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10 Years of Progress: Stronger CA Sets the Bar for Gender & Economic Justice in 2024

Written by EmilyJohnson

Earlier this year, Equal Rights Advocates had the privilege of hosting the annual Stronger California policy reception at the California Museum in Sacramento. This event not only celebrated the success of bills from 2023 (link to agenda), but also highlighted the tenth anniversary of the convening of the Stronger California Advocate Network.

Ten years ago, a small group of advocates, fueled by impatience and a hunger for gender, racial, and economic justice, envisioned a strategy to amplify the power of progressive women elected officials and allies, and aimed to catalyze change and equity across California. Over the next decade, the Stronger California Advocates Network championed a whopping 50 bills for women and families and secured billions of dollars in budget funding– setting a blueprint for progressive legislation in other states, too. 

Stronger California’s notable achievements over the past decade include the strongest equal pay law on the books; the nation’s strongest slate of sexual harassment laws; increases to minimum wage and paid family leave; and the repeal of punitive policies affecting low-income Californians. The network’s success has been marked by a comprehensive approach that prioritizes a variety of overlapping community-stated needs.

Speakers at the event included members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, which now represents a record number of women in the state legislature.. 

“We care about everyone,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on the role of Stronger California in shaping legal protections for women, workers, and families. “That’s our responsibility.. we take it seriously.”

Advocates and community members at the event shared that they have already seen the impact from Stronger California legislation signed into law last year.

Maria, a parent leader with Parent Voices California, shared that the passage of state child care family fee reforms in California has had a greatly positive impact on families, including hers. The new laws, AB 596 and SB 380 (Gómez Reyes; Limón), reduced the price of fees families must pay for child care, which Maria said helped with her family’s financial strain. With the elimination of family fees, Maria was able to allocate funds to put toward paying off debts, owning a car, and improving her credit score. She expressed gratitude to Stronger California policymakers for their efforts in making child care more accessible and affordable.

Senator and President pro Tempore Toni Atkins closed the night with gratitude to the diverse audience of legislators and allies, highlighting the essence of unity and purpose. She emphasized the significance of collective action in addressing multifaceted issues such as reproductive choice, child care, and economic equity. 

Drawing from her own childhood, Atkins underscored the importance of representation and intentionality in policymaking, recalling her upbringing, when her family struggled to access basic necessities. 

“I grew up not thinking that society was about me,” Atkins said. “I grew up poor. We didn’t have healthcare. I lived in a house with no running water. My mom was a garment worker. And all of those things combined remind me of why I’m so fortunate to get to do the work that I do.”

Senator and President pro Tempore, Toni Atkins, addresses the audience at the Stronger California policy convening in Sacramento.










Atkins conveyed heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to advocate alongside Stronger California, citing personal experience with her parents’ inability to take time off work to care for her during her childhood hospitalization.

Acknowledging the pivotal role of Stronger California Advocates Network in shaping California’s resilience, Atkins expressed confidence in overcoming future challenges. She stressed the importance of staying focused on fundamental issues, emphasizing the power of collaborative efforts in uplifting communities.

Equal Rights Advocates proudly co-sponsored 3 successful bills on the 2023 Stronger California Legislative Agenda, introducing crucial protections for workers and survivors of sexual violence :

  • SB 497: Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Act
    Strengthens retaliation laws, protecting workers who report violations of the California Equal Pay Act and labor rights without fear of employer repercussions.
  • AB 933: Protecting Survivors from Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits
    Safeguards survivors from defamation lawsuits brought by their harmers as a form of retaliation, prohibiting baseless retaliatory lawsuits  against those who speak out about sexual assault and harassment.
  • SB 616: Paid Sick Days
    Increases mandatory paid sick days from three to five, ensuring workers have more time for health needs, and preventing the choice between work and health.

For a comprehensive list of all Stronger California laws that have been passed over the last ten years, please go here.