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Environment

Anti-Coal Activists Announce Boycott of Developer Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building

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Oakland youth, clean air activists, workers and labor leaders rallied Wednesday to kick-off a boycott of Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building in response to the developer’s lawsuit against the City of Oakland.

Tagami is suing to overturn the city’s ban on the handling and storing of coal so he can move forward with his controversial plan to ship coal from Utah to Asia through the Oakland Army Base.

The City Council banned the shipment of coal in June 2016. Tagami had originally pledged that coal would not be one of the products that would be transported through the new shipping terminals, but he later changed his position, entering a deal with corporations that own coal mines in Utah.

In response, activists are asking local businesses and organizations to boycott the Rotunda Building – an event space where progressive institutions host events – located at 300 Frank H Ogawa Plaza, near Oakland City Hall.

“This is the third time I’ve come to the Rotunda Building to tell Phil Tagami that Oakland doesn’t want dirty coal,” said Sonia Mendoza, Oakland student. “But he isn’t listening to kids like me. My best friend has asthma and has to use an inhaler.”

“She can’t always go outside and play like I can. If Phil Tagami brings coal to Oakland, more people will get asthma and other health problems. That’s why we’re boycotting – to get Tagami to listen to us,” said Mendoza

“Every dollar spent at the Rotunda Building is a dollar that Phil Tagami can use to try and force toxic coal dust on working class black and brown communities in Oakland” said Alicia Flores, a member of Teamsters 2010 and a member of the Climate Workers organizing committee.

“(This rally) put Tagami on notice that any events booked from this date forward until the day Tagami stands up for Oakland and drops the lawsuit should expect picket lines.”

Hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE also joined the boycott, raising the issue that Tagami’s Rotunda Building uses non-union labor for their events.

“Banquets held at the Rotunda Building are catered by non-union companies,” said Wei-Ling Huber, president of UNITE HERE Local 2850.

“Working in the hospitality industry without a union can mean lower pay for workers, often times unaffordable healthcare, and always a lack of guaranteed contract rights,” said Huber.

“Banquet servers and hospitality workers are joining the call to boycott the Rotunda Building because we need good jobs in our community as well a healthy environment with clean air for our families to breathe.”

Community

Telehealth Increases Access to Care for Medi-Cal Patients – Let’s Keep It OPINION

Telehealth may not make for a good Norman Rockwell painting, but it does make for good medicine. It’s an improvement, a step forward that helps us get healthier and close gaps in care.

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Nearly a century ago, a Norman Rockwell painting titled “Doctor and Doll” was published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a popular American cultural magazine.

It depicted an older gentleman wearing a suit, doctor bag at his feet, pressing a stethoscope to the chest of a little girl’s toy doll. A cluttered desk and worn chair sit atop a forgettable rug. It’s an old image of health care in America. A country doctor caring for his neighbors via a “house call.”

Of course, we know it was not that simple. Healthcare was rudimentary compared to today’s standards – that is if you had access to care at all. Average life expectancy reflected that. If you were born white in 1929 you would be lucky to reach your 60s. If you were Black, you weren’t likely to reach your 50s.

While things are far from perfect, at least they have improved. Healthy lifestyles and modern medicine have made living into your 80s commonplace. Significant racial disparities remain, but the gap is closing. And the number of people with health coverage has never been higher.  But while Medi-Cal (the state sponsored coverage for people who have low-incomes) now covers nearly 14 million people, many still lack appropriate access to care.

Access to care is a complex issue, but sometimes it’s as simple as geography. Taking an hours-long bus ride across town to visit the doctor isn’t practical for most people. Add lost wages, a lack of childcare, and the fact that you don’t feel good, and it’s downright impossible.

Solutions available in employer-based health insurance for years, like virtual care through an app or over the telephone, haven’t been an option for people on Medi-Cal.

Until the pandemic.

When the federal and state governments declared emergency last Spring, federally qualified health centers like WellSpace Health were able to provide care virtually via telephone and video, a practice that had been prohibited previously.

Virtual care is wildly successful. Over the past two weeks, 5,015 patients accessed care remotely rather than visiting our health centers. Half of primary care visits and 85% of behavioral health visits were virtual. According to a statewide survey of community health centers, which serve 1 in 5 Californians, there has been a 75% decrease in no-show rates since the implementation of telehealth. A study conducted by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network reported a significant number of patients from communities of color engaging in telehealth and having a high level of patient satisfaction.

As an internal medicine doctor and the chief medical officer WellSpace Health, it makes sense. Technology has given us the ability to conduct a modern day “house call.” We can go to the patient and break down significant barriers to care. If the patient requires a hands-on assessment or treatment, we can take that step. But frequently, especially in behavioral health, hands-on care is not necessary.

Our ability to provide virtual care under the emergency order will expire soon. Permanent authorization will require action by the Legislature and the governor through the budget process. Assembly Bill (AB) 32 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D- Winters) provides the template for action.

In this budget cycle, the governor must take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address inequality in our health care delivery system. By adopting the provisions of AB 32 into the FY21-22 final budget, it will guarantee that all Medi-Cal beneficiaries – regardless of where they seek care – can use all telehealth modalities, including telephonic care, indefinitely.

Telehealth may not make for a good Norman Rockwell painting, but it does make for good medicine. It’s an improvement, a step forward that helps us get healthier and close gaps in care.

It even brings back the house call.

Dr. Janine Bera is the chief medical officer for WellSpace Health and chair of the California Primary Care Association Telehealth Clinical Task Force.

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Economics

State Could Create 1 Million New Jobs in Transition to Clean Economy

As California transitions to a greener economy, new jobs can be created while other jobs will be lost.

