California Gov. Gavin Newsom Vetoes Bill Offering Unemployment to Striking Workers

“Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt,” the governor said as the SAG-AFTRA strike continues

Gavin Newsom, a man with light-toned skin, holds up a finger, gesturing off camera emphatically, in front of a wall with wood paneling
Gavin Newsom (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed Senate Bill 799, the legislation that would allow striking workers to apply for unemployment insurance.

In his letter announcing the veto Saturday night, Newsom argued that widening the scope of the state’s unemployment insurance program would add to debt already owed to the federal government due to the amount of unemployment checks sent out to Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s an argument often made by opponents of the bill as it wound its way through the state legislature.

“Any expansion of eligibility for UI benefits could increase California’s outstanding federal UI debt projected to be nearly $20 billion by the end of the year and could jeopardize California’s Benefit Cost Ratio add-on waiver application, significantly increasing taxes on employers,” Newsom wrote. “Now is not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt.”

The bill was supported by unions throughout California, including the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, which were both on strike when SB 799 was passed by Democrats in the California legislature. The WGA has tentatively agreed to a new contract that’s up for a member ratification vote this week, while SAG-AFTRA is returning to the negotiating table on Monday.

In a statement posted to social media, WGA West decried Newsom’s veto as “a dismissal of the working people that have supported him.”

“For 148 days, members of the WGA struck against companies who intended to drive writers into financial ruin,” the guild wrote. “Every worker deserves the right to stand up for themselves while using benefits they’ve earned to make ends meet. We remain committed to this bill becoming law in California.”

Burbank State Sen. Anthony Portatino, one of the co-sponsors of SB 799, also voiced his disappointment over Newsom’s veto.

“The labor unrest and concern we all witnessed this summer earned the Legislature’s action to pass unemployment benefits for striking workers. The need continues and so will efforts to make this the law in California. The hardworking women and men in California need to put food on their table and pay their rent. SB 799 would have injected a small piece of security to working families that is needed and deserved,” he said in a statement.

The bill, had it been signed by Newsom, would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

For all of TheWrap’s Hollywood strike coverage, click here.


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