SEIU and California School Employees Association offer to back amended legislation; Asm. Wicks pledges to accept proposed amendments: “We welcome their ideas for strengthening the bill.”
- Erin Ivie
- Director of Communications, Office of Assemblymember Buffy Wicks
SACRAMENTO — California’s largest labor union, SEIU California, and the California School Employees Association (CSEA) announced today that they would support Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ AB 2011 with minor amendments, in a sign of growing momentum behind the legislation.
Asm. Wicks’ bill, The Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act, will open new sites to affordable housing with the potential to produce millions of units, while creating strong labor protections that ensure all workers on these jobs earn high wages and health benefits.
Asm. Wicks said she welcomes the support of the two labor organizations, which combined represent one million California workers:
“We’re thrilled to receive this critical nod of support from SEIU and CSEA on this important housing legislation, and we welcome their ideas for strengthening the bill to ensure it produces more affordable housing for low-wage workers and their families,” said Asm. Wicks (D-Oakland), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. “With our state in the midst of an urgent affordability crisis, our goal has always been to improve access to housing in every community, while also creating steady, high-wage jobs for the workers building these homes. I am confident we can come to an agreement on final language, and on behalf of myself and the dozen members of the Legislature coauthoring AB 2011, I look forward to partnering with labor to move this bill forward.”
"Keeping a roof over their families’ heads is one of the biggest worries for SEIU members right now, including janitors, security officers, caregivers, classified school employees, and other essential frontline workers, said David Huerta, President of SEIU California and SEIU-USWW (United Service Workers West). “Every year, as California’s stalemate on affordable housing persists, it gets harder for our members to pay the rent. That’s why we feel urgency for a solution like AB 2011 that upholds our belief that strong labor standards are the foundation of a just economy. It’s time to finally reject the false choice between creating high road jobs and building housing families can afford – California must lead the nation in doing both.”
“Over half of California’s classified school employees make less than $30,000 per year, and our members are desperate for affordable housing,” said Matthew “Shane” Dishman, President of the California School Employees Association, representing 250,000 classified school employees throughout California, including school bus drivers, custodians, school secretaries, paraeducators, food service workers, school security, and other essential workers. “California needs more affordable housing and more high-wage jobs, so we applaud the efforts by Assemblymember Wicks to negotiate a bill that can accomplish both. There is no part of this state where our members are not struggling to find safe, affordable places to live. School employees should never have to drive for hours to get to work, stay with family, or live in their cars because they can’t afford housing near their worksite. We look forward to working with the author and our brothers and sisters in labor to ensure this legislation results in the building of affordable housing units built by skilled workers with adequate compensation and worker protections.”
A 2019 survey of SEIU members in California found increasing the supply of homes affordable to workers is an urgent priority. Some 41% of members reported that housing costs have forced them into one or more of the following living experiences in the past five years: living in a vehicle, shelter or garage, having to live with family or friends, having to share housing with multiple families, or living more than two hours away from work in order to afford housing.
Maria Bernal, a Jack in the Box worker, shared her story recently about being evicted for falling behind on the rent, even after working 14 hours a day at a restaurant in the Sacramento area. The family slept in their car for about six months, including her youngest son, who was just three years old. They lived in constant terror that someone would break into their car while they were sleeping. “It was very difficult,” said Bernal. “I cried often just looking at my kids in that situation. I’d think, ‘God, how can we be living like this if I’m working so much?’ Lawmakers need to understand, nowhere in this state is affordable to fast food workers and our families, we can’t wait any longer to solve the housing crisis.”
After years of legislative gridlock over housing workforce issues, AB 2011’s housing provisions and strong labor protections are the first to be endorsed by both affordable housing and labor groups. The bill is co-sponsored by the California Housing Consortium, a statewide coalition of affordable housing providers, and the California Conference of Carpenters, representing more than 82,000 union carpenters across the state.
The bill pairs new opportunities to build 100% affordable housing and mixed-income housing on underutilized commercial sites with requirements that developers meet a range of responsible wage and training standards:
- Prevailing wage is required on all projects.
- For projects of 50 or more units, contractors must either participate in a state-approved apprenticeship program or request the dispatch of apprentices from a program and provide health benefits for their workers. If no apprentice workers are available, the project can still move forward.
- The bill also includes new enforcement mechanisms to ensure these wage and benefits standards are being met.
As support for Asm. Wicks’ bill grows, the Sacramento Bee editorial board also endorsed AB 2011 this week, saying the bill will “fast-track” affordable housing production, “guarantee project workers union-level wages and health benefits,” and help every community “train the next generation of laborers.” Daniel Curtin, Director of the California Conference of Carpenters, told the Bee he considers the bill’s proposed reforms “the best labor standards in the country.”
“The need for this kind of housing legislation is self-evident at this point,” the Bee concluded. “[AB 2011] would streamline housing development, diminish opportunities for NIMBYism, develop underused property and disrupt exploitation of workers. It deserves broad support.”
For more information:
- A fact sheet on AB 2011 is available here.
- The Sacramento Bee editorial on the bill is here.
- A San Jose Mercury News op-ed by the co-sponsors is here.
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