Capitol Alert

Grocery workers job protection bill passes California Assembly

Workers change approximately 150 shopping carts to reflect the new ownership at the new Save Mart grocery store in Sacramento on Monday June 4, 2007.
Workers change approximately 150 shopping carts to reflect the new ownership at the new Save Mart grocery store in Sacramento on Monday June 4, 2007. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Grocery store workers could hold onto their jobs after their store changes ownership under labor-backed legislation that passed the California Assembly on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 359, which passed 42-26, bars stores from firing workers for non-performance reasons within 90 days of a merger or buyout. After that grace period expires stores would need to conduct performance reviews to help decide whether to keep the employees.

“When Wall Street stock brokers (conduct) leveraged buyouts in the grocery industry, a high number of jobs are put at risk,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. “Historically these are some of the last good-paying, middle-class jobs.”

The bill distilled the labor versus big business clash that often frames California bills: the United Food and Commercial Workers union sponsored the bill, and the California Chamber of Commerce condemned it with a “job-killer” label.

Republicans assailed the bill for likely exposing grocery stores to lawsuits if they do not retain workers after the 90-day period ends.

“There is not a lawyer in this state that would not salivate at the opportunity,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine.

Jeremy B. White: (916) 326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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