Newsom Twists and Turns Against Worker Protections
Earlier this year we at Women Rising Radio posted a short article lauding the California governor’s announcement of a commitment to support the state’s substantial population of undocumented and essential frontline workers, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Governor Newsom said:
“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians. And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.”
Since we published that piece, I as the author have wondered what proportion of that $125 million has actually been spent on the ground, in beneficial support for the undocumented doing the critical work to maintain us all, in this chaotic time.
I haven’t been able to do that investigation, but Women Rising Radio is broadcasting program titled “Women Challenge Capitalism”, in which we visit with domestic workers spearheading workers’ cooperatives in New York City. Those women, while they are not undocumented, faced exploitation and physical endangerment cleaning residences, until they formed cleaning cooperatives to protect them and their work.
Domestic workers in the USA, primarily women and people of color, are excluded from OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) regulations and other protections offered workers. The California state legislature just recently passed SB 1257, to remedy that problem. The bill removed the exclusion of domestic workers from CAL/OSHA, and gave them the same basic safety protections as other workers across the state, such as health and safety training, protective equipment, and legal protection against retaliation if they need to advocate for their own health and safety. at work.
The bill was authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, and co-sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, the California Domestic Workers’ Coalition, Worksafe, and the California Employment Lawyers Association.
SB 1257 went to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom for signing – and he vetoed it. Why?!
In his veto statement he claimed that “…new laws in this area must recognize that the places where people live cannot be treated in the exact same manner as a traditional workplace or worksite from a regulatory perspective.” Newsom claims that homeowners and renters lack some sort of “expertise” to follow the regulations.
How complicated can those regulations possibly be? They would have been developed by an advisory committee of owners and workers, to cover the needs of 300,000 domestic workers, cleaners, caregivers, gardeners and others. Surely the committee would have been able to tailor the protective regulations to the needs of both owners and workers.
There’s a smelly rat here… domestic workers desperately need the regulations and protections that CAL/OSHA can provide, and what is Newsom really saying here? He is saying that “private property” takes priority over the safety of workers.
That smelly rat can grow and grow, very fat indeed. If corporations can claim – as they do – that they are to be classed legally as “persons”, then what is to prevent them from claiming that they also should be exempt from OSHA regulations?
This veto makes no sense whatsoever. And it is very disappointing that evidently, this governor is willfully blind to the urgent situation of California’s domestic workers – particularly in the time of Covid 19.
“I am very angry, very sad because I know that my work is worthy and deserves respect,” said Socorro Diaz, who has worked cleaning houses in California for 17 years.
Socorro Diaz and many other domestic workers are facing dire threats to their health and safety, and they wonder how they will struggle to protect themselves against the coronavirus when they are exposed to it at work, in peoples’ homes; on ranches and vineyards destroyed by fire and filled with toxic smoke and ash; and plagued with other dangers, for example concerning the mental health of people with whom caregivers work.
Maegan Ortiz, executive director of the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), said, “What are they going to tell women who can die from coronavirus because they contracted it at work?” Ortiz questioned. “Or if an accident happens? That’s why owners have home insurance. There are many regulations that the owners have to follow.”
City University of New York found that more than 75% of 700 California domestic workers have had a work-related injury, illness, wage theft incident or other harm in this past year.
“Unprotected on the Job: How Exclusion from Safety and Health Laws Harms California Domestic Workers,” also found that 1 in 4 workers said they contracted a contagious disease at work in the past year. A similar number have experienced verbal or physical assault from employers or clients.
Dismaying hypocrisy from a governor thought to be pro-immigrant, pro-worker, pro-women… and in light of that desertion I am wondering again, just where that $125 million has gone – did it reach any undocumented immigrants at all? Shame and disgrace it if didn’t.
New at Women Rising Radio’s Featured Essays Department!
A TRANSFORMATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS: GOVERNOR NEWSOM RECOGNIZES THE DIGNITY OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS
April 15th is a day that the undocumented must dread more than any of us who pay taxes. Out of their minuscule wages received for long hours of often backbreaking work in farming, food factory labor, domestic labor and caregiving, they must pay taxes to the United States government.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report in February 2016, stating that 11 million undocumented workers in the United States are paying annually an estimated amount of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes, “on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes.”
