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Newsom’s Budget Omits Some Key Priorities for Communities of Color

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The Greenlining Institute expressed great concern about important programs left unfunded in the proposed state budget released on Jan. 10 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, while applauding proposals that can help preserve and enhance economic opportunity for California’s communities of color.

Greenlining applauded the governor’s proposed infusion of capital into the fight against homelessness. “Affordable housing and homelessness represent critical challenges for California, and particularly for communities of color,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “Black Californians represent about six and a half percent of our state’s population, but nearly 40% of California’s homeless. We look forward to seeing more bold leadership from the governor and Legislature on this issue.”

Briones added, “Greenlining also applauds the governor for addressing some pressing needs of small businesses, especially those owned by people of color. We are especially excited about his decision to propose an LLC fee waiver and look forward to assisting him in passing that legislation.”

Greenlining has long argued that addressing poverty and pollution at the same time must be core to the state’s fight against climate change.

Unfortunately, the proposed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund allocation eliminates funding for the most comprehensive, equitable, and transformational program, the Transformative Climate Communities Program, as well as for other programs critical to low-income communities. This follows a troubling pattern of underinvestment in programs known to deliver the most measurable, direct, and assured benefits to California’s disadvantaged communities.

“We are deeply troubled by the governor’s decision to eliminate funding for the Transformative Climate Communities Program,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “We call on the governor and the Legislature to reestablish funding for this important program and to invest more, not less, in programs that deliver real climate solutions to low-income communities of color that are hit hardest by climate change.”

Greenlining urges that these key programs be funded at the following levels:

• $100 million for Transformative Climate Communities (zeroed out in  Newsom’s proposal)

• $100 million for Low Carbon Transportation Equity Programs ($75 million in Newsom’s proposal)

• $5 million for Regional Climate Collaboratives (zeroed out in Newsom’s proposal)

• $75 million for Low-Income Weatherization (zeroed out)

In addition, the governor proposes a $4 billion Climate Resilience Bond.  “Unfortunately,” Sanchez said, “this includes insufficient funds to build the resilience of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, so we will strongly urge more funding for communities most at risk.”

Greenlining’s Health Equity team applauded Newsom’s inclusion of funding for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented seniors as well as his $695 million proposal to transform Medi-Cal to provide comprehensive, coordinated physical and mental health services, especially for Californians lacking secure housing.

“Coordinating funding to address housing as a health intervention is an important example of working across sectors to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable. We want to see more investments in jobs and economic opportunities as a health intervention as well,” said Greenlining Health Equity Program Manager Kelsey Lyles.

In light of the Jan. 1, 2020, expansion of Medi-Cal to cover all low-income Californians under age 26 regardless of immigration status, Greenlining emphasized the need for investments in health workforce and loan forgiveness programs so that providers are equipped to serve the diverse needs of communities of color.

Greenlining’s Technology Equity Team applauded the governor’s inclusion of resources to map the state of broadband connectivity in California. “These maps are critically needed and will finally provide the state the data necessary to ensure that everyone has access to a robust, open internet at reasonable prices,” said Greenlining Technology Equity Director Paul Goodman.

“More accurate data, combined with the governor’s commitment of $900 million over five years to improve California’s broadband infrastructure, will ensure that all Californians see the benefit of a robust, competitive market for internet service.  We are especially encouraged that the governor acknowledges that California can include the construction of broadband infrastructure as part of other state projects.”

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Activism

Moe’s Books Union and Supporters Picket Store

The Oakland Post spoke to five different Moe’s workers. When we asked them why they were protesting, they claimed they were concerned about what they saw as “union-busting tactics,” low wages, and understaffing.

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Unionized Moe's Books workers, IWW members, and supporters stand together near Moe's Books in Berkeley on Saturday September 26. Photo by Zack Haber.

Unionized Moe’s Books workers picketed with supporters outside the Berkeley bookstore from on September 25, to demand better working conditions and pay.

