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Should Workers on Christmas Get Double Time? Bill Seeks Just That

A Walmart workers strike on Thanksgiving 2014 in Medford, OR
A Walmart workers strike on Thanksgiving 2014 in Medford, OR  | Photo: UFCW International Union/David Blackman/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California employees working in fast food, retail, and non-union sectors could get much-needed relief for working during future holiday seasons.

AB 67, recently proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, would require employers in California to pay employees two times their hourly rate on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be implemented the same as overtime laws, which is currently set at one and one-half time's an employee's regular rate.

Gonzalez' legislation -- the Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015 -- was spurred by the deluge of retailers like Walmart and Target extending hours during the holiday season, and thus forcing many employees to work with very little incentive or extra compensation.

Three states -- Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island -- currently prohibit retailers from opening on major holidays, according to Gonzalez. But California has not stepped in.

Last year, she authored AB 1522, a landmark law highlighting three guaranteed paid sick days annually for employees. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, would approximately impact 6.5 million Californians who work under the fear that they will lose their job for taking a sick day.

"There are huge income disparities and we're trying to chip away by making things fair. We shouldn't penalize people -- we should reward them," Gonzalez told KCET in a phone interview. "We're trying to create a system of laws that honor families, mothers and fathers, and hard working individuals."

The legislation was prompted by Gonzalez' own experience of watching her mother -- a nurse -- sacrifice holidays that were meant to be spent with the family in order to work.

"How do we honor people or the work they do?" questioned Gonzalez when asked about ways to alleviate the injustice of being paid minimum wage during the holidays. "[This legislation] is to honor every worker when they have to be away from their family and friends."

While some sectors such as hospital and emergency services may already be compensated double or extra pay during the holiday, there are still economic disparities that exist among other large sectors like retail and fast food.

And there currently is no existing law in relation to holiday pay, said Gonzalez. "There is none, and people were shocked to find that out. There is no requirement. So just minimum wage -- it's the same requirement as any other day... It doesn't solve the problem of people being ripped away from their families, but at least it values the worker a little more."

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