- Sean Porter
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) has amended Assembly Bill 1577, which is currently in the Senate, to now be a measure that will grant legislative employees the right to collectively bargain for the terms and conditions of their employment. AB 1577 allows legislative employees to organize and participate in unions, in order to negotiate with their employers on a number of workplace conditions such as wages, benefits, health and safety, and job training.
The California Legislature governs and provides oversight over California labor laws and principles. However, the Legislature remains the only branch of California’s government that does not allow their employees to unionize. Legislative employees are exempted from state civil service, and are effectively barred from the right to collectively bargain for workplace protections with their employer. As a result, they can be hired and fired at will, and are unprotected by workplace protection laws that cover both public and private employees. This imbalance of power leaves legislative employees little to no opportunity to voice their concerns and shape the conditions of their workplace.
The Legislature has faced several workplace reckonings in recent years. The #MeToo Movement, the COVID-19 pandemic, the @calegstaffers instagram page, and the recent exposure of the lack of consistency from the Workplace Conduct Unit, have all shed light on the workers’ lack of tangible workplace protections in statute due to their at-will status. These events have also emphasized the concern for their health and safety, and the deep fear of retaliation and lack of recourse when faced with workplace misconduct.
“It is a shame that the Legislature claims to fight for workers while continuously refusing to grant their own employees with the right to form a union,” said Assemblymember Stone. “The Legislature is the only branch of government that has blocked their employees from collective bargaining. Claims that employees are in a unique position that renders unionization unnecessary are often made by the employers whose employees would benefit most from collective bargaining. If the California Legislature claims to be pro worker, then we need to be pro worker for all workers, including our own employees.”
“In any workplace, an imbalance of power leaves workers with little to no opportunity to voice their concerns and shape the conditions of their workplace. The Legislature is no different,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “I am proud to joint-author this bill to simply give legislative staff the right to organize and join a union if they so choose.”
“Our legislative staff are critically important to the legislative process. They are committed public servants who deserve the right to collectively bargain. Unions make workplaces stronger, and the Legislature is no exception,” said Senator Weiner.
“As a former staffer, I know legislative staff work long hours in high stakes environments,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “State lawmakers can’t expect to fight for workers’ rights when we deny it to our own employees – we need to allow legislative staff to be able to unionize.”
“For too long legislative staff have lacked the right to form a union, collectively bargain, and enjoy protections afforded to other workers, resulting in a workplace conducive to exploitation and fear of retaliation. Undoing this outdated policy is not only morally just, but will benefit the State of California by allowing us to better retain knowledgeable staff, as well as empower and protect our workers," said Assemblymember Kalra. "I am honored to joint-author AB 1577 to demonstrate that our continued efforts to protect and embolden workers throughout California does not stop at the steps of our Capitol.”
“One of our core values in California is advocating for fair pay and working conditions for all workers, including the right to collectively bargain and unionize,” said Assemblymember Bryan. “AB 1577 will make sure the California Legislature lives up to those values by allowing legislative staff to unionize and collectively bargain for increased pay and work conditions. This bill is long overdue, and I’m proud to stand as a joint author.”
"Legislative staff provide essential services to constituents every day and work tirelessly to ensure elected officials can serve the people of California,” said former bill author and incoming California Labor Federation chief officer Lorena Gonzalez. “All other workers in the state have the right to organize their workplace and join a union if they choose — legislative staff should be no different."
“California legislative staff should have the freedom to join the wave of worker organizing that’s taking the country by storm,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “In California we lead by example on issues of fundamental workers’ rights. It’s past time the legislature lives up to our values as Californians by granting legislative staff the right to join a union.”
AB 1577 will establish the Legislative Employer-Employee Relations Act which will grant collective bargaining rights to specified employees of the Legislature. The Act would oversee employer-employee relationships and allows employees the opportunity to join an employee organization. Furthermore, it enumerates the rights, obligations, and limitations of individuals or parties involved in a collective bargaining and representation process.