SB 799 to allow union workers unemployment benefits

By Raymond Nava

Senate Bill 799, would allow union workers who have been on strike for at least two weeks to qualify for unemployment benefits.This would be a big boost to the labor movement. SB 799 was passed by the California State Legislature and is awaiting to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom though declines to say whether he will sign it. Governor Newsom needs to sign this bill if he wants to be a leader in the labor movement.

Throughout the summer of this year, the country saw the labor movement in action, with many big labor unions going on strike, such as the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild. The United Auto Workers union just recently went on strike as well. This summer labor unions won, such as the UPS union which avoided a strike after securing big wins in their new contract such as air conditioning in their vans.

The WGA and SAG strike highlights how most members of the union can struggle while on strike. Most members of SAG aren’t the top famous actors that people think of, and they don’t make tons of money. Writers as well don’t get paid much and sometimes have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. While the union has a pool of funds for members who are financially struggling, it’s not nearly enough to sustain everyone throughout the strike. Allowing union workers to collect unemployment benefits would greatly help these people.

New Jersey and New York are the only other states to have similar laws to SB 799. California can become a labor leader if the state enacts this bill into law. Governor Newsom has not said if he’d sign it or not. However, in a CNN interview on September 18, he said SB 799 wouldn’t affect the current WGA and SAG members currently on strike. Newsom said, “the benefit payments would exceed the tax collections by 1.1 billion this year despite a record three years of job growth in the state.” Newsom says the unemployment insurance fund is about $18 Billion in debt after taking out loans from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite Governor Newsom’s concerns, he should still sign SB 799 into law. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is something that is necessary. California has one of the biggest economies in the world, it can more than manage to fund the unemployment fund. New York and New Jersey have shown that this is completely possible. Union workers already struggle at their jobs when they go on strike to fight for better benefits and conditions. They  struggle even worse when they go on strike. They need this kind of relief. If Governor Newsom is really positioning himself for a future presidential run, he needs to show he stands with the working class. He should sign this bill as soon as possible and start working with the legislature to solve any concerns he currently has.

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