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Stronger California Advocates Network: Leading Progressive Change for Workers and Families in 2023

Written by EmilyJohnson

The Stronger California Advocates Network ended the 2023 legislative session with bold policy wins advancing the rights and economic security of women, workers, and families throughout California and setting a blueprint for progress in other states and at the federal level. 

California is a bastion of hope for many states across the country, and the successful policies we put forth reflect, in real time, how to advance the economic security workers and families so desperately need to thrive. Introducing and passing such bold legislation sends a message to the rest of the country that common sense policies are not only possible – they also work. 

The 60+ organizations of the Stronger California Advocates Network are thankful to every advocate, legislator, and community member who supported our policy priorities this year and look forward to sharing information about the positive impact they will have on California in years to come.

Equal Rights Advocates is proud to have co-sponsored two landmark bills on the 2023 Stronger California Legislative Agenda that set forth important new protections for workers and survivors in California:

  • SB 497: Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Act (Sen. Smallwood-Cuevas): Many workers who report violations of the California Equal Pay Act and other labor rights violations, such as wage theft, face retaliation, such as having their hours cut, being demoted, or even termination. This law will strengthen our retaliation laws, ensuring workers can exercise their rights without fearing harmful repercussions. For more information about worker retaliation, see here, and for additional details about this legislation, see here.
  • AB 933: Protecting Survivors from Weaponized Defamation Lawsuits (Asm. Aguiar-Curry and Asm. Ward): This law will ensure survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination have adequate protections against retaliatory, baseless defamation lawsuits. These frivolous and retaliatory measures, also known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), are increasingly being used as a weapon to threaten, silence, intimidate, and dissuade survivors from speaking out against their abusers. AB 933 will help prevent these abusive legal tactics and ensure survivors have adequate relief when they prevail against baseless claims. See here for more information about this legislation and here for news coverage.

Other critical Stronger California priority bills signed into law include:

  • SB 616: Paid Sick Days (Sen. Gonzalez) This law will increase the minimum number of required paid sick days available to workers from 3 to 5 days. California law enables workers to use paid sick leave for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of their or a family member’s health condition; for preventive care for the worker or the worker’s family member; or to seek services related to domestic violence. SB 616 will better ensure workers are not forced to choose between working while sick and being fired or sending a sick kid to school and not making rent. It will lead to a healthier, more productive workforce and give survivors of domestic violence more time to seek the protections they need. For more information about the importance of advancing economic security to combat domestic violence, click here
  • AB 596 (Asm. Gómez Reyes) and SB 380 (Sen. Limón) will establish a more equitable family fee system that minimizes tradeoffs between paying for child care and other essentials. Please click here for more information about this win from our Stronger California partners at Parent Voices. 
  • SB 476 (Sen. Limón) – Food Handler Training will prevent employers and industry associations from using worker money to fund corporate lobbying efforts aimed at suppressing workers’ wages by requiring food handler training costs to be covered by employers similar to all other required health and safety training. For more information about this legislation, click here.
  • SB 521 (Sen. Smallwood-Cuevas) – CalWorks: Pregnancy or Parenting will help pregnant, parenting, and lactating students in high school and college to maintain their CalWORKs benefits and avoid penalties by adding destabilizing events and violations of Title IX protections to the lists of acceptable reasons for not meeting satisfactory progress requirements.

The Stronger California Advocates Network will continue to support pending two-year bills on the Stronger California Legislative Agenda which will move forward in 2024, including:

  • AB 518 – Paid Family Leave for Chosen Family (Asm. Wicks) This bill will update the definition of “family member” for purposes of California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program to allow workers to receive PFL benefits when caring for “an individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” This builds on AB 1041, enacted in 2023, giving workers the right to take paid sick days or job-protected family medical leave under the California Family Rights Act to care for chosen and extended family members.
  • AB 793 – Stop Surveilling Our Bodies Act (Asm. Bonta) So-called “reverse demands”—also called “geofence demands” or “keyword demands”–are a form of unconstitutional digital surveillance that pose a grave risk in a Post-Roe America. Reverse demands can compel companies to search their records for the identities of all people who looked up a particular keyword online or drove down a certain street. AB 793 will put a stop to unconstitutional reverse demands – preserving our digital privacy and protecting Californians’ right to live life on our own terms.  California must be a true refuge for people seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming care. See here for more information from Stronger California partner ACLU California Action.

While some of our Stronger California priority bills did not succeed this year, we are more determined than ever to advocate for their passage in the future. Below is a comprehensive list of all the priority bills we will continue fighting for.

  • SB 686 – Health and Safety for All Workers Act (Sen. Durazo) Equal Rights Advocates was a proud cosponsor of this legislation which would have eliminated the sexist and racist exclusion of domestic workers from coverage under California health and safety laws. The bill passed out of the legislature with bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Governor Newsom. Click here to read the statement of Stronger California partner the California Domestic Workers Coalition on the veto of this critically important legislation. 
  • AB 524 – Family Caregiver Anti-Discrimination Act (Asm. Wicks) Equal Rights Advocates was a proud cosponsor of this legislation with the California Employment Lawyers Association, California Work & Family Coalition, and Legal Aid at Work. AB 524 would have prohibited discrimination against employees based on their family caregiver status. Four states and over 200 local jurisdictions have already enacted laws outlawing employment discrimination against parents and other caregivers. The legislature passed this legislation; however, it was ultimately vetoed. We remain committed to fighting for these critical workplace protections in California. To learn more about the need for protections against family caregiver discrimination, see here
  • AB 1356 – Protect Laid-Off Workers Act (Asm. Haney) This bill would have expanded protections for workers impacted by mass layoffs in California. See here for a statement from Stronger California partner TechEquity Collaborative on the veto of this bill.
  • AB 575 – Paid Family Leave Improvements (Asm. Papan)
  • AB 1128 – Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) Expansion (Asm. Santiago)
  • AB 310 – Reimagining CalWORKS (Asm. Arambula)
  • AB 1498 – Expand CalEITC Minimum to $300 (Asm. Gipson)
  • SB 227 – The Safety Net for All Workers Act (Sen. Durazo)
  • AB 1082 – Ending Poverty Tows (Asm. Kalra)
  • AB 583 – Invest in Efforts to Improve Health Care for Pregnant and Birthing People (Asm. Wicks)
  • SB 59 – Equity, Period (Sen. Skinner)