“Hot Labor Summer” – so dubbed due to strikes by the Writers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Southern California Hotel Workers, health care workers from multiple unions, and United Auto Workers – is not over. On Oct. 7, 2023, Gov. Newsom signed AB 1 (known as the Legislature Employer-Employee Relations Act), which gives California legislative staff the right to unionize and collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions effective July 1, 2026.
A bill to provide legislative staff the right to unionize has been introduced without success in the California Legislature several times since first being introduced as AB 2350 in 2000.
AB 1 is one of many pro-union bills passed in 2023. In addition to AB 1, the Legislature passed the following bills supported by pro-union groups:
- AB 1228: Which increases minimum wage for fast food workers to $20/hour with the newly established “Fast Food Council” having authority to further increase it thereafter, among other provisions (Gov. Newsom signed the bill Sept. 28, 2023)
- SB 525: Which will gradually raise minimum wage for covered health care workers to $25/hour (Gov. Newsom signed the bill Oct. 13, 2023)
- SB 799: Which would have allowed for striking workers to collect unemployment after striking for two weeks (Gov. Newsom vetoed this bill)
Other Union News:
- In a first for a sitting president, in late September President Biden joined the United Auto Workers picketing in Detroit.
- The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a deal to end the Writers Guild strike in late September. The deal was ratified by a larger vote of all Writers Guild members (99% voted to approve).
- More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers – as part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions – went on strike from Oct. 4-7, 2023, and threatened to go back on strike again from Nov. 1-8, 2023, if no deal is reached. Kaiser and the unions reached a tentative deal on Oct. 13, which includes a 21% wage increase for Kaiser health care workers over the next four years.
- After reaching a tentative deal to avert a strike, United Auto Workers working for Mack Trucks went on strike anyway. The workers largely rejected the tentative deal (73% voted against it), which included a $3,500 ratification bonus, improved benefits, additional vacation time, and eased paths to promotion.
- Discussions between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA (the actor’s union) resumed following the end of the Writers’ Strike, but on Oct. 11, 2023 that talks were suspended.
- The Biden National Labor Relations Board continues to change precedent under the National Labor Relations Act at the request of the Biden-appointed General Counsel who is an ex-union labor lawyer. Among the areas being addressed, the General Counsel and NLRB are easing the path for labor organizations to win elections in union organizing, restricting employer free speech to educate workers about unions, growing individual employee rights in non-union environments for engaging in social and political activities, and making it easier to find that two employers should be treated as joint employers for unfair labor practice liability and union organizing. The rapid modification of law is fueling an increase in union organizing cases at the NLRB.