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Crime

Hundreds Call for Boycott of Calavera Restaurant After Alleged Labor Abuse

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Hundreds of restaurant workers and community members are calling for a boycott of Calavera, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Oakland, after several kitchen workers were fired from a job they say was riddled with abuse and wage theft. 

 

Flor Crisostomo, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and four other colleagues have filed a class-action lawsuit against the restaurant’s owners Christopher Pastena and Michael Iglesias for repeatedly violating labor laws.

 

According to the former employees, the employers did not pay minimum wage, failed to compensate the employees for overtime work and did not provide legally required time for breaks and lunch.

 

“When we worked there, they started firing workers by text message or they’d just take them off the schedule without saying anything,” said Crisostomo in an interview with the Post. “Some of us would work for 12 or 14 hours straight with no break, and we didn’t know our rights.”

 

Crisostomo also says the owners used her to appropriate traditional recipes of Oaxacan food—such as tamales and moles—which she knows because she is indigenous to the Mexican region.

 

Flor Crisostomo. Photo courtesy of Brooke Anderson Photography.

Flor Crisostomo. Photo courtesy of Brooke Anderson Photography.

 

For Crisostomo, the experience has led her and several other restaurant workers to call for community action in educating immigrant workers of their labor rights and revealing to customers the conditions that those working in kitchens often face.

 

After being fired from Calavera, the workers formed the Bay Area Restaurant Workers Movement (BARWM) to bring attention to local labor rights.

 

According to a statement released by Calavera’s management to the Post, the restaurant has files contradicting the former workers’ claims that they were not paid minimum wage, given payment for overtime or made breaks mandatory.

 

“We value all of our employees at Calavera and work hard to maintain a healthy and supportive work environment, as is evidenced in the positive support we’ve had from the Calavera staff,” according to the statement.

 

It continues to say that the restaurant’s ownership and management is a multi-cultural group with longtime roots in Oakland.

 

During last week’s First Friday, over 100 people picketed outside Calavera, rallying for the former employees and calling for reparations for the wage theft and abuse they say they faced as immigrant workers and enlightening potential customers of their experiences.

 

“Undocumented workers are the most likely to be exploited due to the fact they have little knowledge of labor laws in the states that they’re employed in,” said Shonda Roberts of the Oakland Livable Wage Assembly.

 

“A lot of our sisters and brothers who are undocumented also don’t speak up against abuse because they’re afraid of retaliation and being fired,” Roberts said.

 

According to BARWM, workers’ legal rights include a 10-minute break after four hours of work, a lunch break after five and a half hours of work, a minimum wage of $12.55 an hour and paid sick days after 90 days of work.

 

“The majority of kitchen workers are people of color, and Oakland earns the fifth highest revenue for restaurants in the country,” said Crisostomo. “We are calling on the Oakland community to help us build a conscious movement for justice.”

 

“I understand the conditions many of my colleagues work under, in fear of being fired if they stand up for their rights,” she said. “But the violation of our rights will continue to happen unless we do something about it.”

 

Bay Area

Pastors of Oakland, Oakland Police Expanding Community Chaplaincy Program

The program is seeking clergy with cultural competency to meet the needs of Oakland citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist – especially in Asian, Latino and African American communities.

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Pastor Phyllis Scott is president of Pastors of Oakland. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Scott. By Post Staff

In preparation for building up the Community Chaplaincy Program with the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Pastors of Oakland (POC) is looking for potential chaplains to serve  citizens in the worst of times.

According to Phyllis Scott, pastor of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries and current president of Pastors of Oakland, OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong is looking for at least 30 men and women to accompany officers to help victims of crime and their families who are in crisis.

The crises can range from homicide to sexual assault, to domestic violence, to car accidents and more.

Community Chaplains must have the ability to serve believers and non-believers alike and “must advocate for healing regardless of faith,” Scott said.

The program is seeking clergy with cultural competency to meet the needs of Oakland citizens who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist – especially in Asian, Latino and African American communities.

Not all Community Chaplains must have a religious affiliation. Professionals like teachers, caregivers and healers who have several years working in community may also serve.

Though Scott feels that some cultural values can be taught in the training, it’s not so easy to teach a language, and so bilingual chaplains will also be in demand.

“We are looking for people who have heart for Oakland,” she said.

Lt. Aaron Smith, who is assisting Chief Armstrong in expanding the program, agrees. Currently, there are 15-25 chaplains on call but “not all are willing to go where emotions are running high,” he said.

Once the details are hammered out, dates will be set for training, Scott said, who was herself certified to do this work in 2009. The training, six weekly sessions, will include instruction by specialists familiar with the emotional states of people who are in shock because of a homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking “without interfering with law enforcement,” Scott said.

