OAKLAND — Today, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks announced a first-in-the-nation bill that would mandate all businesses in the state of California to require their employees and independent contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Assembly Bill 1993 would require workplaces and employers of all sizes to verify that their workers – both employees and independent contractors – are fully immunized against the COVID-19 virus. If signed into law and passed by Governor Newsom, the law would take effect on January 1, 2023.
The bill comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking President Biden’s nationwide vaccine mandate for large employers, leaving vaccine rules and implementation up to individual states. With responsibilities falling on individual state legislatures, Asm. Wicks aims to carry these critical workplace safety requirements into law on the State level.
“The pathway to endemic is through vaccines – and to get there, Californians need consistency and certainty,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “People have experienced so much whiplash over the past couple years when it comes to ever-changing guidelines in the workplace. Workers are craving stability, and vaccines are the key to making that happen.”
AB 1993 would require new hires of a business to have at least one shot by their first day on the job, and the second within 45 days. The bill includes no option for a testing alternative unless an employee qualifies for a medical or religious exemption.
Guidance for employers on what constitutes a medical condition, disability, religious belief, and valid vaccination status would be determined by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). If signed into law, businesses that don’t comply with the bill would be subject to fines and penalties
Included below are a series of quotes from lawmakers, business, labor, and public health stakeholders:
“California’s employees deserve to be safe in their workplaces, and California businesses small and big alike need consistency and certainty to remain open and prospering with the endemic,” said Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento). “We know COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing most from experiencing serious illness, hospitalization and death, and that vaccines help reduce the spread of the virus in our communities thereby protecting the most vulnerable. That’s why I am co-authoring this important legislation with Assemblymember Wicks and others, because the vaccines work, and vaccine mandates work to increase vaccination rates and keep our communities safer.”
“The U.S. accounts for 4% of the world’s population, 21% of the world’s COVID cases, and 15% of the world’s COVID deaths. Our country has not done a good job of keeping people safe and protected for the preventable impacts of this illness, and we have an opportunity to do better in California by mandating vaccines in our workplaces,” said John Swartzberg, Infectious Disease Expert at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “When people are vaccinated, the world is safer — businesses are more stable, their employees and patrons better protected. It’s time we take what we know — that vaccines and mandates work — and allow it to help our businesses prosper.”
"Our essential workers have been the linchpin of our communities during COVID, showing up every day to make sure people have what they need while being disproportionately impacted themselves,” said Jim Araby, Director of Strategic Campaigns, UFCW Local 5. “Now, AB 1933 will give California workers what they’ve deserved since Day One of this pandemic: the ability to feel safe, to feel valued, and to feel protected in their workplace.”
“Coronavirus variants continue to disrupt business operations and create financial uncertainty for small businesses in California and throughout the country,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder and CEO of Small Business Majority. “Small business owners don’t want to be traffic cops in debates about public safety; they are looking for a common statewide standard that disentangles them from politics and enables them to operate their businesses safely and predictably. We must enact bold policies that will give California small businesses the certainty they need to operate at capacity and help them get back to normal.”
“Business Improvement Districts are committed to making commercial neighborhoods—which are part of our civic lifeblood-- welcoming, active places where all are welcome and feel safe to shop, dine, and come to their jobs. Our resilient small businesses feel responsibility and stewardship for the safety of customers and employees, and they have been through a trying period of whiplash and uncertainty,” said Savlan Hauser, Executive Director of Jack London Improvement District. “This legislation will help relieve the rule-making burden on any individual businesses as they welcome customers and workers, and ensure safe work environments and places for all.”
"Employees deserve safe workplaces, and we know vaccines are key to keeping us safe as individuals and as a community,” said Crystal Strait, Board Chair of ProtectUS. “Despite the partisan rhetoric and vitriol, Asm. Wicks is stepping above the fray to make sure we make progress in moving safely to an endemic state. On behalf of the pro-vaxx majority in the US, we wholeheartedly support this effort to make workplaces safe."
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