Recent Storms Demonstrate Urgency for Worker Protections
LOS ANGELES – As storms continue to batter California creating precarious employment for California workers, dozens of immigrant and worker rights advocates and state legislators joined together to launch the 2023 Safety Net for All campaign to secure unemployment benefits for excluded immigrant workers in California.
State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, immigrant rights leaders, and community members gathered in Downtown Los Angeles Friday to call for the passage of SB 227, the Safety Net for All Workers Act, introduced Jan. 19 by Sen. Durazo. The Coalition also called on state officials to include funding for the program in the state budget. SB 227 would create the first-ever Excluded Worker Program in California.
As punishing storms wreak havoc across the state, workers – especially those who will rebuild homes, cities and critical infrastructure and those in precarious employment positions – are unable to work or earn a consistent living. Yet, many California workers do not have access to unemployment benefits solely due to their immigration status. The new legislation will provide temporary wage replacement for undocumented workers who have lost their jobs.
“Every day, undocumented immigrants contribute to California’s economic prosperity in agriculture, construction, clothing and other industries. California is set to be the world’s fourth-largest economy in large part thanks to immigrant labor, yet immigrants continue to be shut out from California’s economic success due to unjust exclusions from the safety net. That is why I am authoring SB 227, the Safety Net for All Workers Act. California must include a life-saving unemployment benefits program for these workers,” said Senator María Elena Durazo.
Sen. Durazo introduced SB 227 along with two coauthors, Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo. The program would provide unemployed workers who are ineligible for regular unemployment insurance due to their immigration status with $300 per week for up to 20 weeks. Last year, the Legislature passed AB 2847, a similar piece of legislation that also would have created an excluded worker program, but it was vetoed by Gov. Newsom.
“Immigrant workers are critical to rebuilding California after the storms of this winter and immigrant workers are vital to securing and strengthening our infrastructure as the climate continues to warm and change,” said Veronica Alvarado, deputy director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center.
Emelia Guzman, a farmworker and member of Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, said: “Right now due to the rains, I am not able to go to work and I wonder where will I be getting the money to buy food and to pay rent? As farmworkers, our job is to feed the whole state. It is time that we receive real support from politicians, with actions not just words.”
Undocumented immigrants contribute $3.7 billion annually in state and local taxes. Taxes on the wages of undocumented workers contribute an estimated $485 million to the UI system in California each year. A companion budget proposal to SB 227 is also being championed by the Coalition to fund the program. The $356 million investment would provide excluded immigrant workers the economic security similar to other workers in California.
About Safety Net for All Coalition
The Safety Net for All Coalition is composed of over 120 organizations from across California. The Coalition works to expand safety net programs for excluded immigrant workers, like the unemployment benefits program. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.