CA should become first state to offer special wage to healthcare

via STAT

By Andrea Flynn and Yvonne Yen Liu

Lawmakers in California may finally offer a raise to the state’s woefully underpaid health care workforce. The legislature is debating a bill introduced by state Sen. María Elena Durazo that would raise the minimum wage for a wide range of health care workers to $25 per hour by June 1, 2025.

This would be especially beneficial to Black women, who are disproportionately represented in the health care sector — particularly in the lowest-paying jobs. The passage of the bill would provide a much needed and deserved income boost for employees throughout the health sector: from nurses to janitors and food service workers, and for employees of hospitals, nursing facilities, dialysis centers and other organizations. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center predict the bill would affect 469,000 to 1.5 million workers.

This bill would make a significant impact on the ability of Black women and their families to afford the exorbitant costs of living in one of the country’s most expensive states. Research from The Maven Collective — a progressive think tank we both work for that centers race and gender in its pursuit of economic justice — shows that in Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Francisco, and San Bernardino counties, the health care sector is the second most common field for households headed by Black women. Health care support jobs in the six counties have a median pay of approximately $3,000 per month (before taxes). This is far less than what the costs of covering basic needs are. In San Francisco, for example, our research shows that housing costs more than $3,000 monthly, and child care adds another $3,000. In fact, a family of two adults and two children (one preschooler and one school-age child) would need to earn more than $12,000 per month to keep up with living costs.

This single bill won’t cure the affordability crisis, but it’s an important step toward acknowledging the value and dignity of these workers who hold up our economy and our families. In addition to being the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Research shows that higher wages reduce turnover, which results in better outcomes and experiences for patients. For instance, a 2018 study reported that a 10 percentage point increase in nurse turnover in nursing homes resulted in an 8.3% to 17.4% increase in deaths. And research done during the pandemic suggests that high turnover among nurses in nursing homes might have led to increased rates of mortality.

This bill is unique because it not only includes workers directly employed by health companies, but also “all paid work performed on the premises of any health care facility.” There is ample evidence that Black women working within the health care sector are relegated to the most physically demanding and dangerous jobs such as home health care workers and nurses’ aides. These jobs — which are among the lowest paying and offer little or even no benefits — take a toll on workers’ bodies. Research shows that home health care workers have some of the highest rates of occupational injury in the country.

The bill would increase costs for health care facilities, but those increased costs in wages would be offset by savings in other areas like staff turnover and declines in the reliance on safety net programs. The UC Berkeley Labor Center estimates the higher wages will result in a median 3.2% change in operating costs, with variations across different types of facilities. Hospitals — some of the most vocal opponents of the bill — would see an increase in operating costs of just 1.1%, while home health services will see a 11.6% increase in operating costs. That’s because home health workers are among the lowest paid workers in the state and therefore their increase in pay would be larger than that of many other workers.

By the policy’s third year, when hourly wages reach the full $25, it is estimated that the state budget would see anywhere from $467 million in net savings to $303 million in net costs. Where the state lands on this range depends on the level of state increases to Medi-Cal provider payments, along with the number of workers and dependents who move onto private insurance.

This bill — which passed the state Senate on May 31 and will be heard by the Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee on July 12 — is an effort to prioritize people over profits. Yes, it will cost money. It should. It’s time we decide to reallocate profits to the workers holding up our health system. This would be precedent-setting for the rest of the country and potentially pressure other states to follow suit. Increasing wages increases in the health sector more broadly would be transformative. People of color represent 58% of nursing assistants, 63% of home health aides, and 52% of residential care aides. However, they only make up 39% of the labor force. In 2021 the median hourly wage for home health aides and personal care aides in California was just over $14; for certified nurse assistants the median hourly wage was $18. Among Black and Latina workers in these direct care positions, roughly half made less than $15 an hour. A $25 minimum wage would be a significant step in the right direction for these workers.

