California governor vetoes bill to help displaced workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill late Wednesday that would have guaranteed most laid-off hospitality workers would be first in line to get their jobs back once those industries begin rehiring.

When Newsom ordered people to stay home because of the coronavirus, California's airports, hotels, event centers and janitorial services had to lay off many of their low-wage, mostly Latino, workers. The state Legislature passed a bill last month that would have required the companies to offer those workers their jobs back once they begin rehiring.

“I recognize the real problem this bill is trying to fix,” Newsom said in his veto message. But he said the bill is written so broadly that it would apply “during any state of emergency for all layoffs, including those that may be unrelated to such emergency.”

Moreover, he wrote, the requirements “place too onerous a burden on employers” who also have been hard hit.

The bill was a priority for the state's powerful labor unions, especially after Disney announced Wednesday it would lay off 28,000 workers at its theme parks in Florida and California. But businesses groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, said the bill would cost jobs by slowing down businesses' efforts to reopen at a time when they are fighting to stay viable.

"We understand these are unprecedented times,” the chamber and a number of other business groups wrote to lawmakers last month. “However, it is critical to remember that many businesses and their owners are themselves casualties of this economic shutdown.”

The chamber said after Newsom's veto that it was "grateful that the Governor chose not to further burden these industries at a time when they can least afford it.”

Glynndana Shevlin, 60, says she has worked at the Disneyland Hotel for 32 years. She's been on furlough since April, living off of unemployment checks. Wednesday, she got an email saying her job is in jeopardy.

She said she was “heartbroken” that Newsom vetoed the bill.

“My life is a little insecure,” she said.

Newsom vetoed the bill as his administration has been slowly loosening coronavirus restrictions on businesses. California has relaxed its most restrictive rules for 40 of the state’s 58 counties. Wednesday, San Francisco allowed a return to indoor dining for the first time since March.

Since March, California has processed about 13.6 million claims for unemployment benefits, paying out $90.6 billion. The leisure and hospitality industry has been the hardest hit of the state's 11 industry sectors, losing more than 600,000 jobs in the past year.