employee, from the current 3 days, to 7 days per year. It also improves accessibility to carryover provisions and increases accrual thresholds.
Build Economic Security by Addressing Poverty & Building Assets
- AB 1128: Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) Expansion (Introduced by Assemblymember Santiago)
Assembly Bill 1128 combats poverty by expanding access to the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). This bill increases the tax credit’s eligibility to include households with children ages 6-18, dependents ages 19-23 who are students, and children of any age who have permanent and total disabilities.
- AB 310: Reimagining CalWORKS (Introduced by Assemblymember Arambula)
Assembly Bill 310 provides all parents with critical support they need for their children and themselves. It would undo historical harms of the CalWORKs program that are rooted in racist and sexist federal and state laws, and establish program changes that recognize California’s diverse population.
- AB 1498 – Expand CalEITC Minimum to $300 (Introduced by Assemblymember Gipson)
Assembly Bill 1498 establishes a California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) minimum amount of $300 for low-wage earners, reflecting inflation increases and providing a more meaningful credit to families and individuals who struggle with California’s high cost of living.
- SB 227 – The Safety Net for All Workers Act (Introduced by Senator Durazo)
Senate Bill 227 and our corresponding budget request extends unemployment benefits to workers who are currently excluded due solely to their immigration status. The new Excluded Workers Program would provide eligible workers with unemployment insurance of $300 per week for up to 20 weeks. California employers pay an estimated $485 million annually in Unemployment Insurance taxes on behalf of undocumented workers, but those workers do not see a cent of that money. Benefiting up to one million Californians, this program will make Unemployment Insurance fairer and will help ensure workers do not fall into financial ruin when they lose their jobs.
- AB 1082 – Ending Poverty Tows (Introduced by Assemblymember Kalra)
Assembly Bill 1082 prohibits “poverty tows,” where a vehicle is towed as a debt collection mechanism due to unpaid parking tickets. For many, a tow means total loss of their car because the tow and ticket fees are more than they can afford — and often more than what their car is worth. This bill will help low-income households by preventing the potentially devastating consequences resulting from sudden lack of access to their vehicle–inability to get to work, transport children to and from school, go to medical appointments, and other basic daily needs. It will also increase the number of unpaid tickets one can receive before the DMV can place a registration hold, and improve guidelines for parking ticket payment programs.
Health and Reproductive Rights
- AB 793 – Stop Surveilling Our Bodies Act (Introduced by Assemblymember Bonta)
Assembly Bill 793 aims to preserve digital privacy by putting a stop to unconstitutional reverse demands, also called “geofence demands” or “keyword demands,” which are a form of digital surveillance that poses a grave risk in a Post-Roe and increasingly anti-trans America. The digital trail we make by carrying a smartphone, using social media, or apps that track our location can reveal a lot about us that must be safeguarded. Reverse demands compel companies to search their records for the identities of all people who looked up a particular keyword online or drove down a certain street. Rather than help police find a needle in a haystack, they hand over the haystack, whether the needle is there or not. This bill will put a stop to unconstitutional reverse demands so California must be a true refuge for people seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming care.
- AB 583 – Invest in Efforts to Improve Health Care for Pregnant and Birthing People (Introduced by Assemblymember Wicks)
Assembly Bill 583 establishes a three-year pilot program to provide grants to community-based doula groups and community-based organizations to provide full spectrum doula care to (1) incarcerated women and birthing people; and (2) women and birthing people whose communities suffer from disproportionately high rates of negative birth outcomes, and who are not eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. The program aims to address adverse maternal and infant health outcomes by building a culturally congruent doula pipeline, as well as establishing, managing, and expanding doula services.
Learn more about the Stronger California Initiative.