“It feels really relieving to be finally talking to people about what’s been going on at Moe’s,” said Moe’s worker Kalie McGuirl at the rally on Saturday afternoon. “I feel like people have no idea how bad it’s been for us.”

McGuirl was one of 10 unionized workers who stood with a crowd of about two dozen people that day. They held signs, handed out flyers, and talked to hundreds of customers and those passing by the Berkeley bookstore. An instagram post from the Moe’s Union account called the event an “informational picket” and claimed the aim was not “impeding business” but “to spread the word about our conditions and gather community support for the union.”

The Oakland Post spoke to five different Moe’s workers. When we asked them why they were protesting, they claimed they were concerned about what they saw as “union-busting tactics,” low wages, and understaffing.

Doris Moskowitz, who took over ownership of Moe’s Books after her father, Morris “Moe” Moskowitz passed away in 1997, denies the claims. In March, she voluntarily recognized her workers’ request to form a union with the Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as the IWW.

But workers have not been happy with how Moskowitz has interacted with the union. Recently, Moe’s Union filed an Unfair Labor Practice claim with the National Labor Review Board accusing Moskowitz of offering promotions with the goal of removing workers from the union.

Workers say one person who received such an offer,was Barry Bloom, a 74-year-old Moe’s Books union member who has worked as a book shipper since the late ’90s. Bloom said Moskowitz offered him the opportunity to become the supervisor of the shipping department. But at the time of the offer, Bloom was the only member of that department.

“My immediate reaction was to wonder ‘who would I be supervising?’” Bloom said. “I pretty much instantly saw it as a union-busting tactic.”

Union rules state that managers and supervisors cannot be part of the Moe’s Books Union. Bloom wanted to stay in the union, so he declined the offer, which did not come with any proposed salary increase. Since the offer was proposed, a worker has been assigned to do shipping work with Bloom for three hours a week, but Bloom still sees no good purpose to the existence of a shipping department supervisor at the store.

Moskowitz claims her offers of promotions to workers have been unrelated to the union.

“I believe an employer has the right to offer promotions to its employees even when they have a union,” she said. “We have not made any job offer or offers of promotions in order to encourage any employee to break from their support of the union.”

Owen Hill, a Moe’s Books union member who has worked at the store for over 35 years, described the staff makeup as “top heavy.” There are currently 13 unionized workers and seven managers, supervisors, or owners who are not qualified to be in the union, but many of the managerial and supervisory job titles did not exist until talks of the store unionizing began.

“Who is this management team?,” said Hill. “Suddenly someone you’ve been working with has this title. It really draws battle lines.”

Moskowitz sees it differently and thinks little has changed.

“Many long-term employees [have been] in supervisor positions even though we never called it that because, up until now, Moe’s has functioned as more of a collective,” she said. “We didn’t think we needed job titles before.”

Moe’s Books workers are asking for higher wages. At the informational picket, they talked to people about their demand that all Moe’s workers make at least $20 an hour. Kalie McGuirl, who has worked at Moe’s for three years, said her salary of $18.50 means that she pays 40% of her income on rent even when her two roommates, who are more financially secure, have agreed to pay a higher portion of the rent costs they share.

She is disturbed that some workers, like Bloom, who have been at the store for decades, still make less than $20 an hour. Currently, unionized Moe’s employees make between $16.50 and $23.50 an hour. Moskowitz has been negotiating with the union and has met with them about a dozen times. Although she would not talk specifics because she does not “want to be accused of bargaining through the media,” she said she believes “the proposals we are making are competitive, especially in the retail niche that we occupy.”

Moe’s Books worker Noah Ross would not reveal specific offers the union had received while they are still bargaining but characterized offers the store ownership had proposed so far as “almost offensive,” and noted that a nearby chain Mexican restaurant, Chipotle, has been offering starting wages of $18$ to $18.50.

In response to questions about wages, Moskowitz said the bookstore has been “struggling to survive during a global pandemic,” and that “like other employers, we have faced many challenges since the beginning of shelter-in-place.”

