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OP-ED: Unemployed Veterans Need Opportunities

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By Thomas A. Kennedy

America is home to 21.2 million veterans – men and women who were willing to risk their lives for our country.

Unfortunately, many of these veterans face a daunting personal battle here at home: finding work. According to the labor department, more than 700,000 U.S. veterans are currently unemployed.

This simply isn’t acceptable. Our veterans have earned the opportunity to earn a living and take part in the very society they fought to defend.

The most effective way to help them succeed in post-military life is through targeted efforts to extend educational opportunity.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, competition for jobs has become fierce. Positions that once required a high school degree or less are being filled by college-educated applicants.

< p>< p>This development presents a particular challenge for former soldiers, airmen, and sailors, many of whom enlisted without much education or civilian experience.

Moreover, unemployed vets who find work typically take 43 weeks to land a job.

Joblessness is stressful for all who have experienced it. However, many veterans face additional obstacles. At least 3 million were wounded in battle and still suffer from some form of disability.

Among those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, about 20 percent are living with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and one in three cope with a serious psychological trauma.

All these stats are troubling — and illustrate why Americans must commit to making sure veterans have the tools they need to build successful post-military lives.

The best place to start is by broadening educational opportunity for our veterans. Indeed, education is often the determining factor in whether or not a veteran is able to thrive after returning to civilian life.

One initiative has already made important progress in this respect. At the beginning of this academic year, 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing best practices established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education, and more than 100 educational experts.

 

These “8 Keys to Success” help connect veterans with academic, career, and financial help, and surround them with a community of students and fellow veterans who can encourage them as they further their education.

For similar efforts to grow in number and effectiveness, more Americans need to get involved with private initiatives like Student Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project.

 

These two groups enable soldiers to draw on the skills they have already developed through military service and apply them to their post-military careers.

We should always welcome opportunities to show our appreciation for those veterans who risked everything for our safety and security

But these brave men and women need more than our appreciation; they need our help. And, more specifically, they need more opportunities to arm themselves with the skills to create a prosperous, fulfilling life.

Thomas A. Kennedy, Ph.D., is executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer at Raytheon. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977-1983, attaining the rank of captain.

Activism

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

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The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

By Kitty Epstein

For decades Black people in Oakland have obtained 9% or less of the work hours on publicly funded construction projects. So…for jobs that are paid for by all of our tax dollars, Black residents, who make up 23% of Oakland’s population, get only 9% of the relatively well-paid work doing construction.

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Nationally, only 7.2% of the carpenters’ union members are Black; 8.3% of the electricians’ union members and so on. The City of Oakland has done two very thorough reports of these racial equity issues. You can find this important information at the end of this story.

But the leadership of the construction trades now insist that that they should obtain an even larger portion of the construction hours and that this practice should be set in stone by something called a Project Labor Agreement. It is now being inaccurately called a “Community Workforce Agreement,” which is nonsense because it doesn’t help the community.

Why would progressive Oakland consider giving exclusive benefits to organizations that practice well-documented racial discrimination? At least one part of the reason is that the construction unions spend enormous amounts of money on Oakland elections. They were instrumental in former City Councilmember Desley Brooks’ defeat in District 6, for example, because they did not consider her sufficiently compliant with their demands.

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

The community members proposed that the entire task force work collectively throughout the process of making proposals and negotiating solutions. The City rejected this proposal and began meeting with the building trades alone, saying that they would return with a proposed Project Labor Agreement, although there has been no demonstrated change in the racial exclusivity practiced by the construction trades.

This is outrageous on three levels:

  1. These are the tax dollars of Black residents, as well as others.
  2. The community’s interests in racial justice have not been resolved in any policy venue.
  3. The community belongs at the table throughout whatever process takes place.

The usual arguments for labor/employer negotiations do not apply. The construction unions are NOT city workers. If they were city employees, they would have both the rights (negotiations) and the responsibilities (non-discriminatory hiring) of the city. Since they are not held responsible to Include Black people in their organizations, they should not have the right to exclusive negotiations about anything

I am hopeful, of course, that the City will reject the continuation and expansion of racial discrimination policies practiced by the leadership of the trades unions and will insist on the drastic changes necessary for Black people to obtain 23% of the work hours they are due by virtue of their proportion of the population and tax dollars contributed.

These two documents below provide information that is both illuminating and horrifying.

Oakland Equity Indicators: https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Disparity Study – https://www.postnewsgroup.com/disparity-study-examines-patterns-of-discrimination-seeks-remedies-for-city-practices-of-selecting-contractors-in-construction-goods-and-services/

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Activism

EDITORIAL: Don’t Let Politicians Decide the Future of Journalism – Why We Oppose SB 911

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

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As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.
As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

By Regina Brown Wilson and Sandy Close

What could go wrong when politicians in Sacramento decide the future of  journalism?

The California Legislature could soon provide the answer. SB 911 — authored by Senator Steve Glazer – is the subject of a debate on how $25 million in state surplus funds should be distributed to local and ethnic journalism. If it is passed, we believe the bill would drive a stake in the heart of the independent ethnic media sector.

Ethnic media takes pride in being rooted in their communities and sounding an independent advocacy voice — accountable to the communities ​they serve. Back in 1827 the mission statement of Freedom Journal was proudly this: “We wish to plead our own cause, too long have others spoken for us.”

As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

In fact, for many decades, most ethnic media have operated as for-profit businesses. You can see on ​the mastheads — Sentinel, Voice, Guardian, Crusader — the call to our communities. Mainstream media has often disparaged ethnic media ​as advocacy media,​without understanding the unique role we play for our readers.

SB 911 is promoting a “nonprofit” model that would expressly forbid ethnic media from endorsing political candidates or lobbying for or against proposed legislation. It would silence ​them!

