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California proposes paying unemployment benefits to striking workers 

California has been a hotbed of Big Labor activity lately, whether it is a single-day strike by public employees in Los Angeles or ongoing strikes in Hollywood. Now, labor unions are attempting a last-minute legislative push to pass a yet-to-be-written bill that would combine various unrelated bills and tack on unemployment benefits for striking workers. 

One of the main sponsors of the bill, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, said, “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 added, “It is embarrassing for California that we don’t have unemployment insurance for striking workers.”  

The deadline for California lawmakers to introduce new bills was in February, but state legislators can still rework unrelated bills, in a move called “gut-and-amend,” to circumvent the missed deadline and include the new language.  

The last-minute legislative push is backed by the California Labor Federation, which is led by former state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. When Gonzalez tried to pass a similar bill in 2019, it eventually passed both chambers but was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

California is not the only state considering similar proposals.  

AFFT recently reported on Massachusetts Senate Bill S1172, which would funnel unemployment benefits to striking workers after thirty days. 

Frank Ricci, labor fellow at Yankee Institute, a public policy think tank in Connecticut, noted that Connecticut could follow suit in the next year, even after the bill providing unemployment benefits to striking workers fell short during the 2023 legislative session. He said AFL-CIO “made it clear” that the bill will be revived in the next legislative session and warned that these bills “will raise the price of everything from food to construction projects.”  

Currently, New York and New Jersey are the only two states which allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits. 

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.