Risk & Compliance

California Governor Vetoes Return-to-Work Bill

The requirements of the bill "place too onerous a burden on employers navigating the tough challenges” of the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom says.
Matthew HellerOctober 2, 2020

In a victory for business groups, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have protected workers who have been laid off in service industries badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Assembly Bill 3216 required that employers in the hotel, airport hospitality, event center and building services industries first rehire laid-off workers when they decide to increase their workforces once again.

The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Democratic-controlled state legislature, with labor leaders arguing that it would “ensure there is a “fair and equitable recovery that will help some of those Californians most hard-hit by the pandemic and economic crisis — Latinos, immigrants and women workers.”

But Newsom, a Democrat, declined to sign the measure into law.

While the hospitality industry and its employees “have been hard hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic, he said in his veto message, “I believe the requirements of this bill place too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges.”

Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who authored AB 3216, called the veto “devastating news” while Unite Here, a California hospitality workers union, said it was “devastating to the low wage workers who built the hospitality industry, especially women of color, who were looking for a leader to walk with them through this time of struggle.”

Unite Here has seen nearly 90% of its more than 32,000 members laid off during the pandemic.

The bill was opposed by business groups including the California Chamber of Commerce, which said it “would have delayed the rehire of thousands of employees and slowed the economic recovery of many employers who have been the hardest hit by this pandemic.”

“We are grateful that the governor chose not to further burden these industries at a time when they can least afford it,” the Chamber added.

While AB 3216 would have been more sweeping, many of California’s largest cities — including Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco and Oakland — have enacted their own rehiring ordinances in response to the pandemic. California already had worker retention laws for the janitorial and grocery industries.

Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images