California governor vetoes unemployment insurance benefits for striking workers

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on September 30 vetoed a bill that would increase labor protections for striking workers.

The California State Assembly and Senate on September 11 and 14, 2023, respectively, passed SB 799, which would have allowed workers who were on strike for at least two weeks to receive unemployment insurance benefits of up to $450 per week from the state of California. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed the bill and released a statement citing California’s nearly $20 billion federal unemployment insurance debt as well as the $302 million interest payment due on the balance in October. “Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt,” he wrote.

While unions such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) backed the bill, business groups such as California’s Chamber of Commerce opposed it because business payroll taxes fund unemployment insurance benefits.

Meredith Steihm, president of the WGA, testified in support of the bill, saying, “Writers are the present-day example of workers who could greatly benefit from UI.”

While the California state legislature has the power to override a governor’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote, they have not done so since 1980.

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