In a surprise decision, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have made employers rehire any laid-off employees first when they decide to hire again post-reopening.
AB 3216 vetoed despite months of amendments, union endorsements
Assembly Bill 3216, authored by Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), would have also applied to businesses that were sold and are under new ownership, with the bill specifically including language for the old owner to supply a list of all laid-off employees to rehire, AB 3216 would only apply to those laid off during a state of emergency, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent wildfires in California.
The bill had been heavily amended from earlier this year when it included language that would make it illegal for an employer to refuse to grant an employee request to take up to 12 weeks off for family and medical leave in a year for a COVID-19 related illness. However, that version, which was co-authored by Assemblyman Kalra and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), was scrapped earlier this year to focus on businesses rehiring laid-off employees.
Kalra wrote the current form of the bill to protect workers who had been lad-off during the pandemic and to guarantee older and long-time employees a job at ages when it can be harder to be hired in labor-intensive jobs.
While the bill had an easy Senate floor vote in August, passing because of a vote split down party lines, many Assembly Democrats revolted during their floor vote, with many joining Republicans or abstaining from voting due to the unfairness AB 3216 would bring to the job market, the bill being tied to states of emergency in California, and confusion over how the bill would guarantee any kept jobs.
Despite the contentious vote, many had expected Governor Newsom to sign the bill, especially after many labor unions, including Unite Here and many other hospitality unions moved to back the bill. Surprise endorsements, including one from the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), also led many to believe that the Governor would sign.
Newsom’s veto, supporters shocked at decision
However, the Governor vetoed the bill, noting that it would hurt struggling businesses, especially hotels, by not getting to freely choose their employees and also lead to confusion from many cities and counties who are at different levels of reopening.
“I am returning Assembly Bill 3216 without my signature,” said Newsom in his veto announcement on Wednesday. “I recognize the real problem this bill is trying to fix — to ensure that workers who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic have certainty about their rehiring and job security. Tying the bill’s provisions to a state of emergency will create a confusing patchwork of requirements in different counties at different times.
“It would place too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges.”
Assemblyman Kalra, as well as labor organizations, were shocked by the decision.
“Governor Newsom’s veto of AB 3216 is devastating news to the tens of thousands of workers across our state who have been laid off during this pandemic,” said Kalra in a statement. “On a day when Disney announced that it would be laying off over 28,000 employees and when reports suggest that California’s economic recovery could take at least two years, this feels like a missed chance at a recovery for all.”
In Los Angeles, many housekeepers waiting to be rehired slammed Newson’s decision.
“We were told by everyone – unions, colleagues, other housekeepers – everyone, that this would pass,” exclaimed Roberta Linares, a Los Angeles hotel housekeeper team leader, to the Globe. “We were assured that we would have our jobs back soon and that we, by law, would be offered them back.
“We have no idea what to do now. We have no guarantees now. Newsom just cost us our livelihoods.
“I’m 52. Any job I get now will be for far less. I’ll be back at square one. It’s just not fair.”
Businesses, hospitality employers praise Newsom’s veto
Business group and employers praised the veto decision on Wednesday, noting that the bill will allow them to hire whoever they want at the pace they want.
“I guess a broken clock is still right a few times a day,” said San Luis Obispo hotel owner James Feldman to the Globe. “Seriously though, if we we had to rehire everyone we let go, it would have been a mess getting back to full steam.
“We still intend to bring people back. Most hotels do. None of us want to lose people who know our buildings and what to do so well. But this way there is no seniority, no mandates, nothing like that that would direct us how to do it. Every hotel will have a different reopening plan, and for many that requires bringing back people in odd clumps, or rehiring less experienced people first, or new people because of these COVID-19 restrictions.
“This seriously saved us. I thought I’d never say this, but thanks Governor Newsom!”
The California Chamber of Commerce also approved of the decision, noting that “AB 3216 would have delayed the rehire of thousands of employees and slowed the economic recovery of many employers who have been the hardest hit by this pandemic. We’re grateful that the Governor chose not to further burden these industries at a time when they can least afford it.”
The veto of AB 3216 is also expected to halt many local ordinances on rehiring hospitality workers that depended on the bills passage, such as San Diego’s recent city ordinance.