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

Inflation is on the rise all around the country, but in California, we are paying the highest prices for gas in the nation, and the state’s median home prices are projected to climb 13.1% this year, compared to a 9.8% rise in 2020.

As prices go up, it is more difficult for working-class Californians to make ends meet. And with unemployment rates sitting at 7.7%, our elected officials should be encouraging employers offering high-paying jobs to move to — and stay in — California. 

Many people are looking for work to replace a job they lost during the pandemic, or are hoping to earn more to better support themselves and their families. Anyone who has been on the job hunt knows it is often demoralizing and stressful, and can cost money if you have to pay for transportation to interviews or buy a new outfit to impress the hiring manager. And even once you land a job, there is that period before you get your first paycheck when you are watching every penny. 

Throw in rising inflation and that makes it harder for the working class to afford everyday necessities. It is no wonder that Californians are moving out of state in hopes of finding a lower cost of living and better economic prospects. And the people who are leaving are overwhelmingly low-income workers without a college degree. The state is fast becoming affordable only to the upper class. 

This is why it is so disappointing to see elected officials chase away good-paying jobs for working-class Californians who don’t hold college degrees. 

One clear example of this is embodied in Lorena Gonzalez’ Assembly Bill 701, which is moving quickly through the Legislature. While some have tried to frame this bill as necessary to protect warehouse workers, the truth is that provisions in AB 701 will not create any new protections for employees, who already must be provided by law with a safe workplace.

AB 701 allegedly puts an end to dangerous quotas, for example, but an employer who implements a quota that forces employees to flout existing health and safety laws is already in violation of current California law.

As written, AB 701 could actually harm California’s warehouse employers by nudging business owners to move out of state, a trend we already are seeing in other sectors of our economy. Given that warehouses are essential to the distribution of necessary goods, in addition to the jobs they provide for the working class, putting unnecessary burdens on workplaces with no substantial benefits is the wrong approach.

If our elected officials continue to chase away businesses that employ the working class, they will destroy low-income communities that are disproportionately Black and Brown. If California continues down this path, the only people who will be able to afford to live here will be primarily white upper-class families. Ironically, the lawmakers who may make this future a reality could be doing so under the guise of protecting and defending the very communities that will be hurt by their policies. 

With inflation on the rise, and the cost of living in California becoming more untenable, legislators should prioritize keeping good-paying jobs in the state for the working-class, not chasing them away.

Robert Gutierrez is chairman of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. He wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.

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