Capitol Alert

Working Thanksgiving? Proposed California bill would offer double wages

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, talks with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens on Saturday, August 30, 2014.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, talks with Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens on Saturday, August 30, 2014. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Californians working through the holidays could get heftier paychecks under legislation that would mandate double pay for Thanksgiving and Christmas shifts.

As more and more retailers and restaurants remain open on what have historically been off days, said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, workers deserve to earn extra. She plans to unveil a bill that would require additional pay, a policy she settled on in lieu of seeking to bar stores outright from opening on the holidays.

“I’ve watched how the retailers and restaurateurs continue to expand their hours and open up on these holidays that are traditionally family holidays,” Gonzalez said. “What people are being called in to do now is a real slap in the face of family values, frankly.”

Certain industries require some employees to work 365 days a year, Gonzalez noted, recounting how her mother worked as a nurse and would sometimes be called in on holidays. But she draws a distinction between indispensable services like police departments or hospitals and other businesses.

“This is not life and death,” Gonzalez said. “This is consumerism.”

It won’t be Gonzalez’s first foray into expanding workers’ benefits. Last year she successfully pushed through landmark legislation guaranteeing California workers up to three days a year of paid sick leave, garnering enough votes despite a carve-out exempting some workers that angered a prominent union and threatened to split the Democratic caucus.

The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the paid sick-leave bill, although the influential business group did remove a “job killer” tag it had affixed to the legislation. The chamber declined to comment on the forthcoming holiday pay bill since no legislation has not been introduced.

One large retailer that would be affected, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., closes its stores on Christmas but has stayed open on Thanksgiving for more than two decades, according to spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan. She said employees who work on Thanksgiving essentially receive double pay already.

“It equals out to be an extra day’s pay,” Buchanan said.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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