AB 1066: Striking Employees Eligible for Unemployment Benefits

AB 1066 was introduced by Assembly Member Gonzalez on February 21, 2019. This bill amends the Unemployment Insurance Code to allow striking employees to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits after four weeks.  Specifically, AB 1066 currently provides that:

(b) The ineligibility of an individual to receive benefits pursuant to subdivision (a) shall expire after the first two four weeks of the trade dispute and shall, thereafter, be eligible.The one-week waiting period required by Section 1253 shall not be required in addition to the waiting period established in this subdivision.

This bill passed the Assembly on May 22, 2019, and is now in the Senate. According to the author, “Workers involved in a labor dispute merit support from the state, and this bill is one small step in ensuring all workers can exercise their right to strike.”

Comments:

  1. The California Chamber of Commerce has placed AB 1066 on its annual “job killers” list of bills.
  2. In reading the bill analyses for AB 1066, its crystal clear to me that the intent is to provide unemployment insurance benefits after four weeks of not working.  In other words, the “four weeks of the trade dispute” have to be continuous.
  3. For the public sector, I can’t think of a strike in recent times that lasted more than four continuous weeks. So this bill will practically have little effect on the public sector.
  4. However, I do believe the bill as written contains some ambiguity regarding the intent that the strike last a continuous four weeks. I’m specifically worried about intermittent strikes.  For example, if employees go on strike for 2 days on April 1st, and then go on strike again for two days on May 15th, would the employees striking on May 15th be eligible?  The intent is clear that they wouldn’t be eligible. But technically, the trade dispute would have lasted “four weeks” by that time. So ideally this language would be cleaned up to make that clear.
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