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Californians Will Vote on “End Slavery in California Act” on November Ballot 

The California Senate voted 33-3 to approve Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 (ACA 8), a proposition that would end involuntary servitude in state prisons.  The state senate approved the ballot measure June 27, two years after a similar measure was rejected. ACA 8 would mostly impact all prisons in the state that currently use slave labor and indentured servitude as a punishment for crime.

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Asm. Lori Wilson (Suisun City), Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. The Senate advanced ACA 8, a bill authored by Wilson, with a 33-3 vote on June 27. The bill would remove language regarding involuntary servitude from the California Constitution. It will be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Lori Wilson (Suisun City), Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. The Senate advanced ACA 8, a bill authored by Wilson, with a 33-3 vote on June 27. The bill would remove language regarding involuntary servitude from the California Constitution. It will be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Bo Tefu, California Black Media  

The California Senate voted 33-3 to approve Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 (ACA 8), a proposition that would end involuntary servitude in state prisons.

The state senate approved the ballot measure June 27, two years after a similar measure was rejected. ACA 8 would mostly impact all prisons in the state that currently use slave labor and indentured servitude as a punishment for crime.

The same day, the bill’s author and California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) Chair Lori Wilson made amendments to the legislation before the Senate voted 68-0, clearing the measure to appear as a ballot proposition for voters to decide in the November elections.

ACA 8 is part of a 14-bill package sponsored by the CLBC to implement policy recommendations from the state-funded reparations task force.

“It is a testament to our collective resolve to correct historical wrongs and ensure that every individual in California is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Wilson.

“Now, as we look ahead to the November 2024 ballot, let us continue to work with the same spirit of determination and unity that has brought us to this moment,” she said.

A section of California’s Constitution state, “slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited.” However, state law makes an exception for incarcerated individuals.

Inmates can earn as much as 48 cents per hour for working as technicians. Inmates working as firefighters earn approximately $5.80 per day to contain fires statewide.

Lawrence Cox, a former inmate and policy fellow with nonprofit Legal Services for Prisoners with Children said forced labor prevents inmates from focusing on rehabilitation. He shared in front of the senate committee that California designates approximately 65,000 work assignments to inmates, including high risk job tasks.

Cox was incarcerated for 17 years and shared that he was often forced to work and had no right to refuse dangerous work assignments.

“I have been forced to work jobs and had jobs where I couldn’t get out,” said Cox. “When I wanted to take my on-site college courses to complete my degree, forced labor was prioritized over my rehabilitation.”

Depending on the outcome of the vote, the anti-slavery measure requires the state to pay inmates minimum wage $16 per hour for their job assignments. The California Department of Finance estimated that it would cost the state $1.5 billion to pay inmates at minimum wage.

If approved, California will join Alabama, Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont in outlawing indentured servitude.

Jamilia Land, a Sacramento-based advocate who contributed to drafting ACA 8 and serves as Coordinator of the End Slavery in California Act Coalition, called the passage of ACA 8 “exciting news.”

Encouraging all Californians to support the measure, Land said, “In November, voters will have the opportunity to support the End Slavery in California Act directly at the ballot box. Stay informed and help spread awareness on ways to contribute to ending slavery in California. Visit our website at www.abolishslavery.us to join the effort.”

ACA 8 was passed without requiring the approval of Gov. Gavin Newsom. The amendment qualified for the November ballot on June 28, the last day to finalize propositions for the November ballot.

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California Black Media

Gov. Newsom Announces He Backs a Ban on Cellphones in Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday. The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

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Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

By California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday.

The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

Proposed regulations include warning labels on harmful content that may hurt minors active on social media. The Governor stated that he plans to sign a law that authorizes school districts to limit or ban the use of smartphones by students or require the supervision of a school employee.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth. Building on legislation I signed in 2019, I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” said Newsom.

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens,” he said.

