Workers at a distribution warehouse in National City on Friday. Courtesy OnScene.TV

Inflation is on the rise, and after a disappointing May jobs report, many are left wondering what our economic recovery post-pandemic will actually look like.

Many workers who were forced from their jobs because of the pandemic are looking to re-enter the workforce, and are counting on our elected officials to prioritize supporting job creation across the state that will benefit working-class Californians. Unfortunately, some policies our elected officials are pushing miss the mark. 

Workers are looking for good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families, and while there has been some economic improvement in the state, it is no surprise that recovery is focused primarily on high-income Californians and anyone invested in the stock market. 

California, and the nation, appear to be having a “K-shaped” recovery. The rich are getting richer, and those in marginalized communities are struggling to manage the rising price of goods. The pandemic-led job losses have been concentrated among low-wage workers, and unemployment claims are concentrated in high-poverty areas.

Thankfully, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a $100 billion California recovery package that aims at getting the state back on track. This includes a host of provisions aimed at helping those in need, like a $600 direct stimulus check, rent assistance, and relief from utilities bills.

However, there is also a bill currently working its way through the state legislature that is well-meaning, but could actually result in companies moving from the state, and only worsen the “K shape” of our recovery. 

Pro-worker legislator Lorena Gonzalez introduced this bill, Assembly Bill 701, which specifically targets warehouse distribution centers in the state at the worst possible time. Because of the growth of e-commerce during the pandemic, warehouse demand exceeded supply in the fourth quarter of 2020 and early 2021.

AB 701, however, targets warehouses with burdensome new regulations that would do nothing to increase worker safety but would make it nearly impossible for these businesses to set up shop or continue operating in the state. 

Ultimately, this bill could cause the state to lose stable, well-paying jobs that warehouses bring to struggling areas. Most recently, Nike announced a new distribution center in Bethlehem that will bring 250 jobs, and Burlington has opened a new distribution center in Riverside that will create more than 100 new jobs.

If AB 701 had been the law of the land when these businesses made these decisions, those jobs would have likely gone elsewhere — particularly when neighboring states are eager to accept them. For example, Surprise, Arizona, which is just outside of Phoenix, quickly approved a last-mile delivery hub recently “in about half the time of a traditional project.”

If we want to ensure that it is not just the upper class that recovers from this pandemic, our elected officials must focus their time and energy on policies that are targeted towards helping working-class Californians. AB 701 would do just the opposite.

Arkan Somo is President & CEO of Neighborhood Market Association, a nonprofit mutual-benefit corporation established in 1995 to empower family-owned businesses throughout California, Nevada and Arizona.

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