California’s governor finally – and miraculously in a nation that largely ignores the poor and marginalized – Governor Newsom finally recognized the undocumented for doing labor that, in the time of Covid-19, is considered to be essential, frontline and indispensable.
Newsom recognized and honored undocumented workers in California – and by inference in the USA – on April 15th, normally “tax day”, underlining the irony of the undocumented being forced to support the US government but getting almost no services from that same government.
Said Newsom, “We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians. And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.”
The program will assist 150,000 undocumented workers in California with support payments of $500 to $1,000, depending on their circumstances. Granted there are about a million and a half of these essential workers in California alone, and Newsom is quite aware of that. But the recognition, the swift action to give relief, and the gratitude expressed by the governor of California are a huge breath of fresh, healthy air.
NEW SHORT ESSAY ON “JINWAR”, A DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ECO-VILLAGE IN NORTHERN SYRIA, THREATENED BY THE INCURSION OF THE TURKISH MILITARY:
Solidarity with a Kurdish Women’s Eco-village Community in Northern Syria
In early October 2019, when the US administration announced that it was abandoning its Kurdish allies in northern Syria, and leaving about 1,000 US troops trapped there to face the onslaught of the Turkish military, Women Rising Radio got an alert from a conference in Italy, where Syrian Kurdish women appealed to their supporters worldwide to come to their aid. They were, and are, directly in the path of the violence in northern Syria, and the eco-village paradise they created there is also in dire danger. Women Rising Radio has featured women working with eco-villages, peace villages, and women’s activist cooperatives across the globe. We are in solidarity with the women of JINWAR, the feminist and democratic eco-village in northern Syria. And we want all of our listeners to know about JINWAR. Perhaps among you there are organizers who can give assistance to this great undertaking – helping to protect it. Here is an excerpt from a letter delivered to the conference in Italy, from the women of JINWAR themselves:
“JINWAR is a place where women are able to live in a communal way and autonomously raise and educate their children freely and without huge daily influence of the dominant male mentality. Many brave women and men fought and gave their lives, in order to liberate this territory and make the possibility to build a new democratic system inspired by the concept of Democratic Confederalism. This system is based on ideas of Abdullah Ocalan concerning women’s freedom and self-administration of different ethnic and social groups, which are living here side by side together. Our village JINWAR is a part and in the same time a result of this revolutionary process. Furthermore, it is also a practical example, how we, as women, can create alternatives in fields as communal living, ecology and economy. During this process many things have been built here in Rojava: Women are organizing autonomously in every city. Examples for this are “Kongreya Star” and “Mala Jin” (Women’s houses), where women are gathering and developing solutions for problems of the whole society. In the “Mala Jin” women are supporting each other in solving conflicts in families. Women’s leadership and participation in decision making processes is also a key component of the direct democracy model being enacted in Rojava. Through that women could gain a new position in society and in politics. This achievement can be an example for all the women in the world.”
The women of JINWAR who drafted this letter go on to describe the dangers facing them and their visionary enterprise:
”You could see what we have built up: the houses made of clay, in which we live together, the school, the healing center for natural medicine which is supposed to be opened soon, our bakery, the garden, the fields, all the trees, which grow bigger and bigger and all of all our common life, far away from oppression and violence, based upon our will to live together as free women and children. …All this is now under direct threat by the Turkish State, which openly launches attacks against Northern Syria. Erdogan’s plan is to extinguish the Kurdish people and to occupy our region. We can see the results of this politics in Afrîn, which has been occupied by Turkey, DAIŞ and other Jihadist groups. The situation in Afrîn turned out really bad for the people, especially for the women, whose rights were taken away, who suffer from violence and rape, who are sold and treated as slaves. The attacks and another occupation by the Turkish state in other parts of Northern Syria could mean the same brutal exploitation for women here.”
