Hollywood Unions Hail California Unemployment Bill for Striking Workers: ‘An Important Step’

The Entertainment Union Coalition, which consists of several major Hollywood unions including SAG-AFTRA and IATSE, released a statement on Thursday thanking California lawmakers for passing a bill that expands unemployment insurance to striking workers.

“The UI system was intended to provide a temporary safety net for workers who lose their jobs. If not applied to striking workers, it makes employers threats all the more potent and provides employers with an advantage against the interests of workers, their families, their unions and their communities,” Alex Aguilar, EUC board member and business manager of LiUNA Local 724 said. “Today the California Legislature took an important step to redress that imbalance.”

“Unemployment insurance is the only lifeline many of our members have to protect them from debt or losing their homes during a strike,” Thom Davis, president of the California IATSE Council, said in a separate statement.

“We are grateful to Senators [Anthony] Portantino and [Maria Elena] Durazo and Assembly member [Chris] Holden for their steadfast commitment to SB 799, and we thank the many co-authors and members of the California Legislature for passage of this legislation that will make such a difference in the lives of working people,” Davis added.

Senate Bill 799, co-authored by State Sens. Anthony Portatino and Maria Elena Durazo with Asm. Chris Holden, will allow workers who are on strike for more than two weeks to apply for unemployment insurance. The bill received widespread support from unions across California while being opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and over 130 business groups.

WGA West President Meredith Stiehm and SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Joely Fisher traveled to Sacramento earlier this month to support the bill, arguing that unemployment insurance is available to striking workers in New York and New Jersey and has been a benefit to members of both unions who live there.

“It’s time for California to catch up and meet the demands of the times. Writers are the present day example of members who can greatly benefit from UI, but we’re here for the workers of the future if they make the difficult decision to strike,” Stiehm told lawmakers.

The original version of SB 799 was passed by the State Senate through special consent back in May, with an amended version being passed by the State Assembly on Monday by a 59-18 vote. That amended version was passed by the State Senate on Thursday by a 27-12 vote and now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until Oct. 14 to sign it into law.

If Newsom signs the bill into law, members of WGA and SAG-AFTRA won’t be able to immediately take advantage of it and apply for UI benefits, as the law would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2024.

For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.

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