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    Sen. Anthony Portantino’s ridiculous pay-for-strikes bill makes a return
    • May 2, 2024

    Sacramento politicians need to get real. Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, has once again brought back for consideration legislation that would pay out unemployment benefits for striking workers. In addition to being a terrible idea, as a piece of legislation it is an absolute waste of time and effort.

    This time introduced as Senate Bill 1116, this bill is identical to Senate Bill 799, which was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year.

    Newsom explained quite clearly from the state’s perspective why extending unemployment benefits to striking workers is an impractical idea: “Any expansion of eligibility for UI benefits could increase California’s outstanding federal UI debt projected to be nearly $20 billion by the end of the year and could jeopardize California’s Benefit Cost Ratio add-on waiver application, significantly increasing taxes on employers. Furthermore, the state is responsible for the interest payments on the federal UI loan and to date has paid $362.7 million in interest with another $302 million due this month. Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt.”

    Simply put, the state’s unemployment insurance system is already in the hole, already under strain.

    The system is intended to help workers who have been put out of work maintain some stability while they find work. It is not intended to aid workers who have intentionally chosen not to work.

    As business groups have also pointed out, “SB 1116 would change incentives around striking. Though striking workers presently may access union strike funds and other resources, SB 1116 would add a new pool of income — unemployment insurance — and thereby change the financial calculus around a strike.”

    Local government groups like the California State Association of Counties point out that this can have practical implications for governments, and by extension taxpayers. After all, public-sector unions already have considerable power in the state. Imagine what would happen if government employee unions suddenly know they can drag out labor fights even longer?

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    As the local government groups note, “this measure will further erode good faith negotiations at the bargaining table for local government and schools employers … if SB 1116 were to become law, we anticipate longer lengths of impasse, higher costs associated with protracted Public Employee Relations Board proceedings and a decline in quality of public services.”

    But none of these practical considerations are of concern to Sen. Portantino or his Democratic colleagues. Only Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, opposed it in the state Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee.

    The only bright spots are that Newsom will probably veto the bill again, because nothing has changed as far as the poor state of the unemployment insurance system. The other bright spot is that Californians will soon be free of Sen. Portantino’s awful ideas, as he was decisively rejected in his bid to succeed Rep. Adam Schiff in the House of Representatives in March.

    Even so, it’s clear there aren’t many adults up in Sacramento who are able to prioritize serious problems and come up with actual solutions.

    ​ Orange County Register