To Truly Honor Labor Day, Compensate Mothers

via Ms Magazine

by  and 

On this Labor Day, let’s consider the two meanings of the word. On the one hand, there is the original labor exerted by our mothers when we were brought into this world. On the other, there is the often invisible work that our mothers provided in raising us. So often, it was our mothers who stayed with us when we were sick, who held us when we were hurting, who made sure we were fed, warm and safe. Mothers are the essential workers for our families and communities—so this Labor Day, we are compelled to think about the many ways our leaders and policies are currently failing this country’s mothers.

Too many mothers, especially mothers of color, cannot access what they need to take care of themselves and their families. A mother from the Abundant Birth Project, a guaranteed income program in San Francisco targeting Black and Pacific Islander mothers, noted: “If you’re making minimum wage to support a family of four or five, it just don’t make no sense … I can still get denied benefits.”

Stagnant wages in the face of rising costs mean that even mothers with jobs are not safe from financial catastrophe. The lack of paid medical and family leave has pushed mothers out of the workforce during the pandemic. Further, moms are punished and penalized by the very safety net programs intended to help them advance economically and socially. Blatant racism, lack of trust and centuries of unremedied exploitation threaten the well-being of mothers of color and their families everyday.

Data compiled by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and the Abundant Birth Project shows us just how challenging it can be for mothers to make ends meet. These analyses build upon the Family Needs Calculator, an alternative measure of what families need to survive in California, and conclusions are clear: We must do more to protect the health of Black and Brown moms and their babies, and mothers deserve to be protected.

Enacting a guaranteed income is an important part of solving for this inequity. A guaranteed income, often confused with a universal basic income, proposes to give stipends targeted by income and need so that all pregnant people, children and families have the funds to meet their most essential needs—with their dignity and self-efficacy intact. Providing direct, unconditional cash aid is a bold step that not only demonstrates trust in women to make the right choices for themselves and their families, but also addresses the underlying stress of financial insecurity that is likely a key driver of premature birthchildhood trauma and maternal mortality.

When guaranteed income is provided to women of color, specifically moms, it undoubtedly leads to increased quality of life for Black and Brown mothers, their families and quite literally everyone they touch. What will the impact be on small businesses when more families have cash to spend? How will our schools thrive when more parents are no longer living hand-to-mouth and can share their time and perspectives with PTAs? What will our country’s future look like when more families are stably housed and fed, and their children actually have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential?

Guaranteed income is critical to supporting the health, well-being and economic stability of its recipients and represents a prime opportunity to connect mothers with the financial resources necessary to disrupt inequitable outcomes in birth, education and beyond. It is time to eliminate the stigma and shame so many moms encounter when simply trying to access the resources they need to thrive and raise families with joy.

Last year’s expanded child tax credit is a prime example of how direct cash can work at scale—distributing monthly payments of up to $300 per child to nearly every parent in America, the policy allowed families to cover their basic needs, did not have any adverse employment effects and does not contribute to inflation. In fact, even moderate economists have called for this unrestricted cash program, whose ending led to a more than 40 percent spike in child poverty, as a critical tool for families to combat rising prices. Programs like the Magnolia Mother’s Trustthe Abundant Birth Project and The Bridge Project are showing in real time the generational impact of giving marginalized mothers a guaranteed income.

Everyday, in homes across the country, mothers are laboring to shape the next generation. Our collective future is in their hands. Policymakers must acknowledge mothers and the role they play in making our economy strong and resilient. The path to security, dignity and financial sovereignty for Black, Brown, Indigenous and immigrant mothers across this country starts with cash. By reinstating the expanded child tax credit and scaling guaranteed income programs that are caring for mothers, we have a unique opportunity to elevate mothers every day of the year.


Dr. Zea Malawa is a professor of public health at UC Berkeley and the director of Expecting Justice.
Yvonne Yen Liu is associate director of research at Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

David Graeber, 1961-2020

Nasruddin was a thirteenth-century Turkish mystic and philosopher who used humor to teach. David got hold of a book of Nasruddin’s tales in graduate school and would retell the stories to entertain us, over a dinner of dim sum, while walking in a protest march, or during an endless anarchist meeting.

