California unions revive bid to pay unemployment to striking workers

Portantino, in an interview Thursday, said he hopes the recent momentum around workers’ rights will help propel the bill to the governor’s desk.

“Coming out of Covid, I think there’s more of a recognition that hardworking men and women need to have a seat at the table to discuss economic expansion,” he said.

Massive labor movements this summer have put pressure on state officials and critical industries — especially in Los Angeles, where both screenwriters and actors are on strike for the first time since 1960 and hotel workers are embroiled in a contract fight.

“This is embarrassing for California that we don’t have unemployment insurance for striking workers,” Gonzalez said in an interview, noting that New York and New Jersey offer benefits for striking workers in certain circumstances.

Legislators are already juggling several other proposals backed by mighty labor interests this session, including a bill related to fast food workers and a push to ensure a $25 minimum wage for health care workers.

It’s too late in the year for lawmakers to introduce entirely new legislation, but they can can get around those missed deadlines by repurposing unrelated bills they no longer care to advance — a maneuver colloquially known as a “gut-and-amend.” Portantino said he is still working on gathering support for his proposal, and that he expects to move forward with the plan in about two weeks.

Gonzalez’s 2019 bill was vehemently opposed by business interests, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Farm Bureau Federation, which argued it would politicize benefits and threaten the solvency of the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

Both groups confirmed to POLITICO Thursday that they have been visiting legislators this week to alert them about the upcoming legislation and urge them to vote against it.

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