Gov. Newsom’s response to the wave of California labor bills? It’s a mixed bag

Kaiser employees picket
Kaiser employees picket and rally at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Oct. 4, 2023.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Oct. 11. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

  • Newsom’s mixed bag of action on labor bills
  • An Israeli hostage’s family is determined to get him back
  • Learn how to take majestic night sky photography in Joshua Tree
  • And here’s today’s e-newspaper

Gov. Newsom’s response to the wave of California labor bills? It’s a mixed bag

Labor issues have been in the spotlight over the last year, with headline-making strikes by UC workers, thousands of LAUSD’s non-teaching staff, Hollywood writers, hotel workers, the Screen Actors Guild, healthcare workers and autoworkers.

All that momentum around workers’ rights, fair contracts and union power spurred movement in Sacramento, culminating with a stack of labor-backed bills sent to the governor’s desk.


“The tug of war between labor and business is a constant in the California Capitol,” The Times’ Sacramento bureau chief Laurel Rosenhall wrote in the California Politics newsletter last month. “What was different this year: several new lawmakers with a progressive streak, a new Assembly Speaker who put his muscle behind some of labor’s priorities and ongoing strikes in Southern California that have pushed many politicians to publicly side with workers.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to those bills has been a mixed bag for California labor groups, who are in turn applauding him for signing some laws or voicing disappointment with him for vetoing legislation they championed.

Which has he signed?

What did he veto?

  • Newsom blocked Senate Bill 799, which would have allowed workers on strike to receive unemployment benefits. In his veto message, Newsom said that the state’s Unemployment Insurance program is billions of dollars in the hole and that “now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt.”
  • Senate Bill 686, which would have established California as the first state in the nation to include housekeepers, nannies and other household staff in health and safety protection laws. Unions and immigrant rights advocates had long pushed for those workers to be protected the way many other workplaces are under OSHA rules. But Newsom voiced concerns “that this bill creates severe cost burdens and penalties for many people who cannot afford them,” writing that a large share of households that employ domestic workers are low-income as well.
  • AB 1356, which aimed to extend the notice workers get for upcoming layoffs from 60 days to 75 days and expand that notice to contract workers, who employers are not currently required to give any notice of layoffs. In his veto message, Newsom said the bill could create liability for employers “who cannot reasonably be expected to know whether their actions will cause job loss for employees of their subcontractors.”
  • Newsom also kept his pen off AB 316, which would have required a human safety driver on board autonomous trucks. Labor groups expressed frustration, saying the governor’s decision will make roads more dangerous and lead to massive job loss. Newsom argued that “existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework.”

How labor leaders are responding

Lorena Gonzalez, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said Newsom’s approval of incoming laws that will boost paid sick days and increase wages for hundreds of thousands of workers are worth celebrating.

“Where we’re disappointed is that we offered a number of bills that were specifically designed to strengthen the rights of union members and … empower workers to take this economy into their own hands,” she told me. “That’s where we had trouble getting bills [signed].”

The federation is made up of 1,200 labor unions across the state. Gonzalez said their priority is to address income inequality by ensuring that “workers and their voice are at the center of an economic recovery that we’ve been left out of for too long.”


“Government has not been able to fix this economy, and even a progressive government that looks out for workers,” she said. “We have to expand unions, we have to give workers more power in their job site, we have to ensure that when workers go on strike, they have the support that is necessary so they’re not forced to take a bad deal.”

She’s also noticed some politicians taking notice of “the resurgence of unions and their strength.”

“I think they’re seeing the frustration of workers who have contributed to making California the fourth or fifth strongest economy in the world, but yet aren’t being really paid back for that,” she added.

And despite buzzy media words like “Striketober” and “Hot Labor Summer,” Gonzalez said labor issues aren’t seasonal trends, but a complex movement in which workers will continue to organize and advocate for fair contracts — especially with negotiations in the works or set to start for CSU workers, Teamsters, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and more.

“We have a lot of workers who are going to demand more at the table,” she said. “We’re hopeful to resolve these things … quickly at the bargaining table, but that’s going to require some give by these corporations and public entities.”

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For your downtime

Joshua Tree during a dark sky photography workshop
(Lucy Delaney)

Going out

Staying in

And finally ... a great photo

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Jovanna Loeza dances with the Calpulli Cencalli during the Indigenous People’s Day East Los Angeles music, arts and culture festival in the Malinalli Superfoods parking lot in East Los Angeles on Oct. 8, 2023.
(Jill Connelly / De Los)

Today’s great photo is from Jill Connelly at the Indigenous People’s Day East Los Angeles music and arts festival, a free, all-day event that included Indigenous singers and dancers, a traditional ballgame demonstration and an artisan market.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team
Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Elvia Limón, multiplatform editor
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Laura Blasey, assistant editor

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