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California Writers, Photogs Sue State Over New Law That Chokes Freelance Journalism

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When he’s not studying, Aldon Thomas Stiles, 25, a senior at Cal State Bernardino, writes freelance articles to help pay his way through college and assist his parents with the bills at home in Fontana.

The Fontana Herald, Screen Rant, Westside Story News and several African-American newspapers around the state have published Stiles’ articles in the past.

“Freelancing is an incredibly convenient work opportunity,” says Stiles, who is African American. “It has helped me hone my skills as a journalist at my own pace and work on stories I’m passionate about, all from home.”

Stiles says the money he makes freelancing helps him keep a roof over his head while in school and that his schedule would have prevented him from working as a full-time writer while he pursued his degree in Criminal Justice.

Now, AB 5, a new California law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, threatens the livelihood of  California freelance journalists like Stiles, critics argue, calling the legislation “unconstitutional.”

The legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in September and takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, limits the number of freelance articles journalists in California like Stiles can write for any one publication to 35 per year.

For budding writers like Stiles who can get paid, on average, about $100 per article, that adds up to only about $3,500 a year.

Last week, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc., (ASJA), a national professional organization that represents independent non-fiction authors, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of California to prevent AB 5 from impacting its members.

“We have no choice but to go to court to protect the rights of independent writers and freelance journalists as a whole,” said Milton C. Toby, president of ASJA. “The stakes are too high, and we cannot stand by as our members and our colleagues face ill-conceived and potentially career-ending legislation.”

“This law as written, even if it has good intentions, sadly, is an affront to first amendment constitutional protections,” says Regina Wilson, Executive Editor of California Black Media. “It’s unfair and inconsistent, too. How can you allow freelancers who write marketing copy and press releases to work unrestricted while taking food off the table of freelance journalists who are writers and photographers? Their words and images contribute to our national historical record and they provide critical information to the public.”

“It will no doubt hurt the bottom lines of small ethnic-owned media businesses in the State. They already lag behind their mainstream counterparts,” Wilson added. “We have to do something about this.”

Supporters of AB 5, introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), praise the  legislation for closing loopholes, they say, employers use to underpay workers and deny them benefits like health insurance, minimum wage, paid parental leave, etc., that state law requires for full-time employees.

“Big businesses shouldn’t be able to pass their costs on to taxpayers while depriving workers of the labor law protections they are rightfully entitled to,” said Gonzalez in May when the Assembly voted 59-15 to pass AB 5.

“Freelance journalism is a whole different ballgame and this law ignoring that is a travesty,” said Antonio Ray Harvey, a Sacramento-based African-American writer.  “It’s not like there are a lot of journalism jobs out there nowadays,” said Harvey. “We have to maintain our careers and pay our bills.”

Bay Area

Grassroots Group Unites to Help Community Breathe During Wildfire Season

The attendance at each build event has, accordingly, increased each week (there were over 60 volunteers at the previous event) with over 800 high-quality purifiers assembled so far. 

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CHC Air Purifier Build

Wildfire season is hitting California hard this year. Fires fueled by climate change are burning across the state in record sizes and numbers, devastating communities and turning the skies red with smoke.

During these times, it is easy to feel helpless, especially when the underlying causes of these crises are so monumental. What can ordinary people possibly do to address each other’s health and survival?

The Common Humanity Collective (CHC) might have the beginnings of an answer. CHC came together at the beginning of the pandemic as a small group of friends, neighbors, and UC Berkeley graduate students to create alternative ways to produce and distribute hand sanitizer and high-filtration face masks in the Bay Area when these basic resources had disappeared from store shelves.

CHC’s momentum grew as more people joined the effort—expanding to over 300 volunteers, who coalesced into decentralized groupings across the Bay—to build PPE and slow the spread of COVID-19. So far, the collective has distributed over 60,000 DIY face masks and over 7,000 gallons of sanitizer, all for free.

