WGAW President advocates for striking workers unemployment insurance

(WGAW President Meredith Stiehm, SB 799 author/Senator Anthony Portantino, and SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Joely Fisher)

In a significant move to support striking workers in California, Meredith Stiehm, President of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), visited the state capitol to advocate for a crucial bill. If passed, this legislation would grant striking workers access to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, which they have already contributed to through their work.

Speaking before the California State Assembly Insurance Committee in Sacramento, Stiehm emphasized the importance of UI as a safety net that could provide essential assistance to striking workers who find themselves in challenging circumstances.

Senate Bill 799, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Assemblymember Chris Holden, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, is the legislative proposal at the center of this advocacy effort. If passed, the bill would enable striking workers in California to access UI benefits, a provision already available to workers in New York and New Jersey.

“Writers have had to rely on strike loans from our union, donations, philanthropy, and second and third jobs to pay for their basic needs since May 2,” Stiehm informed the committee, highlighting the difficulties faced by these workers. “Four months without work is emotionally brutal and financially disastrous,” she added, underlining the dire situation faced by many writers. Watch her testimony below:


Stiehm stressed the urgency of this legislation, stating, “It’s time for California to catch up and meet the demands of the time. Writers are the present-day example of workers who could greatly benefit from UI, but we’re really here for the workers in the future who will need this protection if they make the difficult decision to go on strike.”

The bill enjoys widespread support, with more than 41 unions and the California Labor Federation endorsing its passage. Following its approval by the Assembly Insurance Committee, the California Legislature has until September 14 to advance the bill to the Governor’s desk. If enacted, this legislation could provide essential relief to striking workers in California and serve as a model for workers’ rights in the state.

For Reel 360 News’ full strike coverage, click here.

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