California workers will get more paid sick days

Katelyn Woolcott, a server at Wexler's Deli inside the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, prepares take-out orders on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

From CalMatters Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal: 

Starting next year, workers in California will be entitled to at least five days of paid sick leave — up from the current three days. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature is a win for labor groups, for whom the bill authored by Sen. Lena Gonzalez was a top priority. But it falls short of the seven days in the original bill.

Still, unions and workers applauded the move

  • Ingrid Vilorio, a Jack in the Box worker and advocate, in a statement: “Now, workers will no longer have to worry about how to make the month’s rent or how to keep food on the table while recovering from illness or caring for a loved one.”

But the California Chamber of Commerce, which had the bill on its “job killer” list, warned of the impact on small businesses.

  • The Chamber, in a statement: “Our concern is that far too many small employers simply cannot absorb this new cost, especially when viewed in context of all of California’s other leaves and paid benefits, and they will have to reduce jobs, cut wages, or raise consumer prices to deal with this mandate.”  

That victory also might not make up for some other labor-backed bills that Newsom has vetoed thus far, though. The big one: a measure to allow striking workers to apply for unemployment benefits

Also, Newsom signed a bill that limits hand counts in elections to narrow circumstances — a measure put forward by Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a former county elections official, in response to Shasta County supervisors getting rid of Dominion voting machines that became a central villain in voting fraud conspiracies. And he signed a bill by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins to prevent jail deaths by increasing oversight.  

They were among 16 bills he announced signing Wednesday, his first since Saturday. He still has more than 700 bills to sign or veto in the next nine days, out of 1,100 the Legislature passed this session. 

But he also has a third option — do nothing.

In other words, he can allow bills to become law without his signature (or, if time runs out, that would happen by default — or by accident, as in Gov. Pete Wilson’s case). 

Newsom hasn’t done so in his nearly five years in office. His office told CalMatters that the governor “has never felt the need to utilize that option.”

But as longtime lobbyist Chris Micheli has noted, prior governors have taken advantage, for various reasons:  

Still, to put that in context, Brown’s six compare to the nearly 6,400 bills he signed into law.  

So what’s the benefit? “Potentially it could prevent alienating a particular interest group on either side of a measure,” Micheli said, “although, as we both know, governors both Republican or Democrat obviously often take controversial positions by their actions of signing or vetoing.” 

Case in point: Newsom didn’t shy away from vetoing a bill that would require judges to consider a parent’s affirmation of their child’s gender in custody disputes, or another to regulate driverless trucks and require a human back-up driver

A reminder: California’s governor operates differently than the president — any bill the president doesn’t act on is considered vetoed (the “pocket veto”). 

CalMatters is tracking Newsom’s calls on other key bills before his Oct. 14 deadline. Bookmark this page for updates.

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