Labor bills land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
Over the past 17 years of working for various McDonald’s restaurants in Southern California, Lizzet Aguilar said she’s faced many injustices, from sexual harassment to retaliation for beseeching safer working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So when California lawmakers approved a first-in-the-nation type of legislation — estimated to give more than half a million fast food workers more protections — Aguilar counted it as a victory. Her voice, she said, was finally heard.
The high-profile bill creates a new, state-run council to set industry standards, including wages and safety conditions, made up of employees, worker advocates, franchisees and franchisors. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law on Labor Day.
Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, said it “ensures that all voices at the table are heard and considered.”
For Aguilar, 41, it guarantees future generations of workers may have better wages and workplace protections.
“This bill means that many injustices will end. We will have better wages; there will be an end to wage theft; we will be able to have safety in the workplace,” Aguilar, now employed at a McDonald’s in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, said in Spanish. “This is a great victory.”
Though it garnered national attention, the fast food bill — dubbed the Fast Recovery Act — isn’t the only labor-related bill sent to the governor’s desk before session ended on the final day of August.
“A lot of things had to be ironed out within labor, but at the end of the day, we all found a way of being able to make sure what’s important to working people gets to the governor’s desk,” David Huerta, the SEIU California president said.
Here’s a look at just a few of those bills and the impact they could have on Southern California. (To note, none of these bills have been signed into law as of Friday, Sept. 2. They passed out of the legislature before the session ended and are awaiting a decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom.)
This bill, from Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Richmond, expands who an employee can take leave from work to care for to include a “designated person.”
A designated person could be a blood relative (important in multigenerational homes) or someone who the employee deems to be a chosen family member, such as an unmarried partner.
It doesn’t add additional or new leave time but allows an employee to use their time to care for someone they consider family, said Katie Duberg, the political organizing director for the California Work & Family Coalition.
“It’s really important that our leave laws reflect how California’s families really are,” Duberg said. “Our family definition under our leave law is based on this nuclear family model that doesn’t reflect California’s families.”
Duberg added that opening up the California Family Rights Act to include more people will also impact health care.
“We know that receiving care from a family member has important health outcomes. People who are seriously ill and receive care from a family member are less likely to be admitted to a nursing home,” she said.
Then there’s a bill from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, adjusting the amount of wage payments workers on paid family leave or disability can receive. For those making less than $57,000 per year, they would be eligible to be paid 90% of their regular wages, as opposed to 70% as it is now, beginning in 2025, according to CalMatters.
Workplace safety postings
You might have noticed the wordy signs workplaces must post, informing workers of their rights and detailing citations and special orders — written in English.
But Assemblyman Matt Haney’s bill would require employee notifications be made available by Cal/OSHA in the top seven non-English languages in California as determined by a recent U.S. Census Bureau study: Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, and Armenian as well as Punjabi, a common language among food processing workers in the state.
Other information in Cal/OSHA postings would need to include a contact for the division, where employees can find citations made against their employer, notification that an employer must communicate hazards in a language and manner in which employees can understand, and any safety or health violations Cal/OSHA found during investigations.
The one-page postings could be stapled together — allowing workers to flip through to find the language they understand.
Haney noted industries with the highest pandemic-related deaths employed non-native English speakers.
“We want to bridge the language gap for essential workers who showed up in person throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by making sure safety information is available in their language,” Haney said.