By Emilie St. John
INGLEWOOD — Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor’s bill to allow legislative staffers to unionize has been signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
California becomes the largest state in the nation that will allow non-supervisorial legislative staff to join a union, following Oregon and Maine.
“Today is a huge victory for the nearly 2,000 legislative and district staff that have dedicated their careers to public service and have long deserved the right to be represented by a union,” McKinnor said. “Legislative staff aren’t looking for special treatment. they are looking for the same dignity and respect afforded to all represented workers.
“To the staff in our district offices and Capitol offices — including our dedicated committee staff that honorably serve the people of the State of California everyday — know this. We see you and we respect you. And with AB 1, we are taking action to make sure that current and future legislative staff, regardless of their members’ political affiliation, are afforded a safe, equitable and fair opportunity to build a noble career in public service.”
McKinnor is a former staffer having worked in the offices of Steve Bradford when he was in the Assembly and former Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, who she succeeded in office.
“The passage of AB 1 is extremely personal for me,” McKinnor said. “As a former legislative staffer myself and an original signer of the ‘We Said Enough’ letter that started the #MeToo movement, I know what a challenging work environment the California Legislature can be.
“AB 1 will give non-supervisorial legislative staff a needed and essential voice to build a safe and inclusive workplace. I welcome the legislative staff’s partnership in the years ahead to build a work culture that attracts and retains California’s best to build a noble career in public service.”
AB 1 passed by a 61-5 vote in the Assembly, which followed the State Senate’s approval on a 30-3 vote.
Under AB 1, the Senate Rules Committee, the Assembly Rules Committee or the Joint Legislative Rules Committee (the administrative offices of the Legislature) would establish procedures to implement the collective bargaining process with the employees’ chosen union. Wages and benefits would be negotiated within the budgetary restrictions approved by voters under Proposition 140.
While the state Legislature commonly considers laws affecting public and private employees in California, the Legislature itself remains the only branch of state government that does not allow its employees to have the choice to unionize.
Legislative staff currently serve as at-will employees that are exempt from state civil service laws and denied the right to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. This has led to generations of legislative employees being subject to low and inequitable pay and subject to hostile work environments with no recourse other than being forced to seek employment outside of the Legislature.
AB 1 will become effective on July 1, 2026.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.