Now, recognizing the harmful effects of smoke and air pollutants during the wildfire crisis, the collective is building high-quality DIY air purifiers so individuals and families can filter the poisonous air that billows into their homes.

Every other Saturday since the first signs of smoke, community members, students, teachers, organizers, tenants, and workers of the East Bay have come together to build these air purifiers and get them out to the most affected parts of their communities.

Over 130 people from over 10 different Bay Area organizations have participated in these builds. The efforts have grown to include members of the tenant group, Tenant and Neighborhood Councils; East Bay and SF chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America; the Sunrise Movement; Mask Oakland; other mutual aid groups, as well as friends, families, and loved ones.

These DIY purifiers are comparable to significantly more expensive ($100+) commercial purifiers and can filter a room full of smoke and particulates down to healthy levels within a similar period of time as commercial products.

CHC distributes purifiers to the most polluted and least-resourced communities in Oakland and Berkeley, occasionally in partnership with organizations such as East Oakland Collective and Tenant and Neighborhood Councils. The group also makes a determined effort to recruit the recipients of the purifiers to participate in future builds and personally distribute purifiers they assemble to their neighbors and friends.

Traditional nonprofits that act as a stopgap measure against government austerity often have a deactivating and demobilizing effect on the beneficiaries of their goodwill. This can perpetuate a vicious cycle of alienation and reliance among working people.

In contrast, by urging such people to assume ownership of the processes of production and distribution of these essential tools, the work of mutual aid aims to increase their autonomy, their solidarity, and their participation in decisions that affect their survival.

The attendance at each build event has, accordingly, increased each week (there were over 60 volunteers at the previous event) with over 800 high-quality purifiers assembled so far.

So, what can we do? We may not be able to flip a switch to eradicate the pandemic or the wildfires, but we can build tools to help each other breathe through these crises. We don’t have to feel helpless alone: we can grow stronger together.

     Air purifier builds occur every other Saturday through the wildfire season. Come build air purifiers with us and take one home with you, sign up here at tinyurl.com/chcpurifierbuild. 5515 We are located at 5515 Doyle St, Emeryville, CA 94608 in the parking lot across from the Doyle Street Café. Follow CHC on Instagram/Twitter at @chumanityc and contact us with any questions or ideas you have. 

 

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Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Celebrates Local Entrepreneurs, Vows to Continue Fighting for Recovery during National Small Business Week

In addition, Congresswoman Lee is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3807, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which will provide an additional $60 billion to support restaurants and other food and beverage businesses.

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small business open sign photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement on September 23 celebrating East Bay entrepreneurs during National Small Business Week, and vowing to continue fighting for resources to help local businesses to recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis.

“During this year’s Small Business Week, we celebrate the local business owners, entrepreneurs, and workers who drive our economy and give the East Bay so much of its diverse, resilient, and unique character,” Lee said. “Our small businesses have struggled to survive during the pandemic, and many have closed their doors permanently. Our work to get help for small businesses through the American Rescue Plan and other measures resulted in major investment in this community and allowed many businesses to weather the storm. But the pandemic is not over yet, and we still have more work to do in this recovery.”

East Bay small businesses have received significant help from funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the $1.7 trillion recovery bill passed by Congressional Democrats and signed by President Biden in March. The bill included a Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Shuttered Venue Operating Grants administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

A total of 668 East Bay restaurants, other food and beverage businesses, and venues received close to $300 million through these two programs. A city-by-city breakdown showing the number of businesses helped and the amounts of money awarded is below. More information about the individual businesses that received assistance can be found here.

Lee and House Democrats are now working to pass President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which includes a “generational” investment in American small businesses. The bill will help small businesses get through the ongoing pandemic and thrive by increasing access to capital, funding entrepreneurial development programs, supporting underserved businesses, and driving innovation.

In addition, Congresswoman Lee is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3807, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which will provide an additional $60 billion to support restaurants and other food and beverage businesses.

For more information about help available to small businesses, please see this comprehensive guide to SBA resources.

