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Governor signs bills to curb abuses of temp workers, provide paid sick leave
By Art Pulaski

In September, California made history. By signing AB 1522 (Gonzalez) to allow California workers the ability to earn three paid sick days per year, Gov. Brown reaffirmed our state’s role as a national leader in advancing the fundamental rights of working people.

California is now just the second state in the country to require that workers be able to earn a few paid sick days per year. This law should spur national discussion on paid sick days, creating a path for the United States to join more than 130 other countries around the globe in providing this basic right to workers.

By signing this important bill into law, the governor put an end to the cruel Hobson’s choice that more than 6.5 million workers face when deciding whether to go to work sick or lose wages that keep food on the table for their families. This law protects workers and consumers, and is vital to public health.

While this law is a historic step forward, California’s unions won’t rest until every single worker in our state receives equal access to paid sick days. Home care workers, like all workers, deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days on the job. We’ll continue to fight for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers to ensure that California treats all workers with fairness and dignity.

Holding corporations accountable

Also in September, California workers received a much-needed measure of protection with Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on a landmark bill to curtail abuses of subcontracted workers. AB 1897 is a historic new law that holds corporations accountable when workers hired using labor contractors are cheated out of wages or forced to work in unsafe conditions. By holding corporations jointly liable with subcontractors and staffing agencies, the governor closed a loophole in the law that many big companies were using to violate the basic rights of workers with impunity.

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Labor laws have been slow to keep up with the recent explosion of the temporary workforce. Throughout the course of the year as AB 1897 was considered, scores of heartbreaking stories of worker abuse emerged.  Large, extremely profitable companies like Taylor Farms and Walmart are abdicating their responsibility to protect those subcontracted employees who are doing the work of the business but are not treated with basic fairness.

Under this new law, the practice of corporations ignoring labor violations committed against subcontracted workers won’t just be immoral, it will be illegal. Immigrant workers, who make up a large share of the subcontracted workforce, are especially vulnerable to exploitation. This law continues California’s national leadership on protecting the rights of immigrant workers.

The California labor movement applauds the governor and legislature for delivering on AB 1897, a historic law that should serve as a model for other states interested in protecting the fundamental rights of all workers, and supporting good, middle-class jobs that reduce income inequality.

Art Pulaski is the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.

 

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