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Headshot of Robert Pollin

As California’s economy reopens, numerous labor union representatives at a news conference on June 10 demanded a safe and equitable transition to the green economy for workers.

Union members made their demands virtually at the conference, also sharing their thoughts on a new related report on California jobs by researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The research, led by economics professor Robert Pollin, says California can create 1 million new jobs a year through 2030 by investing in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy,  manufacturing/infrastructure, and land restoration/agriculture.

“Our study shows how to get there,” Pollin said.

As California transitions to a greener economy, new jobs can be created while other jobs will be lost.

The report says $76 billion is needed to create 416,000 jobs in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy while $62 billion is needed to create 626,000 jobs in manufacturing/infrastructure and land restoration/agriculture.

Pollin said about 112,000 workers are employed in California’s fossil fuel and bioenergy industries and about 58,000 are expected to lose their jobs by 2030 as those two industries contract and coal use ends.

The damage may be most severe in Kern, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles counties, where 50% of all fossil fuel job losses will occur when the state’s fossil fuel industry contracts, according to the study.

But about 350,000 a year can be created with the investments that Pollin’s team suggests.

About 320,000 of those will be created in Los Angeles County.

Some of the money from the $138 billion to be invested would go toward helping those out of work train and relocate, if needed, to new jobs, according to the report.

About half or $70 billion of the total investment would come from public coffers while the other half would come from private investors.

If President Joseph Biden gets the American Jobs Plan passed, it could provide $40 billion a year for clean energy and infrastructure investments in California, covering about 60% of the $70 billion that may need to come from public funding.

“The Congressional THRIVE Agenda would provide about $100 billion per year for the clean energy, infrastructure/manufacturing and land restoration/agriculture programs we describe,” the researchers said.
Also, the state can borrow to supplement federal funding.

Union members who spoke at the news conference were excited about the prospect for 1 million new jobs, but they want them to be good-paying, union jobs.

Some union members were sober about the prospect of the fossil fuel industry coming to an end.
Norman Rogers, vice president of the United Steelworkers Local 675 said working at a refinery it’s hard not to see the writing on the wall with cars like the Prius and Teslas on the road.

“Now is the time for an equitable transition,” he said.

He wants to make sure workers nearing retirement, those at the mid-career level and newcomers are taken care of.

Dave Campbell, secretary-treasurer for Local 675, said they are prepared to take Pollin’s work to Gov. Gavin Newsom to discuss “securing the funding for this disaster relief and recovery package for fossil fuel workers, in this budget cycle.”

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Community

Alameda County Advances to State’s Yellow Tier, More Activities Allowed

To learn more about the updates, visit https://covid-19.acgov.org/beyond-the-blueprint. The livestream for both Community Updates will be available on YouTube and recordings will be available after the events.

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Alameda County announced that the county will advance to the Yellow Tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening framework effective Wednesday, June 9. In the Yellow Tier, indoor dining is allowed at 50% capacity; most retail store capacity increases to 100%; and gyms, fitness centers and yoga studios may operate indoors at 50% capacity with modifications; and movie theaters’ capacity increases to 50%. Bars, where no meals are served, may open indoors at 25% capacity. For the full roster of activities, visit https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/ and enter Alameda in the search field.

The following activities remain restricted in the Yellow Tier and are not allowed by the State to operate:

  • Festivals
  • Nightclubs

 Businesses may want to use this week to plan for the broad reopening that the State will allow starting June 15. Wednesday through June 14, businesses and activities permitted to open or expand under the State’s Yellow Tier must continue to comply with the State’s Industry Guidance for that tierhttps://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/. Additional workplace resources can be found at https://covid-19.acgov.org/recovery  and https://www.oaklandca.gov/resources/coronavirus-2019-covid-19-business-and-worker-resources

All workplaces governed by Cal/OSHA must follow their current standards and the updated standards starting June 15, including masking requirements for employees.

 To help residents and employers understand changing COVID-19 guidance and what moving Beyond the Blueprint means for them, employees, and clients and customers, Alameda County is hosting two Community Updates:

  • For Residents
    June 15, from 6-7:30 pm
  • For Employers
    June 21, from 6-7:30 pm
    This Community Update will include an overview of Cal/OSHA’s updated standardsso the appropriate steps can be taken to ensure a safe work environment after June 15.

To learn more about the updates, visit https://covid-19.acgov.org/beyond-the-blueprint. The livestream for both Community Updates will be available on YouTube and recordings will be available after the events.

Alameda County continues to encourage anyone 12 and older to get vaccinated. The decline in cases and mortality shows that the best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination. All currently available vaccines are safe, effective, free, and widely available. When you are ready, get vaccinated. If you missed your second dose, you should still complete your vaccination series. Visit https://covid-19.acgov.org/vaccines.page?#availability to learn where you can find a vaccination clinic near you.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, get tested and then stay home. Wash your hands regularly.

Keep six feet of distance when you are in public or don’t know the vaccination status of those around you.

Alameda County remains aligned with the State’s face-masking mandate. Everyone should wear a mask in indoor public settings, even if fully vaccinated, until State masking guidance changes. If you are fully vaccinated, wear a mask in outdoor crowded settings. If you are unvaccinated continue to wear a mask outdoors any time physical distancing can’t be maintained. Keep it simple: if you don’t know the vaccination status of those around you, wear a mask.

With Alameda County’s movement to the Yellow Tier, the City of Oakland’s Emergency Grocery Worker Hazard Pay sunsets.

In the coming days, the City of Oakland will distribute more information on its planned, phased reopening.

Karen Boyd is the citywide communications director for the City of Oakland.

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