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Economics

State Sues Forever 21 for “Unlawful English-Only” Workplace Policy

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The State Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed a lawsuit charging that Forever 21, Retail Inc. violated the state’s civil rights laws when it adopted an English-only policy at its flagship San Francisco store.

The suit filed Wednesday in San Francisco County Superior Court by DFEH attorney Denise Levey alleges multiple violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees based on their national origin, and specifically prohibits the adoption and enforcement of English-only rules absent a business necessity.

According to the DFEH’s lawsuit, Forever 21’s San Francisco store prohibited employees from speaking any language other than English during work hours, including when greeting one another, during employee rest breaks, and when speaking to monolingual Spanish-speaking customers.

DFEH alleges that the English-only policy was specifically enforced against Forever 21’s Spanish-speaking employees.

When three Spanish-speaking employees complained about the policy, their work hours were reduced and they were subjected to hostile treatment from management.

The employees, represented by La Raza Centro Legal, filed a discrimination complaint with DFEH.

“Rules that limit or prohibit the use of any language in the workplace, including English-only rules, run afoul of the (fair employment act) unless justified by a business necessity,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish.

“Linguistic diversity is a business reality in the California workplace, and the department will carefully scrutinize English-only rules to ensure that all employees are treated equally, regardless of their national origin.”

The DFEH is seeking compensatory damages for the employees who complained about the policy as well as injunctive relief.

Bay Area

Castlemont High Coach Launches “Books Before Balls” Project

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

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Tamikia McCoy/Photo Courtesy of Tanya Dennis

 

Michael Franklin

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

For two years, she played with the Running Rebels, an Oakland all-star basketball team.  After earning many degrees, McCoy returned to her beloved Castlemont as Coach in 2019, and quickly realized a responsibility to her students beyond winning games and created Books Before Balls.

Another Castlemont alumni of that same year was not as fortunate as McCoy.  Like McCoy, Michael Franklin was a basketball beast.  He was awarded first team All-City for the Oakland Athletic League 1993-1994 and was Northern California’s All American that same year. 

Franklin continues to hold the record for scoring 43 points in one quarter in a game against McClymonds. Tragically, he was killed Dec. 14, 2016, at a gas station at 98th and Edes in Oakland.

Coach McCoy’s concerns about violence inspired her to create the Books Before Balls Project to address academic and social gaps that are working against student success. 

“For violence and bullying to cease, the underlying reasons have to be addressed,” said McCoy, “Food scarcity may seem unrelated to violence, but it’s a signal that economic opportunities are lacking, which leads to trauma and desperation.”  

McCoy is also concerned that Castlemont’s library was closed and is spearheading a campaign to reopen and revitalize the library.  

She has joined with Oakland Frontline Healers and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkids movement to address issues of food scarcity, lack of economic opportunity, lack of resources and lack of support for students entering college.  

Together, they are creating a model that is duplicatable and hopefully will be adopted at other OUSD schools. Oakland Frontline Healers are a collaborative of 30 nonprofits and doctors offering services, food, and resources to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.  

Players and families will be tested weekly by Umoja Health before games, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those that wish to take it.

With a grant from the Department of Violence Prevention, Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkidsmovement, are honoring Michael Franklin’s life by hosting a series of “Mike’s Knights” Basketball Tournaments at Castlemont High School beginning the last Friday in November.  

Participants will be paid stipends to participate in the league or cheer squad and will be tutored and mentored during the tournaments, which will include family forums to discuss ending violence in East Oakland.

Books Before Balls invites the community to donate to the organization to support the Lady Knights’ basketball team, the success program that funds first year college students, or join their initiative to reopen the library. 

 For more information contact:  Ladyknights2019@yahoo.com For youth interested in joining the eight-week tournament contact Adamika Village at adamikaadamika@gmail.com 

Together with school leaders and administrators, and with the support of Oakland Frontline Healers, Books Before Balls is staging a “Student’s Against Bullying” event Friday, Sept. 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

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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City Government

A New Mayor in 2022 Must Take Major Steps in Their First 100 Days

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

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Hands place ballot envelope into a ballot box/ Arnaud Jaegars via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

The mayor also selects and hires the city administrator, appoints members of key boards and commissions and sets the direction for the administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what action gets taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, it is vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.  

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first hundred days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.  

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce, effective relationships with county government and neighboring cities to solve common problems, working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels, presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.  

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal, including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization and thus can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can and should do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

 

1.     Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.

2.     Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc).  Clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not okay to dump on Oakland.