I met David at my first such meeting in New York in 2001. The World Economic Forum announced that it was moving its annual meeting from Davos, Switzerland, to New York, ostensibly in solidarity with the tragedy the city had suffered on September 11. A group of students was organizing a rebuttal to the forum—a counter-summit of sorts—and I attended the gathering to connect with other activists. It was at Saint Mark’s Church in the East Village, a hub at the time of anarchist organizing. David was one of the few friendly faces there.

He was writing an ethnography about the direct action movement, he explained, and then proceeded to break down the culture and social hierarchy of the New York City anarchist scene. I was captivated. David inspired me to study anthropology and to pursue graduate school. He embodied the example of the scholar-activist, even if that wasn’t how Yale University felt. After being rejected for tenure, David moved abroad, and found work in England. Over the years, we stayed in touch sporadically.

I was gutted to learn that he passed away. I always thought I’d have another opportunity to share a meal, a story, or a laugh with him. I will remember him as our generation’s Nasruddin, mumbling a joke with his eyes twinkling.

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Commoning in Los Angeles: Emergent Solidarity Economies

This essay is a part of the forum on Carving Out the Commons

Jorge Juan lives with his wife and two children in an apartment complex in the rapidly-gentrifying Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. A densely populated area – more than 100,000 people live in nearly three-square miles – Westlake has been the destination for immigrants from Mexico and Central America for many years.[1] However, as the average rent for a studio increased from $1,782 to $2,600 in the neighborhood where most are renters, so has the Latinx population dropped from 74 to 68 percent from 1990 to 2015, based on the American Community Survey.

Juan’s family had their monthly rent increase from $950 to $1,350 – a 37 percent increase. Their household wasn’t alone; all tenants of the 192 units at 131, 143, and 171 South Burlington Avenue were told that their rent would increase by 25 to 40 percent. Juan told a reporter at L.A. Taco his concerns about his children who attended the elementary school across the street.[2] “We just want them to learn and not be worried about a meal for tomorrow because all of our money is going to the rent.” The tenants started to collectively organize as a tenants association called Burlington Unidos, and decided to withhold rent until the owner addressed the inhabitable conditions plaguing the apartments: rats, roaches, bed bugs, sewage water leakage, and toxic mold. 92 tenants agreed to participate in the rent strike.

On a warm Friday evening in May 2018, members of Burlington Unidos gathered in a Craftsman house on a block lined with Jacaranda trees. Dishes of rice and beans were arranged on the kitchen table while children squirmed in their seats. About twenty adults – mostly tenants participating in the rent strike – sat on an assortment of folding chairs and benches in the living room. The tenants were gathered to learn about cooperative models where tenants purchased their buildings and converted them into tenant-controlled housing.

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For Asian Immigrants, Cooperatives Came From the Home Country

For these communities, solidarity economics have been practiced out of necessity. But there are lessons we could all learn.

Asian American immigrants to the United States have long survived and persevered by practicing cooperation and mutual aid. New immigrants have faced hostile environments to their participation in the mainstream economy, either because of exclusionary legislation or because they lack paperwork. The standard trope about immigrants is that through hard work and perseverance new arrivals to the U.S. are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In fact, Asian American immigrants have not only survived but also thrived because of these cooperative institutions.

Anh-Thu Nguyen knows this from first-hand experience. Her parents were Vietnamese boat people, part of the 2-million-person exodus who survived arduous journeys over the ocean from a country left destitute by the war. Both her mother and father were originally from the Mekong Delta region, but met in Florida, where there was an established Vietnamese refugee community.

She credits her family with teaching her the values of self-sufficiency and cooperation that guides her work today at the Democracy at Work Institute, where she directs the creation of cooperative-led value chains in the textile and fashion industries.

“Cooperatives weren’t a part of my language growing up, but it was what we did to survive,” Nguyen explains. “Cộng đồng means community, what ties you together. If you need to borrow money to buy a car, someone will help find a way to make it happen.”

