SAN JOSE, Calif. - Ahead of Labor Day, dozens of elected officials and union workers gathered for a barbecue to celebrate months of labor progress across the state.
It's being called ‘hot labor summer’ – with strikes being led by thousands of workers, from Hollywood writers to nurses and teachers.
With the rising costs in California, workers are fighting for a living wage and benefits such as retirement, affordable healthcare and housing.
"Twenty million (Californians) are one paycheck away from poverty. That is unacceptable. Wages have not kept up with the cost of living," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). "This has really been a summer of solidarity, but also it’s a signal around the country that we are about unionizing California."
Leaders said they're proud of the strides made, but more needs to be done.
"Workers need more to be able to live in the evermore expensive California. And there’s a lot of levers that we can pull at the government level to help address these issues – lifting up workers, giving them more economic power is one, but also building more housing, making housing more affordable," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, chief officer of the California Labor Federation, said unions are more popular than ever right now.
"Ninety percent of young people support unions, support union activity. That is the future of California," she said.
"I’m seeing a lot of LGBTQ people realize that’s my best place to be if I want to be treated properly; if I want to get my healthcare. As a Trans woman, my union is the only reason I got my healthcare and I got to transition," said Lyseria Kursabe.
Kursabe, an electrician, said she was transitioning secretly for months and trying to hide it from her co-workers. She even thought about taking her own life out of fear she wouldn't be accepted. But she said the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers welcomed her with open arms.
Now she wants others to feel that same support.
"When you have a workspace that not only supports you but protects you, you work better," said Kursabe.
Labor leaders want to continue this momentum by securing unemployment benefits for those striking through a bill currently in the state legislature.
"This is like social security, it’s an earned benefit. You pay into it, you deserve it," said Lee.
And they are aiming their next fight at artificial intelligence.
"We’re not settling for robots driving our trucks and cars, we’re asking actual people to do that," said Gonzalez Fletcher.
"This is an ongoing fight. It doesn’t begin or end on Labor Day, but Labor Day is a day to take stock of the successes, plan for the future and recommit to one another and to this movement," said Bonta.