Members of SAG-AFTRA and WGA rally on the picket line in Los Angeles on July 14, 2023.
(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

'Out-of-Step With American Values': Newsom Vetoes Key Labor Bills

The California governor on Saturday rejected bills that would have given unemployment insurance to striking workers and OSHA protections to domestic employees.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed too important pieces of labor rights' legislation on Saturday: one that would have given unemployment insurance to striking workers and another that would have extended protections to domestic employees.

Newsom's vetoes come as both California and the nation have seen a number of high profile strikes this year, including by Hollywood writers and actors.

"This veto tips the scales further in favor of corporations and CEOs and punishes workers who exercise their fundamental right to strike," California Labor Federation leader Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement. "At a time when public support of unions and strikes are at an all-time high, this veto is out-of-step with American values."

Senate Bill 799, which passed in September, would have offered unemployment insurance to workers on strike for 14 days or more. It came while both the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) were out on strike in the first writer and actor double-feature work stoppage in 60 years.

In a statement, Newsom said he was vetoing the bill for economic reasons, arguing that the state's unemployment insurance had been governed by the same financial structure since the 1980s, was "vulnerable to insolvency," and already expected to be almost $20 billion in debt by the end of the year.

"Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt," Newsom said.

However, The Sacramento Beepointed out that Newsom's veto might have been made politically easier by the fact that the WGA ended its strike Wednesday after reaching a tentative deal with the studios.

Democratic State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who introduced the bill, said he thought the summer's labor actions only showed how necessary the bill was.

"I am disappointed in the Governor's veto," he tweeted. But he said the fight wasn't over.

"The need continues and so will efforts to make this law in CA," he said.

Also on Saturday, Newsom delivered another blow to the state labor movement when he vetoed SB 686 to give domestic workers protections under the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"I'm deeply disappointed that the governor doesn't recognize the inherent worth and dignity of those women who care for our homes and families by vetoeing SB 686," tweeted the bill's author Sen. María Elena Durazo. "That measure would've insured that domestic workers have the same occupational health and safety protections as others."

This is the second time that Newsom has vetoed a Durazo bill along similar lines, the Los Angeles Timesreported. The last was in 2020.

Newsom argued then and now that it is not possible to regulate private homes like businesses. For example, the bill would have required homes that asked cleaners to use bleach to provide eyewash stations.

"I am particularly concerned given that approximately 44% of the households that employ domestic workers are low-income themselves, that this bill creates severe cost burdens and penalties for many people who cannot afford them," he wrote in his veto message.

The bill was backed by the California Domestic Workers Coalition and immigrant rights groups like the Instituto de Education Popular del Sur de California.

Nancy Zuniga, a program manager for that group and a supporter of the bill, said she was inspired by her mother who is still cleaning homes at 63, though Zuniga hopes she can retire.

"If we don’t protect domestic workers, what condition will she be in when she reaches that moment?" she asked the LA Times. "A lot of them will do this until they pass."

According to a 2020 report from the University of California, Los Angeles, 85% of domestic workers live with muscular and skeletal injuries.

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