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Lawmakers Approve “Upward Mobility” Bill, Proposing More Slots for Blacks on State Boards, Commissions

The bill also directs the Department of Human Resources (CalHR) to develop model upward mobility goals to include race, gender, and LGBTQ identity as factors to the extent permissible under state and federal equal protection laws.

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Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Harold Mendoza via Unsplash

Assemblymember Chris Holden’s (D-Pasadena) ‘Upward Mobility Bill’ (AB 105) passed the California State Senate with a 29-to-8 vote on September 9.

The legislation promotes more opportunities for people of color in California’s civil services system and requires diversity on state boards and commissions. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk to either be signed into law or to be vetoed.

“Upward mobility is integral to achieving racial justice, and we should be setting the example,” said Holden. “The existing systems in place at our own state agencies fail to create inclusive workplace environments and hinder qualified individuals to move up within their department simply based on the color of their skin. Today, the Legislature took a bold step to fix the problem.”

Specifically, AB 105 would require the California State Personnel Board (SPB) to establish a process that includes best practices and emphasizes diversity in the announcement, design, and administration of exams for potential state employees.

The bill also directs the Department of Human Resources (CalHR) to develop model upward mobility goals to include race, gender, and LGBTQ identity as factors to the extent permissible under state and federal equal protection laws.

Additionally, AB 105 calls for state agencies to collect and report demographic data using more nuanced categories of Californians of African descent, similar to the data collected for Californians of Asian descent.  This data will be critical in accurately reporting who among Californians of African descent is experiencing barriers to upward mobility.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 3121 into law, which was authored by former Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber, who is now Secretary of State. That bill established a task force to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.  AB 105 would give the task force more accurate data to utilize in its deliberations.

CalHR data shows that the majority of non-white civil service personnel are paid a salary in the “$40,000 and below” range. When the salary range increases, the percentage of non-white civil servants working in upper-level or management positions decreases. The opposite is true for white civil servants who dominate in management and upper-level civil service positions.

The Sacramento Bee has published a series of letters written on behalf of Black employees working at state agencies such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with detailed accounts of how Black employees are passed up for promotions over white employees. The problem, however, is not limited to upward mobility. In early November, three Black employees at the California Office of Publishing found racial slurs written on cards at their desk.

“We already mandated the private sector to do their part. It’s time for the state to step up and do theirs,” said Holden.

Newsom has until Oct. 10, 2021, to sign the legislation.

Community

Attorney General Bonta, CARB Seek to Defend Rule Limiting Warehouse Pollution in Disadvantaged Los Angeles and Inland Empire Communities

In recent years, the proliferation of e-commerce and rising consumer expectations of rapid shipping have contributed to a boom in warehouse development, particularly in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. 

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Pipelines leading to an oil refinery

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) filed a motion  on Wednesday to intervene in support of South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (Air District) rule requiring warehouses to reduce emissions from heavy sources of on-road pollution that visit those warehouses.

The Air District’s rule regulates these “indirect sources” by requiring owners and operators of some of the largest warehouses in the state to take direct action to mitigate their emissions.   This will reduce air pollution in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, help California meet state and federal air quality standards, improve the health of our communities, and promote environmental justice.

Last month, the California Trucking Association filed a lawsuit challenging the rule as outside the scope of the Air District’s authority, pre-empted by federal law, and an unlawful tax. In defending the rule, Attorney General Bonta and CARB expect to argue that these claims are meritless and that state and federal law supports the Air District’s authority to adopt the Indirect Source Rule.

“California has long been a pioneer in the fight against climate change – and the Air District’s rule limiting warehouse pollution is no exception,” said Bonta. “The fact is: environmental justice and economic development are not mutually exclusive. There is no binary choice here. The Air District’s Indirect Source Rule will have tremendous benefits for those communities hardest hit by pollution, at a relatively low cost to industry.”

“This is an environmental justice and public health issue,” said CARB Chair Liane M. Randolph. “The communities around these huge warehouse facilities have suffered for years from the effects of businesses and freight haulers who have all but ignored the community impacts of their enterprises. This Indirect Source Rule simply requires them to be much better neighbors. The rule is also part and parcel of local clean air plans developed under Assembly Bill 617 with CARB and South Coast staff, local residents, local businesses and other stakeholders to clean the air in and around these high-traffic routes and locations.”

In recent years, the proliferation of e-commerce and rising consumer expectations of rapid shipping have contributed to a boom in warehouse development, particularly in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, as consumers have shifted away from in-person retail shopping. Unfortunately, the distribution of warehouse facilities — and resulting pollution — has occurred primarily in low-income communities and communities of color.