Moe’s Books storefront was closed from mid-March to mid-June of 2020, and even its online store was closed for a few weeks. Individuals helped the store during this time, donating just over $89,000 through the Moe’s Books 2020 Lifeline GoFundMe campaign. Since then, the store has been open at reduced hours.

Noah Ross, who counts money made through in-person sales during closeout after workdays, said that despite the reduced hours, he thinks things are going well financially for Moe’s.

“The store is making a ton of money,” Ross said, “probably more than it did before the pandemic started.”

While only counting in-store figures, not online sales, Ross said the store regularly pulls in $4,000-$6,000 on an average day, and around $8,000 on an average Saturday.

Solomon Wong, who works with the Moe’s Books website, said internet sales are doing great, and that Moskowitz has sent him e-mails indicating she is happy with the sale numbers.

Moskowitz told The Oakland Post that “internet sales are OK,” but that the daily in-store closeout numbers Ross is claiming are incorrect and “don’t take into account the considerable expense of running an independent business, especially in the Bay Area.” Moe’s Books’ sale figures are impossible to know precisely. Moskowitz said the store is “a private company that does not publish confidential and proprietary financial information.”

Moe’s Union has called on more workers to be hired and claim they are “stretched thin” and unable to currently do all the work they would like to do in the store. In a recent instagram post, they stated “In the past few months, our staff has shrunk by 4, and we’ve extended our business hours…After months of begging management for more help, they have hired just one new employee.” Moskowitz told The Oakland Post the store has no immediate plans to hire new workers.

Starting about two months ago, Moskowitz began again raising money through a Moe’s Books General fund GoFundMe campaign. In the fundraiser’s write up, she states “Moe’s Books does not own the [storefront] building…we pay rent and live with the hope that our landlords let us stay.”

It is unclear who the landlords are that Moskowitz refers to. County Assessor records show that a trust managed by the lawyer Peter Lippett owns the Moe’s Books building. When asked about the trust and who the beneficiaries are, Moskowitz stated “I would prefer not to discuss the details with you.”

In the GoFundMe write up, Moskowitz also wrote, “Although I am a beneficiary of the trust that collects rent, none of the money collected here will go to me or my siblings personally.”

At the informational picket, workers said they received mostly positive responses. Although a few people criticized their picketing a small business, more than 50 people signed and hand delivered a pre-written letter in support of the union’s demands as they entered the store.

“[Moe’s Books] is part of a larger community and people have gone out of their way to support them, especially during quarantine,” said Oakland based artist joy tirade, who talked to union members at the picket and hand delivered the union letter. “So, they should take care of the people that represent their store.”

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

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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Bay Area

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Visits Bay Area

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

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Jennifer Granholm

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm, a former UC Berkeley faculty member, first toured the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to hear from the nation’s leading scientists about their efforts to discover new technologies, ensure a clean and sustainable water supply, decarbonize the planet and solve the climate crisis.

Following the tour and discussions with scientists such as Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm joined East Bay mayors and other local officials at a solar-powered Berkeley home to promote the Department of Energy’s Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), an online tool helps local governments cut red tape on the review and approval of residential solar power.

State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and other local leaders participated in the event at the home of Berkeley resident Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez. With the sky covered in gray smoke from the California’s massive wildfires, Congresswoman Lee, Secretary Granholm, and local leaders spoke about the importance of residential solar power at a time when threat of fire is causing shutdowns of traditional power sources across the state.

“Here in California, we’re experiencing the climate emergency first-hand. We have lost so many homes and lives – and entire towns – to wildfires over the last few years,” said Congresswoman Lee. 

“We know that these unprecedented fires are driven by climate change. We also know that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis both here and around the world,” she said.

“Increasing access to residential solar in communities like Oakland and Berkeley – where certain neighborhoods have experienced generations of environmental racism – helps to keep us on the path to justice. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Granholm and President Biden to build back bolder and address the climate crisis with the urgency that it deserves.”

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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