California Lawmakers Push Bill To Give Striking Workers Unemployment Benefits

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Will Kessler Contributor
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California lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would allow striking workers to collect unemployment, even as California’s unemployment insurance fund remains heavily underfunded, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

The bill, which could be introduced by Democratic lawmakers this week, proposes tapping into the state’s unemployment insurance fund to give benefits to striking workers, according to the Beacon. The California Labor Federation, a powerful labor union conglomerate that covers 1,200 unions with a combined total of 2.1 million members, is one of the primary backers of the bill. (RELATED: ‘People Are Waking Up’: San Francisco Officials To Protest Ruling That Handcuffed Homeless Enforcement)

“I am working closely with the California Labor Federation in an effort to make striking workers eligible for unemployment benefits,” Democratic California state Sen. Anthony Portantino, lead author of the bill, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “As we come out of the pandemic, it seems prudent to have the hardworking women and men in our labor force with a seat at the table.”

“We currently have writers, actors and hotel workers on strike and one day actions by city and county workers,” Portantino continued. “Respect is hard to legislate but helping people pay their rent and feed their kids during these unprecedented times will lead to a better economic outcome for all. It’s my hope to have something in print this week and on the Governor’s desk before the end of this session.”

Two major California unions, the Writers Guild of America, which covers writers for shows and movies, and SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors, are both currently on strike.

The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund paid out a historic $27 billion in 2020, consuming all of the $3.3 billion held in reserve and bringing the fund to $18 billion in debt, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).

The state was projected to run a $25 billion budget deficit in 2023-2024, following tax revenue being $41 billion below previous projections. California ran a budget surplus for the fiscal year 2022-2023 of $52 billion.

Lawmakers introduced a similar bill in 2019, which passed the legislature but was vetoed by Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to the Beacon. The governor vetoed the bill on the basis it would force the state to borrow from the federal government to pay the costs.

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