California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Saturday that would have given unemployment benefits to workers on strike.
Newsom said he rejected the bill, which was backed by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, because the fund that the state uses to pay unemployment benefits is 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 taxed on employers,” according to the Associated Press.
“Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt,” he added in a statement.
If passed, the bill would have let workers who were on strike for at least two weeks receive unemployment checks from the state. Typically, only workers who lost their job through no fault of their own are eligible for those benefits.
The Associated Press reported that the fund the state uses to pay unemployment benefits is already more than $18 billion in debt after it ran out of money and had to borrow from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a spike in unemployment.
Following the news of the veto, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said in a statement, “This veto tips the scales further in favor of corporations and CEOs and punishes workers who exercise their fundamental right to strike. At a time when public support of unions and strikes are at an all-time high, this veto is out-of-step with American values.”
She added, “All over the country, workers are rising up against an economy that only benefits the wealthy. We will keep fighting until striking workers get the benefits they’ve earned.”
The legislation was an attempt by Democratic state lawmakers to help Hollywood actors and writers and Southern California hotel workers who have already been on strike for several months this year. While the writers strike ended earlier this week after the WGA reached a deal with studios and streamers, the other two strikes are ongoing.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.