SB 911 establishes a board of political appointees to administer state money that would be costly and time consuming to set up and would wind up determining the criteria for how government doles out support for local journalism for years to come. Ethnic media might have two representatives on that board. But the majority on the pane​l would have no direct knowledge of the unique role of ethnic media or how ​they work. The last thing ethnic media needs are people with little experience in their communities determining what kind of media those communities need.

This scheme puts ethnic media in a competition to gain the approval of a board of political appointees. ​They would end up dependent on this board. In fact, ​they would end up dependent on grants or government agencies instead of local communities that have long supported ​them.

As currently written, the bill would allow media startups – including many in the nonprofit space – that have operated for only one or two years to qualify for support. This language fails to acknowledge the contributions made by established media that have worked for decades to serve their communities and sustain themselves.

SB 911 shines a spotlight on the dire straits many ethnic media find themselves in, especially following the business shutdowns from the pandemic, inflation, and a possible recession, let alone the demands of adapting to the digital world. But we’re not prepared to greenlight the bill as currently written for the sake of whatever share of the $25 million the board bestows to individual outlets after their own admin costs are met.

We urge the Legislature to consider far more productive ways of supporting the ethnic news sector much as it did with efforts promoting the 2020 Census when it increased the advertising dollars earmarked for ethnic media from $15 million to over $85 million, recognizing that only ethnic media could deliver truly inclusive outreach to the diverse communities that now make up the state.

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

The non-profit model works well only for a small number of ethnic media news agencies; they are convenors and informers of community, they fit the category of mission-driven journalism, we applaud them for their work.

But one size does not fit all media, especially given the diversity of ethnic news outlets. Don’t ask ethnic media to transform ​themselves into a model that reduces ​their interdependence with community. “Too long have others spoken for us.” That’s what SB 911 does and why we must oppose it.

About the Authors

Regina Brown Wilson is executive director of California Black Media, the oldest advocacy organization supporting locally-owned Black media.

Sandy Close is director of Ethnic Media Services and former executive director of New America Media/Pacific News Service.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: New Book Examines Life of George Floyd in Context of Racism, Oppression in U.S.

At a time when politicians are making it illegal for educators to acknowledge that systemic racism exists, Samuels and Olorunnipa document in painful detail the ways in which racially discriminatory policies on housing, education, health care, addiction, policing and more contributed to “a life in which Floyd repeatedly found his dreams diminished, deferred, and derailed—in no small part because of the color of his skin.”

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Ben Jealous.

By Ben Jealous

George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer just over two years ago. His killing sparked a movement to end unjustified police killings and racist law enforcement practices. Sadly, the killings have not stopped. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was blocked by Senate Republicans last year. The struggle continues in communities large and small.

During racial justice protests that sprung up after video of Floyd’s murder spread around the world, millions of people spoke his name as they demanded accountability and justice. Now, a remarkable book examines Floyd’s life and death in the context of our history and what one of the authors calls the “complex, tangled web” created by racism in this country.

“His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice” was written by Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. It draws on the reporting of their colleagues and on intimate interviews with Floyd’s family, romantic partners, and circle of friends.

At a time when politicians are making it illegal for educators to acknowledge that systemic racism exists, Samuels and Olorunnipa document in painful detail the ways in which racially discriminatory policies on housing, education, health care, addiction, policing and more contributed to “a life in which Floyd repeatedly found his dreams diminished, deferred, and derailed—in no small part because of the color of his skin.”

“For example,” Samuels says, “you could not disentangle police departments’ disproportionate use of force against African Americans from the junk science that is still taught about Black people being more resistant to pain. We could not ignore that those same instincts led to the inadequate mental health treatment in George Floyd’s life, nor could we separate that society both encouraged George Floyd to bulk up to pursue his athletic dreams and then stereotyped him as dangerous when he was off the field.”

The book doesn’t try to make Floyd a saint. It doesn’t have to. He was a human being. He did nothing to deserve being murdered on the street by an abusive police officer who shouldn’t have been wearing a badge.

“His Name Is George Floyd” is worth reading for many reasons. It gives us a fuller picture of the person George Floyd was. It introduces us to many people who loved him and sought a measure of justice for his murder. And it points to some important facts about policing in this country.

One is the need for accountability. Chauvin had a record of violent behavior. When abusive cops are not held accountable, more people will be subjected to their violence.

Another point is that policing is a local issue requiring local solutions. National policies, like those in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, can help. But holding violent cops accountable, getting them off the streets, or better yet, preventing them from getting hired in the first place, all require change at the local level.

People For the American Way spent the two years since Floyd’s murder developing a road map for transforming public safety. We looked at the research. We talked to criminologists, public officials, clergy and other community activists, and members of law enforcement. “All Safe: Transforming Public Safety” is a guide for public officials and community activists seeking to make their communities safer.

Among the essential steps to make policing more just and more effective at the same time: improving recruiting to weed out potentially dangerous cops, holding violent officers accountable, and getting unfit officers off the force. Also, importantly, restructuring public safety systems to reduce the unnecessary involvement of armed officers in situations where they are not needed and for which they are not trained is good for cops as well as communities.

The authors of “His Name Is George Floyd” describe optimism in the face of our history as both a defense mechanism and a means of survival. I am optimistic that we can end unjust police killings. I am optimistic that we can build the uncomfortably large coalitions it will take.

“Our book makes the argument that if we can demonstrate step-by-step how this country’s history with racism continues to shape people today, then we can continue the good work of dismantling systemic racism,” Samuels told me in an e-mail. “We have to connect the theory with the practice.”

That job belongs to all of us. We know what kind of changes will make our communities safer. Let’s organize, city by city and town by town, to make it happen.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022. 

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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