Typical needs are help with planning a vigil, getting the body of a victim out of the morgue, finding a church or a place to hold a funeral that isn’t too expensive. Once those issues are dealt with, the family can freely grieve, and then they can begin to heal.

Scott cited an instance where a boy was shot to death, and the family and community, fearing reprisal, were essentially afraid to grieve openly. That’s where the chaplaincy came in, joining forces with OPD so the young man was funeralized safely, Scott said.

OPD and Pastors of Oakland want chaplains who are located in all parts of the city, roughly East Oakland, West Oakland and North Oakland. Once contacted by OPD, a ‘beat’ captain will call on the chaplain or chaplains in that area who have agreed to be available day or night.

Besides the city streets, Scott would like to see Community Chaplains at Highland Hospital, which is where many trauma victims are treated and where further violence against victims can be perpetrated as when gang members try to kill someone who survived an attack.

Scott said she is bracing for an escalation in violence, not just because it’s almost summer, the most dangerous season of the year, but because homicides were already alarmingly high so far this year, despite the pandemic.

Last month, there were four homicides in one week: two 17-year-old boys were shot to death, and the next day two teenaged girls died when a party bus was shot up by more than one assailant as it traveled from the freeway and ended up at 73rd and MacArthur –  just a few blocks from Scott’s home. She wished she could haven there.

For those interested in learning more about the Community Chaplains, please call Pastors of Oakland at 510-688-7437.

 

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Activism

California Pushes Back on Judge’s Decision to Outlaw State’s Ban on Assault Weapons

According to Statista Research Department, California had a total of 22 mass shootings  between 1982 and 2021.

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assault rifle courtesy sctimes

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced last week that the state has appealed a federal court’s decision that declared California’s ban on assault weapons unconstitutional.

Several state officials, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, also shared their disagreement with the court’s ruling during a press conference held at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The state partnered with a number of gun control advocate groups for the event, including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Giffords Law Center.

“We can agree that the decision was disappointing,” said Bonta. “In many ways, the opinion was disturbing and troubling and a big concern, but we cannot be, and we are not, deterred by this,” he said.

Federal Judge Roger Thomas Benitez presided over the decision in Miller v. Bonta. The case was heard at the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

Bonta said his office has appealed the decision, requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit leave the current laws in effect for 30 days.

California’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation under the Roberti–Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA) which bans the use of specific models of firearms classified as assault weapons.

In the pending court case Miller v. Bonta, James Miller, a lawyer who serves as a board member of the San Diego County Gun Owners, advocated for the use of the AR-15 rifle. However, the semiautomatic rifle with certain features is an illegal assault weapon according to California gun laws.

Miller argued that AR-15 rifles can be used for self-defense under the second amendment. Miller, who also serves on the Cajon Valley School Board, initially challenged former Attorney General Xavier Becerra on California’s criminalization of AR-15 rifles in April this year.

The ongoing case, which Bonta inherited, sparked heated debates about gun laws in the wake of increasing gun violence and mass shootings.

Breed recalled her personal experience with gun violence growing up in the Bay Area.

“We’re here at San Francisco General Hospital. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here after a friend that I grew up with was shot,” she said.

Breed was joined by Mattie Scott who lost her son to gun violence. The mayor grew up with Scott’s son who was killed in 1996 at a graduation party in San Francisco.

“We don’t want to see another person, another child lost to gun violence in this city in this state in this country,” said Breed.

“We’ve had a law on the books in the state for over 30 years, and a judge decides that our law is no longer constitutional. That law has saved countless numbers of lives,” she said.

According to Statista Research Department, California had a total of 22 mass shootings  between 1982 and 2021. In the court decision, Benitez compared the effectiveness of an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army Knife. Based on the federal court’s ruling, the semiautomatic machine gun is, “Good for both home and battle,” said Benitez.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” the federal judge said in favor of Miller.

Although the murder of Scott’s son remains unsolved, she is an avid activist for social justice related to gun violence.

“The judge who issued this decision is wrong,” said Scott. “It is insulting to read his decision when he called the kind of weapon that killed my son akin to a pocketknife,” she said.

“Pocket knives don’t tear families apart. They don’t shoot up schools, churches, movie theaters, and street corners,” she said in reference to the recent mass shootings across the country.

Contrary Benitez’s belief that AR-15 rifles can be compared to pocket knives, trauma surgeon Dr. Andre Campbell said that the semiautomatic rifle is a lethal assault weapon designed for the battlefield.

“An AR-15 is a weapon of mass destruction. It is used in the battlefield to kill the enemy. It’s a gun that is used in warfare and should not be available or used in the streets of the United States,” said Campbell.

Campbell has treated many bullet wounds on the frontlines of trauma care for more than two decades and has witnessed the devastation a single bullet can cause to the human body.

