Onerous Grocery Worker Retention Bill Heads to Governor

The California State Senate on July 13, passed AB 359 (D-Gonzalez), a measure that would impose onerous worker retention requirements on traditional supermarkets, on a 22-14 vote. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk where he will have just 12 days to sign or veto the legislation.

While the vote came down largely along party lines, Big Labor was unable to secure support from four Democrats including Senators Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) who voted no along with Senators Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Lois Wolk (D-Davis) who did not vote. Republican Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) spoke in opposition to the bill.

Mirroring ordinances in five localities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, the bill seeks to require successor owners to retain eligible employees for at least 90 days under terms different than other company employees. Inexplicably, the bill exempts some of the largest competitors in the grocery space including superstores, chain pharmacies, and dollar discount stores.

CGA argued that the measure would create an unlevel playing field for California’s traditional supermarket sector as those companies would face additional barriers to store development and in sales transactions. In addition, we outlined concerns with significant avenues for litigation against companies. The California Chamber of Commerce has placed the bill on its annual “Job Killer” list.


CGA Statement Regarding California Senate Passing AB 359

We are extremely disappointed in the Senate’s action today in passing Assembly Bill 359. California Communities need more grocery options, not fewer. For the Legislature to approve a measure that unfairly singles out traditional grocery stores will only exacerbate food access and blight challenges in our State. Even the author acknowledges there is no identified problem and that this measure targets companies she herself stated have been, “…for the most part responsible employers in our state for a very long time.”

This bill will do little more than provide disincentives to grocery expansion and provide a competitive advantage to a select few – ironically those that do not generally provide the quality food options and middle-class jobs found in traditional markets. We applaud those members of the Senate—Democrats and Republicans alike who stood up for local communities and the grocers that support them. We look to Governor Brown to veto this poorly drafted attack on California’s grocery industry.

Ron Fong
California Grocers Association