Recovery Funds Awarded to Small Businesses in California’s 13th Congressional District

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Total Awardees: 590

Total Amount: $212,676,228.49

By City:

  • Oakland

Total awardees: 297

Total amount: $99,965,410.64

  • San Leandro

Total awardees: 44

Total amount: $12,909,939.13

  • Berkeley

Total awardees: 146

Total amount: $63,817,616.60

  • Alameda

Total awardees: 61

Total amount: $20,031,428.71

  • Albany

Total awardees: 12

Total amount: $2,686,934.95

  • Emeryville

Total awardees: 29

Total amount: $13,163,744.46

  • Piedmont

Total awardees: 1

Total amount: $101,154

Shuttered Venues Operating Grants (As of September 13, 2021)

Total Awardees: 78

Total Amount: $87,142,607

By City:

  • Oakland

Total awardees: 36

Total amount: $19,917,509

  • San Leandro

Total awardees: 3

Total amount: $234,970

  • Berkeley

Total awardees: 29

Total amount: $59,197,077

  • Alameda

Total awardees: 7

Total amount: $5,098,536

  • Albany

Total awardees: 1

Total amount: $311,674

  • Emeryville

Total awardees: 2

Total amount: $2,382,841

  • Piedmont: None

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Rosie the Riveter Trust to Celebrate History, ‘We Can Do It!’ Spirit

Tribute to storyteller and park ranger Betty Reid Soskin marking her 100th birthday

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Betty Reid Soskin/Wikimedia Commons

The Rosie the Riveter Trust is celebrating the history of the World War II home front at a September 26 gala, Making History Together. The fundraiser will highlight programs supported by the trust in collaboration with Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park: Every Kid Outdoors, Rosie’s Service Corps, and a documentary about the park’s Rosie Ambassadors, currently in production.

“We have a gem of a national park located right here in Richmond, California, where visitors can come learn about the home front and hear stories told in first person. This includes women and men who worked in the Kaiser shipyards, as well as those who spent years in the internment camps during the war,” said Sarah Pritchard, executive director of Rosie the Riveter Trust. “The history of the home front and societal changes that transpired during World War II are important lessons to preserve and share.”

The gala will also include a special tribute to Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 in September. Soskin helped establish the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, later joining the National Park Service and becoming the oldest ranger in the national park system at 85. 

Soskin’s programs at the park’s visitor center have captivated audiences since the center opened in May 2012. During her presentations, she shares her own experiences as a young woman of color during a time when segregation and discrimination were common, adding dimension to the stories of the home front too often left out of the history books. “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering,” says Soskin in her 2019 film, “No Time to Waste.”

The gala will be held at the historic Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour Way South (next to the park’s visitor center on the Richmond waterfront). The Craneway, which boasts a fabulous view of San Francisco, is the former Ford Assembly Plant where some 49,000 tanks and jeeps were assembled during the home front era. 

While individual tickets to the in-person event sold out on August 1, tickets to view the live-streamed event are still available. The event begins at 5:00 p.m., followed by a tribute to Soskin, highlights of the trust’s programs, a live auction, a Zoom afterparty, and entertainment.

Major event sponsors include the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Kaiser Permanente, The Marguerite Fund, Chevron Richmond Refinery, Accenture, Bank of Labor, California State Pipe Trades Council, Microsoft Corp., The Honorable Barry Goode, Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW Local 302, IBEW Local Union 595, and Marathon Petroleum. Event sponsorships are available beginning at $1,000.

Rosie the Riveter Trust is the official partner of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, founded in 2000 in Richmond, California. The Park chronicles the explosive growth of wartime industry, the innovations fostered by visionaries like Henry J. Kaiser, and the extraordinary history of people who were challenged as never before and came together to overcome wartime odds with the “We Can Do It!” spirit.

Event proceeds support expansion of educational programs for all ages and preservation of historical resources for the Bay Area and the nation.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the trust’s web site at www.rosietheriveter.org. For sponsorships, contact Executive Director Sarah Pritchard, at 510-507-2276, or by email at sarah@rosietheriveter.org.

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