Portantino’s Striking Worker Bill Goes to Governor

Thursday, September 14 2023

For Immediate Release: September 14, 2023

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Portantino’s Striking Worker Bill Goes to Governor

Sacramento, CA – Today, Senate Bill 799, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank), passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor. The bill seeks to provide unemployment insurance benefits for striking workers. SB 799 is sponsored by the California Labor Federation and is jointly authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo and Assemblymember Chris Holden.  

“Today, the Legislature responded to this rare moment in time when workers from many different business segments are striking for their future livelihood. From writers and actors to nurses and public workers, we see significant unrest and concern in the workforce across the state. Sacramento’s action sends a strong message to the women and men on strike that we recognize the impact that strikes have on a family’s ability to pay rent and put food on a table,” stated Senator Portantino. “I am grateful to the labor advocates who have worked tirelessly on this effort and appreciate those on the picket line during this hot labor summer.”

The right to strike to improve working conditions, wages, and address other issues in collective bargaining is codified in law for workers in the public and private sector. When workers go on strike they lose their income, deplete their savings, struggle to pay rent and mortgages, and debt accumulates. Protracted strikes are difficult for workers and hurt local businesses while well-compensated employees fuel consumer activity and lead to a healthy economy. Existing law and case history currently prohibits striking workers—and some locked out workers—from being eligible for UI benefits. This prohibition is a major obstacle for many workers to overcome to improve their working conditions.

"Today's vote was a victory for the writers, the actors, the hotel workers, the autoworkers, the nurses and every worker who has made the difficult sacrifice to go out on strike for a better future," said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation. "Working people earned these benefits and they deserve to access them during hard times. SB 799 can ensure that workers in the future can survive a strike with dignity."

“SB 799 is the right bill for California workers! Striking can be long and uncertain, and this bill addresses the most basic need to make ends meet,” stated Meredith Stiehm, President of the Writers Guild of America West. “We would like to thank Senator Portantino for his leadership on this bill and the California Legislature for doing the right thing!”

Last year, the Governor signed AB 2530, which provided subsidized health coverage to striking workers whose employers terminated health benefits. That bill has already provided a vital lifeline to workers on strike but does not help with the loss of income. SB 799 will provide another lifeline by allowing striking or locked out workers to be eligible for much needed UI benefits for the duration of the dispute.

The UI system is funded through payroll taxes paid by employers’ contributions. Employers in California pay payroll taxes on the first $7,000 employee pay—the lowest “taxable wage base” allowed under federal law, and one of the lowest in the country. Currently, New York and New Jersey allow striking workers to collect UI and recently expanded eligibility.