Once a new warehouse is built, the facilities and their associated activities, such as truck traffic, can cause a variety of negative impacts affecting public health. For example, diesel trucks visiting warehouses are substantial sources of nitrogen oxide — a primary precursor to smog formation that has been linked to respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and lung irritation — and diesel particulate matter — a contributor to cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and premature death.

The Air District’s Indirect Source Rule requires existing and new warehouse facilities larger than 100,000 square feet to select from a menu of emissions-reducing activities, such as purchasing zero-emission vehicles, installing air filtration systems in nearby residences, and constructing rooftop solar panels.

A copy of the motion is available here.

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Social Security Benefits Will See Largest Jump in Nearly Forty Years

An average couple’s benefits would increase by $154 to $2,753 per month in 2022.

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Social Security Card Template

Millions of retirees on Social Security will see a 5.9% jump in their benefits next year, the largest cost-of-living adjustment 9 (COLA) in the last 39 years.

The increase comes in the wake of deepening inflation as the economy continues to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase will mean about $92 a month for an average retiree, according to estimates by the Social Security Administration.  Increases over the 10 years averaged t 1.65% a year.

An average couple’s benefits would increase by $154 to $2,753 per month in 2022.

This Social Security adjustment will affect 1 in 5 Americans., a total of nearly 70 million people.

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Renee Sharpe Follows in Elders’ Footsteps as a Longshorewoman

ILWU Profile: Renee Sharp, Local 10  

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Renee Sharpe

Jobs in Oakland Series

“I grew up in Southern California, then moved to Sacramento as a sophomore in high school. I’m proud to share that I’m a longshore worker and my registration number is 101650, Local 10.

“Prior to working on the waterfront, I was a sign language interpreter for 15 years. I was married to a Sacramento longshore worker, Local 18 and he heard that San Francisco Local 10 was hiring, which had a more expedited hiring process.

“He said ‘Let’s go to San Francisco and apply for this position.’ It was 1999 and I stood in line with hundreds of people, applied and then heard nothing for years and years. Later, when I moved, I made sure to keep up my change of address with Pacific Maritime Association because I didn’t want to miss the job opportunity.

“In 2007, I got a letter to start the interview process, which included strength and agility testing and I waited for training. Then in 2008, the economy crashed, and the hiring process was frozen. In 2012, I got another letter which said they were hiring, and I started training and became a Longshore Worker Casual.

“Initially, I worked with no benefits and at the lowest pay, lashing container ships, doing highly physical jobs and/or signaling. Working on the ship is good exercise; it’s hard work, like cross-fit training. Cross-fit training was the mindset I had to have to physically get through my shift.

“I joined the ILWU Drill Team and did color guard drills for prominent civil rights leaders that passed away. We lead civil rights marches for Juneteenth and other special celebrations. At a Juneteenth celebration in 2020, we escorted Angela Davis to the stage to receive her recognition as an Honorary Longshoreman. In history, she’s the 2nd honorary longshoreman with Martin Luther King, Jr. as the first. It was the biggest honor of my life to escort her and to be a part of that ceremony.

“Currently, I have two step-ons along with other relatives at the Sacramento port. I go to the hall in San Francisco as much as I can and hope to get work, which took three years before my first promotion to getting a B-book which I had for five years.

“I was trained to drive yard semi-trucks to carry containers to/from the ship. Other jobs I’ve had were to drive new cars off ships – export Tesla, Toyota – working the docks, driving trackers – you don’t do just one job. In 2020, I finally received my A-Book and received top-pick operator training where I will stack containers to/from the ship when I pick up that job.

“I believe that ILWU was the best union job that I could attain because of the equality. I can have a job and get paid the same as a man, have top notch benefits and job flexibility and I’m set up for good retirement – even starting as an older person.

“I chose to do this type of work because I was influenced by a good number of people. In 1976, in Sacramento, I had a father figure who was a longshoreman. Oftentimes, I went to the hall with him and watched the process of getting jobs.

“At that time, as a female, I wasn’t allowed to become a longshore worker.  My father-in-law was a walking boss. My maternal grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter,” where she built airplanes for 25 years. Her work for our country and how she stepped up and did a man’s work motivated me on the waterfront when the work was hard and physical. Because she did it, I know I can do it.

“The Oakland Port will be negatively impacted should the A’s come to Howard Terminal. With truckers and trains coming and going, bringing in cargo — which is a 24/7 operation — is noisy and not conducive for people to live on the working waterfront. The pollution and noise will generate complaints from residents and occupants of the high-rise luxury condos and offices.

“Locals will not be able to afford to live down there and gentrification will continue. I feel, slowly but surely, it will phase out the longshore work and displace our good union jobs. The A’s should give a face-lift to or rebuild the structure where they currently play at the Coliseum. There they have the infrastructure, parking, and a transportation hub; it couldn’t be more convenient.

“Rebuild it and they will come.”

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