Business & Economy

Lawmakers send grocery worker protection bill to governor

LIVERMORE, CA - JULY 18:  A Safeway employee arranges fruit at Safeway's new
LIVERMORE, CA - JULY 18: A Safeway employee arranges fruit at Safeway's new "Lifestyle" store July 18, 2007 in Livermore, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

State lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill Monday to protect grocery workers in California from being fired for 90 days after a store changes ownership.

The Senate approved AB359 by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on a 22-14 vote. The Assembly passed the proposal in May.

"Grocery jobs are anchors in our community that sustain the middle class and provide a connection between the neighborhood and the food they feed their families," Gonzalez said in a statement.

The bill mandates a worker-retention period when grocery stores with at least 15,000 square feet change owners. After the transition period, the new employer must provide a written performance evaluation and consider employing the worker.

Sen. Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat who presented the bill, said the move would help workers maintain job security.

Republican Sen. Jeff Stone, of Temecula, said the workers are at-will employees and the state shouldn't intervene. He says it only adds to California's reputation for being unfriendly to business.

"This bill is nothing more than an extension of the arm of government into the inner workings of private companies and the relationships with their employees," Stone said. "It represents micromanaging private companies and the details of what's supposed to be a private transaction."

The bill would not be the first worker retention protection of its kind in California. According to Gonzalez's office, janitorial employees receive similar protections when there's a contractor change at worksites.

San Francisco, Santa Monica and Los Angeles already have local ordinances for grocery workers.