“It is as if a bomb went off in the tissues of patients,” said Campbell describing the impact of an AR-15 bullet in patients he’s treated over the years.

Giffords Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas said that the federal judge’s decision to give civilians access to military-grade weapons sets California’s gun laws back by 32 years.

“The decision is not based on the correct interpretation of the law,” said Thomas.  “The comprehensive gun regulation which we have pioneered here in the state is protecting the lives of Californians. It is making us safer,” she said.

In its budget for 2021-22, the state has allocated $200 million for the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program. The investment was set up to prevent gun violence in high-risk communities statewide.

“Folks that wax on about public safety and (then) they sit back passively and say nothing about this outrageous decision. Shame on them. What frauds,” said Newsom.

The governor urged lawmakers to evaluate the absurdity of the court’s decision to justify the personal use of a rifle that is, “nothing more than a weapon of war,” he said.

The governor said that gun control has always been a bipartisan issue that helped California lawmakers enact, “progressive and aggressive,” gun safety laws that regulated the people’s right to bear arms for over three decades.

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Community

Ramachandran is the Only Candidate Who Lives in Oakland in the District 18 Assembly Race 

Oakland makes up 66% of Assembly District 18. Yet all the other major candidates live in Alameda or San Leandro. Our district has not had a representative from Oakland since the 1990s.

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Janani Ramachandran

Note: Janani Ramachandran is a social justice attorney. She has the sole endorsement of organizations rooted in Oakland, including ILWU, Oakland East Bay Democratic Club, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and Oakland Tenants Union. 

Oakland makes up 66% of Assembly District 18. Yet all the other major candidates live in Alameda or San Leandro. Our district has not had a representative from Oakland since the 1990s. Oakland deserves true representation in our Legislature, and here are some reasons why:

Howard Terminal

Look no further than the Howard Terminal to see the power that state legislation can have on local issues. Our most recent District 18 assembly member who lives in Alameda, facilitated the development of Howard Terminal by introducing AB 1191 and AB 734 – ultimately to benefit the billionaire Fisher family and their allies. By contrast, a legislator from Oakland would understand the disastrous consequences of the project for West Oakland residents, such as worsening air quality and stimulating rapid gentrification. 

A legislator from Oakland would also understand that such a project would threaten the job security of 85,000 workers at the Port of Oakland. As the only major candidate in this election publicly opposed to Howard Terminal, I promise to stand firmly by Oakland community groups in vocalizing my opposition to this project, and any others that prioritize billionaire interests over those of our neighbors.

OUSD Takeover

Oakland has been unable to run our own public schools since the deeply problematic state takeover of OUSD in 2003. This takeover, and the actions by the State-appointed administrator  in running up OUSD’s debt, led to the closure of many majority-Black public schools and the proliferation of charter schools (in fact, OUSD has the highest percentage of charter schools out of any school district in the state). 

Oakland deserves a legislator who will prioritize winning immediate return of full local control of our schools to our residents as soon as possible. It takes a genuine understanding of the hardship and trauma that the state takeover inflicted on our City to meaningfully fight for Oakland’s youth at the State Legislature – something that I unequivocally vow to do.

Tenant Protections

Tenants comprise over 60% of our city’s residents. Thanks to decades of local activism, Oakland has one of the strongest rent control ordinances in the state. However, our city’s hands are tied on many state laws that prevent tenants from being meaningfully protected. For example, the state law Costa Hawkins prevents Oakland from being able to expand rent control to units constructed after 1983 and to single-family homes. Having supported tenants facing eviction in Oakland in the course of my legal career – including during the pandemic –  I’m acutely aware of the need for stronger statewide tenant protections to support our city.

 For example, despite Oakland City Council passing a resolution calling upon the State Legislature to repeal the Ellis Act, or at least suspend these evictions during the pandemic, our legislature refused to act. As a tenant advocate who helped launch the coalition that spearheaded Ellis Act legislation, and as a tenant myself (if elected, I would be just 1 of 3 tenants, out of 120 state lawmakers), I would bring a tenants rights framework to our legislature to support the needs of Oakland tenants.

Gun Violence

Last year, nearly as many Black Oaklanders died from a gunfire as did from COVID-19. It isn’t enough to just say we need tougher statewide gun control laws – California already has some of the strongest in the country.

 Oakland deserves a state legislator who understands the root causes of this violence and the state action needed to address it – including more funding for community-based organizations that do meaningful prevention work, economic development and expanded career opportunities for our youth, and more broadly, treating gun violence as a public health crisis – all of which are pillars of my platform.

This special election, vote for the only Oakland candidate on the ballot, a person who will take action based on the needs of our city, and work towards achieving economic, educational, racial, and environmental justice. Learn more at www.jananiforca.com 

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