Umberg Labor Rights Constitutional Amendment Advances

June 22, 2023

(Sacramento, CA) – Senate Constitutional Amendment 7, authored by Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), The Right to Organize and Negotiate Act, passed the Senate Labor Committee earlier today by a vote of 4-1.

“I’m thrilled SCA 7 has cleared its first hurdle,” said Senator Umberg.  “The rights of workers in California to negotiate and organize have been clearly defined for decades – adding these as fundamental rights to our Constitution shouldn’t be debated or controversial” he added.

SCA 7 is jointly sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, the California Labor Federation, and California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond.  The measure currently boasts 37 co-authors including both the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, Senator Toni Atkins, and the incoming Assembly Speaker, Assemblymember Robert Rivas.

Andrew Meredith, President of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, stated, “What we are asking this legislature to do is very simple: enshrine the rights of workers to join a union and collectively bargain with their employers. Watching this move through its first committee today was inspiring. As Senator Umberg has said, this shouldn’t be controversial. The public overwhelmingly supports this effort.”

He added that, “The house of labor stands unified behind SCA 7. We will not rest until these rights are enshrined in the California Constitution.”

California has a long, established, and celebrated labor history with numerous laws in place to uphold and protect union activity and support workers’ basic rights to organize and enact protections in their workplaces. That said, all levels of government have been subject to efforts in the last four decades to dismantle labor contracts and erode worker protections. These campaigns have contributed to a significant shift in the distribution of household wealth away from a strong, middle class to a disproportionately small number of individuals, widening the income gap in the state.

Workers who were once in the middle class are falling behind financially, and the most marginalized workers (predominantly Black and Latino workers, immigrants, and women) are just one paycheck away from losing their home or facing financial disaster.  State safety net programs that were originally designed to help workers through difficult times are now being relied upon regularly as low and middle-income wage earners struggle to survive in California.

On the national level, twenty-eight states have anti-worker laws. In November 2022, Tennessee became the tenth in the nation to include an anti-worker provision in its constitution. In comparison, five states have a provision to protect worker collective bargaining rights in their state constitutions – New York, Hawaii, Missouri, New Jersey, and most recently, Illinois. SCA 7 will be the 6th.

A recent Gallup poll showed that 71% percent of Americans currently approve of labor unions, representing the highest Gallup has recorded on this measure since 1965.

Now is the time for California to maintain and celebrate its commitment to worker rights to organize and bargain collectively by passing SCA 7 to embed these core values in our State Constitution. 

SCA 7’s passage today included amendments taken by the author to address some of the concerns of stakeholders. The measure will next be heard in the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments in the coming weeks. A fact sheet on SCA 7 is attached for further information.