The women of JINWAR are calling out to the people of the world to raise our voices and assist them in rescuing all that can be saved, from the violence of war:
“In the moment we are writing this letter different villages and places around have been bombed and many people have already been killed. Our village, our society, our lives and the life and future of all people here, especially women and children, is under urgent threat. We, as women and children from JINWAR call you to raise up your voices and take action against this war. Use all the possibilities you have to spread information and raise awareness about the Turkish occupation politics! Don’t stay silent! Let’s stand up together for free life and for our common future!”
Please send out this plea to all who can be of assistance to the brave and visionary women of JINWAR.
PRO-CHOICE ACTIVIST LAURIE BERTRAM ROBERTS TAKES ON MISSISSIPPI! BRAVE ACTIVIST.
Women Rising Radio‘s program on reproductive health here:
Democrats and Democracy: Chicago 1968.
A Killer Kulture
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in 1968, the Democratic National Committee is set to hold a significant meeting – in Chicago – August 24th and through the weekend, to consider election issues that have been critical for a long time.
That coincidence of time and place evoked in me deep memories of the debacle I witnessed 50 years ago.
April 1968 was “the cruelest month”, in the words of T.S. Eliot, blooming in red, black and blue with the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., undisputed king of the civil rights movement, and a hero of mine.
With that spring of 1968 came an offer from my college professor, to join a group of student activists headed to Mississippi for a summer of registering voters of color – mostly African Americans blocked from exercising rights enshrined for them in the Voting Rights Act. I wanted to go with that group.
By 1968 I’d been a foot soldier in the nationwide movement against the war in Vietnam for a few years. I’d helped to swell the ranks of the hundreds of thousands marching in New York and Washington. I’d participated in a reading of the trendy play MacBird! with Smith and Amherst students – as a witch chanting “double, double toil and trouble, Burn Baby Burn and Cauldron Bubble…” I went on to organize teach-ins against the war.
But I hadn’t devoted much time to focusing on civil rights and voting rights. So I called my parents, who always supported my student political activities both morally and financially. “I’m going with a Smith group to register voters in Mississippi!”
After an unexpected, stony silence at the other end of the phone conversation, my father finally responded, “Over my dead body.”
“You’re not going there, Lynn,” my mother added. “You have no idea of the danger involved.” They pointedly reminded me of the gruesome deaths of three CORE field activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner just 4 years previously during “Freedom Summer” of 1964.
My parents linked forces to demand that I do something else. When the conversation ended I was, to use a phrase of the time, “hung up”. I couldn’t go without their financial support, and I clearly had neither that nor their emotional support.
“Nuclear is NOT an Option
by Women Rising Radio Producer Lynn Feinerman
Published in the Tikkun magazine Daily Blog:
Here is the article. Join the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb: June 2017
Digging in my tiny Jewish library this Passover season, I came across a short contribution to a published symposium, made by Rabbi Nehemia Polen, a well-known scholar, author and congregational rabbi.
Polen wrote his short piece in 1986, for the literary publication New Traditions. But his words were ominously current for me, discovered as if by what we Jews call “hashgachah pratit”, a kind of destined timeliness.
He was considering the phrase in Jewish prayer liturgy, “hem yevoshu ve’yehatu mi’gevuratam”, translated “may the nations of the world be put to shame and crushed despite their power.” He meditated on the meaning of this phrase, and its intention in prayer:
“Then it hit me. Ever since nuclear weapons entered the world, with the potential to destroy not only the victim but the attacker as well, the nations of the world have indeed become terrified of their own power. A sense of shame does indeed adhere to this power. The logic of power in history has reached its extreme, self-negating limit…”
Polen perceives this part of Jewish prayer as “a lengthy meditation on the shamefulness of power”. I’ve been considering it throughout this Passover season. And the world’s so-called leaders have given me plenty of evidence corroborating that shamefulness.
This past weekend, as we observed both Passover and Easter worldwide, and likely other holy days not given so much publicity; as we asked for freedom and commemorated the death of a free-thinking Rabbi, we watched and listened as Trump and Un of North Korea rattled nuclear sabers at one another, threatening on one side to send “armadas” – sailboats from Spain?