Portantino Striking Worker Bill Passes Senate Labor Committee

Wednesday, April 24 2024

For Immediate Release: April 24, 2024

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Portantino Striking Worker Bill Passes Senate Labor Committee

Sacramento, California – SB 1116, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank), passed the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee today.  The bill seeks to provide unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers. It is sponsored by the California Labor Federation and is jointly authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo. Earlier today, Senator Portantino joined California Labor Federation AFL-CIO Leader Lorena Gonzalez, Senator Durazo, and union leaders and workers for a press conference to highlight the importance of unemployment insurance for striking workers.

“Workers do not go on strike because they want to - they generally do it as a last resort,” stated Senator Portantino. “SB 1116 helps California’s workers keep food on their table and provides financial security for their families. I am grateful to the broad coalition labor advocates who are supporting this sensible effort to help employees and our economy during a time of significant workforce and labor unrest."

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.

“Unemployment Insurance is an earned benefit for workers, created to ensure they don’t go hungry, bankrupt, or lose their homes because they are temporarily out of work. There is no reason to punish workers forced to go on strike by excluding them from this protection,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. “It’s time we end this unfair exclusion as multiple other states have already done.”

In 2022, the Governor signed AB 2530, which provided subsidized health coverage to striking workers whose employers terminated health benefits. The bill has already provided a vital lifeline to workers on strike but does not help with the loss of income. SB 1116 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.

SB 1116 is co-sponsored by California IATSE Council, California State Legislative Board of the SMART – Transportation Division, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Communication Workers of America, District 9, Entertainment Union Coalition, SAG-AFTRA, UNITE HERE, United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council, AFSCME, California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, California Nurses Association, California Professional Firefighters, California State University Employees Union, California Teachers Association, Culver City Democratic Club, Orange County Employee Association, National Union of Healthcare Workers, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, and Writers Guild of America West.