The COVID-19 pandemic has brought in a wave of organizing across many industries. California is one of the states leading the way, where a higher percentage of their workforce is now unionized compared to at the beginning of the pandemic.
California Labor Federation Communications Director Steve Smith discussed some of the leading labor issues in California and around the country, how California’s unions have fared throughout the pandemic, what the plan is for gig workers now that Proposition 22 is state law and more.
California labor initiatives
Smith said the Labor Federation and other groups in California are working hard on worker safety campaigns. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many situations as hazardous and the Labor Federation is doing what they can to improve conditions.
He said their main efforts are pointed at getting enforcement of pandemic-related protocols and paid sick leave for workers. Those who may have COVID-19 must feel confident they will not lose their job and can continue putting food on the table.
Additionally, Smith said the California Labor Federation and others will continue the fight to pass the PRO Act.
California unions and the pandemic
Smith said California’s labor unions have been working hard for their members throughout the pandemic.
He said that if there is a silver lining in the pandemic, it’s that a larger percentage of the California workforce now belongs to a union. This can be attributed to the desire for protection in the workplace.
Navigating the gig economy
The gig workers of California, such as those driving for rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber took a big hit with the recent passing of Proposition 22. The well-funded campaign saw $220 million roll in from the two companies.
The new law classifies drivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees, allowing the company to pay lower wages and not provide benefits.
Smith said it is unfair to those working for these companies, as the economy is being increasingly driven by companies such as Uber and Lyft. He added that he is sure if the PRO Act passes and is signed into law, these workers will be able to form a union and gain employee status.