In 2022, Newsom authored a letter urging companies in the tech industry to drop a lawsuit against the children’s online safety law he signed that same year. Newsom aims to take online safety laws a step further allowing school districts to ban or limit the use of smartphones to help protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

The California School Boards Association argues that any rules on the use of smartphones should be regulated by school districts as opposed to the state.

Troy Flint, the school board association’s spokesperson, said that school districts should make the final decision on regulations over smartphones.

“We support legislation which empowers school leaders to make policy decisions at a local level that reflect their community’s concerns and what’s necessary to support their students,” said Flint.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) supports Gov. Newsom’s plan to ban smartphones during school hours, stating that smartphones and devices distract students from learning and facilitate cyberbullying.

On June 18, LAUSD voted to ban the use of cellphones during the school day.

In a similar light, Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) proposed SB 1283 earlier this year. If passed, the legislation will give school districts more authority to limit the use of social media at school. SB 1283 is currently under review in the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s just too hard for every teacher, every school, or every parent to have to figure this out on their own,” said Stern. “There are sometimes when government just has to step in and make some bigger rules of the road.”

A similar bill, AB 3216, introduced by Assemblymembers Josh Hoover (R-Folsom), Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), is being considered by the Senate Education Committee.

The bills would take effect in January if passed by the Legislature and is approved by the Board of Education in school districts that support the cellphone ban.

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Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

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Opinion: California Needs to Do More to Boost Employment for Black Americans

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents. Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

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Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.
Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.

By Taylor Jackson
Special to California Black Media Partners
 

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents.

Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

The bill – authored by longtime worker rights and racial equity advocate Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) – would establish local “disadvantaged worker” demographics across California and require state-funded contractors to prioritize hiring these workers, who are primarily from underserved communities of color.

One Black construction worker who has benefited from an equitable hiring program is Patricia Allen. In 2014, Allen was an unemployed single mother living in the Crenshaw area who was hired to work on LA Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX rail line as part of their Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that prioritized the hiring of local disadvantaged individuals.

“It really felt good to see other faces like mine on the project,” said Allen, who now works as a safety supervisor for a construction company after earning her safety training certificate.

SB 1340 would also require state-funded contractors to regularly track and report disadvantaged workers hired on their projects to hold them accountable to meeting equitable hiring goals established by the state.

The Biden Administration has intended for states to utilize these federal grant dollars to boost equitable hiring programs and other community benefits. To remain competitive in securing future federal funding, California must demonstrate that it is successfully executing equitable hiring programs. Tracking and reporting are the most effective ways to ensure that California is keeping receipts on workers hired on development projects and ensuring that the communities they come from have benefited.

California awarded one of its first contracts from these federal dollars to a Texas-based company. Without SB 1340, Black community members are concerned about the implications: firms like this out-of-state contractor are not currently required to hire local workers from vulnerable communities, including Black men and women.

As critical as SB 1340 is in helping to solve the state’s Black job crisis, the bill has fallen on deaf ears in the Governor’s Office. SB 1340 is yet to be funded, despite being passed by the State Senate and Assembly Labor Committee as well as strongly recommended by a sizable coalition of statewide community partners. While Gov. Newsom makes promises to support legislation that aim to make a more equitable California, Black workers need him to act now on those promises. 

Although California is facing budget constraints, SB 1340 will be a low-cost bill to implement. It’s a small investment that will pay big dividends given that it will create jobs that would take thousands of people out of poverty, ultimately saving the state money with their tax-paying jobs reinvested back into the state.

Because of California’s long history of institutionalized racist policies, Black communities were excluded from building the state’s infrastructure during the 20th century. SB 1340 would give Black workers an opportunity to play an important role as California transitions into a new green economy.

“This bill is not just about building roads and bridges. It’s about building communities where all people can have environmental and economic justice,” said Dawn Modkins, director of the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

To voice your support for SB 1340, please call or email your state legislator’s office or call the Office of the Governor at (916) 445-2841.

About the Author 

Taylor Jackson is the regional organizer at the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

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