Newsom rejects return-to-work bill for hotels, airports, events

Nallely Camacho hasn’t worked since March, and doesn’t know when she will again. Gov. Newsom rejects return-to-work bill for hotel, airport and event industries Nallely Camacho, 27, used to work at a hotel. A bill vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday would have given her and other laid-off workers some […]

Nallely Camacho hasn’t worked since March, and doesn’t know when she will again.

Laid off from her job as a breakfast attendant at the Hyatt House hotel in Emeryville at the outset of the pandemic, Camacho, a single mom, is increasingly desperate to get her old union job back to support her two kids. She had hoped a bill, AB3216, would help her do that.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom dashed her and others’ hopes when he vetoed the bill Wednesday, saying the Legislature should “consider other approaches” to solving the problems of workers like Camacho.

The bill would have created “return to work” rights for some laid-off workers in industries hit hardest by the pandemic including hospitality, event centers, airports, building services and others.

As those businesses looked to rehire staff, they would have been required to start with rehiring those they laid off. If the firms hired a different worker for a restored role, they would have been obligated to provide the laid-off worker with the name of the person who filled their job and the reason for the hire. Newsom said in a letter to the Legislature rejecting the bill that latter requirement in particular risked “the sharing of too much personal information.”

“Governor Newsom’s veto of AB 3216 is devastating news to the tens of thousands of workers across our state who have been laid off during this pandemic,” Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, said in a statement.

“On a day when Disney announced that it would be laying off over 28,000 employees and when reports suggest that California’s economic recovery could take at least two years, this feels like a missed chance at a recovery for all. While I am disappointed in the decision, I know this is a fight that does not end today. I am committed to continue the march for dignity and job security for our workers and will not relent in the protection of our most vulnerable communities.”

The bill saw opposition from the state business establishment, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which called it a “job killer” that would have placed restrictions on businesses still emerging from the deep freeze of the ongoing pandemic.

The Chamber praised the veto in a statement, saying it “would have delayed the rehire of thousands of employees and slowed the economic recovery of many employers who have been the hardest hit by this pandemic. We are grateful that the governor chose not to further burden these industries at a time when they can least afford it.”

Newsom wrote that the bill would have placed “too onerous a burden” on employers emerging from the recession.

The business group’s letter also raised concerns that the language of the bill would have force employers to offer “almost any position to employees by order of seniority,” during a state of emergency around the virus that could go on indefinitely.

Some workers will nevertheless retain protections under similar ordinances in cities and localities across the Bay Area.

In July, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a temporary ordinance granting a right of re-employment to laid-off workers in certain industries, but that measure expired this month.

Oakland passed a re-employment measure over the summer, similar to an existing Los Angeles ordinance, covering employers in the airport hospitality, restaurant, events and other industries.

Some unions, including Unite Here Local 2850 of which Camacho is a member, advocated strongly for the bill, organizing caravans of members from the Bay Area to Sacramento to ask Newsom to sign the bill.

Ty Hudson, a spokesperson for Unite Here, said that the legislation would have benefited union and nonunion workers alike and that wages and benefits for rehired union workers would largely depend on existing contracts, unless they were renegotiated.

“Most of those people are at risk … of never going back to their old jobs,” Hudson said.

Hudson said it is more urgent now to give laid-off workers a better shot at working again in light of expanded federal unemployment benefits expiring over the summer.

Since mid-March the state Employment Development Department has processed more than 11 million applications for unemployment assistance, underscoring the massive layoffs that have roiled the state.

For Camacho, the former Hyatt employee, waiting and relying on unemployment benefits is not an option. She is a single mother with two children to care for. She said she is looking for a job working nights as a cleaner or shelf stocker that will allow her to spend time during the day with her children to help with their virtual schooling.

“I’m not the only one in this situation,” she said. “It’s hard for everybody to not know if they can go back to their job.”

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice

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