The California Senate approved a bill requiring grocery store owners to retain existing employees after a grocery store changes hands, sending the measure to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The union-backed bill passed the upper house 22-14, with two Democrats, senators Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Cathleen Galgiani, D-Manteca, joining Republicans to vote no on Assembly Bill 359. Two other Democrats, Robert Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, did not vote.

Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who supported the measure, said she took a job at as a grocery store clerk while finishing courses for college. She was let go after a larger company acquired the local chain, she said.

“These are the hardworking people that greet us when we run into the store to grab a gallon of milk … AB 359 simply offers them a fighting chance,” Leyva said on the Senate floor.

The legislation by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires new owners to keep employees on for 90 days, after which employment is at-will. But critics said the legislation was unfair to store owners, forcing them to recognize any incumbent union and preventing them from making changes to improve their companies.

“This bill is nothing more than an extension of the arm of government into the inner workings of private companies … it represents government micromanaging …” said state Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.

Proponents pointed to existing local ordinances as evidence the bill will work.

“Whenever we take a new step, there are concerns that…the sky will fall, and civilization as we know it will end,” said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “San Francisco did this in 2006 – since then, the city has created 35,000 new grocery jobs.”