3.     Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks. Partner with the County and others.

4.     Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them. Strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.

5.     Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.

6.     Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access, to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.

7.     Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, conventions and hotels.

8.     Work to speed the filling of vacancies in needed city staff positions and improve recruitment, retention and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other needs.

9.     Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.

10.  Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs.  Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors and ensure Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

 

 

 

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Business

Balance Your People and Profits: Cal Bill Pushes Amazon, Walmart, and Other Big E-Retailers

Gonzales said she authored AB 701 to help decrease worker injury, encourage more transparency, and end the use of production quotas at corporations and government agencies, which critics say contribute to low job satisfaction and harmful working conditions.

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Amazon Warehouse Worker, Photo Courtesy of California Black Media

Last week, warehouse workers, labor leaders, elected officials, and community groups came together on the steps of the California state Capitol. Their goal was to generate public support for California’s pro-worker “Warehouse Workers Protection Act,” – also called Assembly Bill (AB) 701– and to encourage the state Senate to pass it.

“Working in warehouses for corporations like Amazon has quickly become one of the most dangerous jobs in the private sector,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) asserted, placing giant e-retailers square in the scope of her target.

In the United States, e-commerce is skyrocketing, growing from a $441.51 billion industry in 2017 into a market valued at $759.47 billion in 2020. Amazon.com has the largest market share (about 40%) among leading e-retailers, followed by Walmart (about 7%) and eBay (about 4%).

Gonzales said she authored AB 701 to help decrease worker injury, encourage more transparency, and end the use of production quotas at corporations and government agencies, which critics say contribute to low job satisfaction and harmful working conditions.

“Workers are risking their bodies to guarantee same-day delivery and being pushed to the point that many can’t even break long enough to use the bathroom. There is no excuse for a company to prioritize customers’ convenience and their own profits over the safety of their workers,” said Gonzales.

In March 2020, Irene Tung and Deborah Berkowitz released a National Employment Law Project (NELP) report titled “Amazon’s Disposable Workers: High Injury and Turnover Rates at Fulfillment Centers in California.”

According to the study, “Workers who can’t keep up extreme productivity goals are fired or encouraged to quit.”

“Amazon workers around the country have reported being subject to unsustainably fast productivity requirements resulting in injury and exhaustion. Workers describe pushing their bodies to the brink to avoid automatic termination for missing quotas,” the NELP report stated. “Data from the company’s own records have confirmed their accounts showing that Amazon warehouses have stunningly high injury rates.”

Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), chairperson of Assembly Labor Committee; state Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), chair of Senate Labor Committee; state Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles); and chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) all attended the rally.

Jones-Sawyer said his 19-year-old son worked at Amazon this past summer before heading off to college in Colorado. He got sick and had to take time off work. When he returned to work, after three weeks he was fired.

“Unfortunately, he saw all the bad things about working in a factory,” Jones-Sawyer said.

Jones-Sawyer said he attended the rally for his son.

“So that’s why I am here, not only for my son but all the other sons who don’t have fathers who could speak up for them,” he said. When it comes back to the Assembly for concurrence, I will stand up, speak up and vote for it again.

The language in AB 701 directs the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to establish new standards by Jan. 1, 2023, that are “designed to minimize the risk of injuries and disorders among warehouse employees who are subject to production quotas.

The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) labeled AB 701 “job killer legislation” in April and criticized it as one of “23 legislative bills that would place California employers and the state’s economy in harm’s way” should it become law.

“(AB 701) threatens warehouse employers with duplicative costly litigation by creating a new, independent private right of action, and a representative action under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), for failing to comply with vague standards,” CalChamber said in a statement. The organization is the largest business advocate in California.

In California, Amazon warehouses are in counties whose populations are “overwhelmingly people of color,” according to the NELP study. Combined, nearly 75% of warehouse workers are minorities. Of that number about 55% are Latinos and about 9% are Black.

If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, AB 701 would require employers to inform employees about quotas that corporations and organizations set to measure their performance.

The legislation requires employers to quantify work employees are expected to do.  They must explain specific tasks and how meeting those goals may affect their job standing.

“AB 701 also directs the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to establish new standards by Jan. 1, 2023, that are “designed to minimize the risk of injuries and disorders among warehouse employees who are subject to production quotas.”

The bill also prohibits an employer from taking disciplinary action (including firing) against employees for failure to meet quotas that have not been disclosed to them. In addition, the legislation prohibits quotas that do not allow a worker to comply with meal or rest periods or occupational health and safety laws.

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