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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.”

 

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Activism

California Senate Gets Second Chance to Pass Prison Slavery Bill This Week

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

On June 23, the California Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to remove language in the state Constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment to a crime with a 21-6 vote.

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude with one exception: if involuntary servitude was imposed as punishment for a crime.

The state of California is one of nine states in the country that permits involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the same prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.

The number of votes cast in favor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act, fell short of the two-thirds vote requirement needed to move the bill to the ballot for Californians to decide its fate in the November General Election.

The Senate is expected to hold another floor vote on the legislation this week.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, said she focused the language in the bill on the slavery ban and vowed to bring it back for a vote when Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, asked her about it June 23.

“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted.

Jamilia Land, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said she remains committed to making sure slavery is struck out of the California constitution.

“All we needed was 26 votes,” Land said. “But we have made amendments to ACA 3 on (June 24). Now it could either go back to the Senate on (June 27) or Thursday, June 30.”

Five Republicans and one Democrat, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), voted against the amendment.

He stated that the issue is “certainly a question worthy of debate” and “can be addressed without a constitutional amendment.”

“Slavery was an evil that will forever be a stain on the history of our great country. We eliminated it through the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment,” Glazer said in a June 23 statement. “Involuntary servitude — though lesser known — also had a shameful past. ACA 3 is not even about involuntary servitude — at least of the kind that was practiced 150 years ago. The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.”

Glazer said that the Legislative Counsel’s office gave him a “simple amendment” that involuntary servitude would “not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person,” including education, vocational training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling.

The Counsel also suggested that the amendment does not include any work tasks required of an incarcerated person that “generally benefit the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds keeping, and laundry.”

“Let’s adopt that amendment and then get back to work on the difficult challenge of making sure our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many felons as possible,” Glazer added.

Kamlager says “involuntary servitude is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be stricken from the constitution.

The state’s Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told Senate the Appropriations Committee on June 16.

“These are facts that we think would ultimately determine the outcome of future litigation and court decisions,” Edwards said. “The largest potential impact is to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which currently employs around 65,000 incarcerated persons to support central prison operations such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.”

Right before the Juneteenth holiday weekend, the appropriations committee sent ACA 3 to the Senate floor with a 5-0 majority vote after Kamlager refuted Edwards’ financial data.

This country has been having “economic discussions for hundreds of years around slavery, involuntary servitude, and indentured servants” and enslavement still exists in the prison system, Kamlager said. She also added that a conflict was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

“This bill does not talk about economics. It’s a constitutional amendment,” Kamlager said. “The (DOF) is not talking about any of this in this grotesque analysis about why it makes more sense for the state of California to advocate for and allow involuntary servitude in prisons. I think (this conversation) is what led to the Civil War.”

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

ACA 3 is already attached to a report that addresses the harms of slavery. The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued its interim report to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report included a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3. It examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Will Cassidy Hutchinson Shame Republicans to Tell the Truth?

The hearings are intended to help us understand what really happened when a mob nearly prevented a presidential election from being certified. But we can’t get to that until someone has the courage to tell the truth.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He has a webshow on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

We got our fireworks early this week at the Jan. 6 Select Committee Hearings in Congress.

And boy, did we need them.

The hearings are intended to help us understand what really happened when a mob nearly prevented a presidential election from being certified. But we can’t get to that until someone has the courage to tell the truth.

And it needed to be someone on the MAGA inside, like Cassidy Hutchinson, 25, a white female conservative Republican.

You want to know what it was like on the day of Jan. 6 from within the White House? Hutchinson was in the West Wing, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

And so, Hutchinson did what even her old boss has failed to do — cooperate with the committee.

At the hastily set up hearing this week, under oath, garbed in a white blazer, she was like a symbol of light.

She had the courage to break the Trump code and speak out.

We learned that the morning of the big rally on Jan. 6, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Hutchinson to “make sure we don’t go to the Capitol.”

The consequences? Hutchinson said Cipollone told her that “we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

Hutchinson testified it wasn’t the first time Cipollone mentioned that going back to the Capitol would look like they were obstructing the Electoral College count or generally inciting a riot.

But as the day of Jan. 6 evolved, Hutchinson said that Trump knew the crowd was violent and armed, and that once the rally attendees made it to the Capitol, Trump wanted to be there. Perhaps to admire his handiwork?

Hutchinson testified about an incident after the rally in the presidential limo, “the Beast,” when Trump was told by Secret Service chief Bobby Engel that they were going back to the White House and not the Capitol.

“I’m the f—ing president,” Trump said according to Hutchinson’s testimony. Then Trump tried to grab the wheel and physically threatened Engel.

Is any of this activity criminal? Let the Justice Department decide. Our lower bar as Americans is to ask if this unhinged man is a person who should have ever been president.

Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman

Before this week, two Black women emerged as the stars of the Jan. 6 Select Committee Hearings: former Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who was falsely accused by no less than Donald Trump himself of being a “vote scammer.”

More than legalistic mumbo jumbo, the hearings have detailed the real victims of Trump’s lies. It’s regular people like you and me.

Moss and Freeman were called out by Trump and Rudy Giuliani in the former president’s manic drive to change the results of an election that he wrongly believed was stolen from him.

But as Moss and Freeman testified on June 21, their lives were turned upside down by Trump’s nonsense.

Moss had been an election worker for 10 years, happy to connect people with democracy. But once the false accusations were made, everything changed.

She told the committee she gained 60 pounds.

“I just don’t do nothing anymore,” she said, in tears. “I second guess everything that I do. It’s affected my life in a major way — in every way. All because of lies.”

Trump’s “Big Lie” destroyed a sense of self-worth for many in our democracy. People like Moss and her mother, known as Lady Ruby.

But we all knew that testimony alone isn’t enough to make all Americans understand just how wrong Trump and his cohorts were on Jan. 6.

We need people on the inside like Trump attorney Pat Cipollone and others who have either plead ‘the fifth,’ or totally ignored the committee, to have the courage to break the Trump code and tell the truth.

That also includes all Republicans who continue to support and see Trump as anything but the man who lost and lied.

For the sake of our democracy, they all need to have the courage of Cassidy Hutchinson.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He has a webshow on www.amok.com

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Business

Groups Unite to Oppose Landmark California Mental Health Legislation

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

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The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.
The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Senate Bill (SB) 1338, also known as the CARE Court Program, is attracting growing resistance as it makes its way through the legislative process. Some legal advocacy and civil rights groups say the law would negatively African Americans and other minorities.

The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

Focused on the state’s unhoused population, SB 1338, would mandate treatment for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. About 40% of homeless adults and children in California are Black, a number nearly seven times higher than the total percentage of Blacks (5.6%) in a state with about 40 million people.

Opponents of the legislation say SB 1338 dangerously expands judicial power and empowers the criminal justice system to commit people to mental health treatment that is sub-par – and often against their will. There is also the potential for misdiagnosis, they warn.

“CARE Court promotes a system of involuntary, coerced treatment, enforced by an expanded judicial infrastructure, that will, in practice, simply remove unhoused people with perceived mental health conditions from the public eye without effectively addressing those mental health conditions and without meeting the urgent need for housing,” read the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) opposition letter.

“We urge you to reject this bill and instead to take a more holistic, rights-respecting approach to address the lack of resources for autonomy-affirming treatment options and affordable housing,” the letter said.

SB 1338 unanimously passed in three Senate committees before the full State Senate approved it in May.

The legislation is currently making its way through the Assembly, where the Committee on Judiciary is reviewing it.

“Given the racial demographics of California’s homeless population, and the historic over-diagnosing of Black and Latino people with schizophrenia, this plan is likely to place many, disproportionately Black and Brown, people under state control,” HRW’s letter continued.

Some members of the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations share HRW’s opinion, claiming that the program would “disproportionately affect people of color by imposing another unnecessary court process on an already overloaded and biased system.”

SB 1338 does, however, have support from various California-based organizations.

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

Jennifer Barrera, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, expressed her support for the bill.

“The California Chamber of Commerce and our colleagues from throughout the state are pleased to support Governor Newsom and his vision to provide support for those suffering from severe mental illness and substance use disorders through the newly proposed CARE Court plan,” she explained.

Barrera says that CARE Court is a thoughtful, measured response to the tragedy of untreated mental illness impacting thousands of individuals. California employers have a clear stake in seeing the success of CARE Court as many business owners and their employees experience, first-hand, the impacts of inadequate policies that fail to address the needs of those individuals suffering on our streets and in our communities.

Disability Rights California (DRC) is also voicing its opposition to SB 1338.

“CARE Court is antithetical to recovery principles, which are based on self-determination and self-direction,” read the DRC’s opposition letter. “The CARE Court proposal is based on the stigma and stereotypes of people living with mental health disabilities and experiencing homelessness.”

DRC proposes an alternative solution to the problems CARE Court is attempting to address.

“The right framework allows people with disabilities to retain autonomy over their own lives by providing them with meaningful and reliable access to affordable, accessible, integrated housing combined with voluntary service,” read the letter.

The HRW expressed concern about how the program might impact personal rights.

“In fact, the bill creates a new pathway for government officials and family members to place people under state control and take away their autonomy and liberty,” HRW warns.

About a month before Umberg and Eggman introduced SB 1338, Gov. Newsom foreshadowed the bill’s arrival in his January budget proposal.

“We are leaning into conservatorships this year,” the governor said. “What’s happening on the streets and sidewalks in our state is unacceptable. I don’t want to see any more people die on the streets and call that compassion.”

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