Cooperation and mutual aid have been a part of the Asian American experience ever since the earliest documented examples of immigration. Collective help took the form of family associations and rotating credit practices. Early Chinese immigrants who arrived in San Francisco were met at the pier by representatives of family associations, who would escort the new arrivals to the association building and provide housing.

The associations also connected immigrants to employment and provided basic social insurance for their membership, such as medicine, burial expenses for the poor, and money for travel back to China for the indigent elderly. Membership was open to descendants of a particular clan or, even broader, those who shared the same regional affiliation in China.

Family associations and benevolent societies weren’t unique to immigrants from Asia. Germans had a version, Landsmannschaft, which supported students from the same part of the country studying abroad. However, what made these institutions was the political context of exclusion. Chinese were barred from entering into the U.S. if they were common laborers. Immigrants were admitted if they could prove they were merchants, scholars, or diplomats under the 1882 Exclusion Act. In addition, trade unions pitted white workers against Chinese workers, who were portrayed as docile and susceptible to the boss’ whims. Mutual aid associations provided benefits for members with shared family or ancestral histories.

Cooperatives flourished in broader Asian American communities as exclusionary laws initially passed to restrict Chinese immigration were applied to all Asians. Pilipinos, for example, started arriving in California in large numbers in the 1930s. The workers organized themselves as informal cooperatives under a leader from the same region who spoke the same language. That leader was responsible for getting farm jobs for his cooperatives and provided accommodations to the new arrivals. Members of the cooperative could borrow money without interest in the winter when seasonal farm work was at a standstill. The cooperative would also cover medical bills and burial expenses for members without resources.

Anh-Thu Nguyen’s mother, Phi Dang, is one contemporary beneficiary of cooperative economics. When Nguyen’s father passed away, Dang moved to Texas and supported herself by taking care of children in the neighborhood.

The parents of the local children worked long hours in low-wage service jobs such as nail salons and weren’t available to drop off and pick up their young children from school. Dang also provided meals for weary parents to pick up along with their children at the end of their shifts. “This was done informally not as a cooperative but as a loose mutual aid network,” Nguyen says.

Asian American immigrants also pool financial resources to help each other because, like many immigrants, they face obstacles to participating in mainstream banking and financial institutions, because they might not have access to financial information needed by banks, encounter strong language barriers, be distrustful of banks, or simply not have enough money to save. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently found that more than 20 percent of Asian Americans are “underbanked” or turned to alternative financial services in the past year.

Asian American immigrants instead turn to rotating credit associations, whose members grew up in the same region or attended the same school, and who contribute a fixed amount of money into a fund which is then distributed, at intervals, to each member in turn. Each ethnicity has its own form of these organizations, including the Chinese (who call this practice hui or ko), Japanese (tanomoshi or mujin), Koreans (kyes), Indonesians (arisan), and Indians (chits or kuries).

Most nail salon workers, for instance, are recent female immigrants. Most don’t have a history of work experience in their home countries, and many lack the legal paperwork to live in the U.S. and open a bank account. A study of nail salon workers in New York City published in the International Migration Review found that many participate in these lending circles in order to pay for household expenses, children’s college tuition, and mortgage or rent payments. In addition to sharing money, the associations also help to bridge the social isolation and stress the low wage workers often face.

Cooperative practices sometimes originate in the ancestral country and are replicated in the U.S. Julia Ho, for instance, is a second generation Taiwanese American whose grandfather started a farmers cooperative in rural Taiwan. The members of the co-op would pool their money to purchase seeds every year for harvest. Although Julia’s mother, Jui-Lien Chou, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s to study medicine, in 1999 she purchased a 259-acre cotton farm in Lubbock, Texas, which she converted into a USDA-certified organic farm. Named Tree Grace Farms, after Chou’s father Shu-En (樹恩), the farm is now a hub for organic agriculture, supporting edible school gardens, donating produce to a local food bank, and offering shares in a community-supported agriculture.

Ho credits her mother’s influence on her decision to become a community organizer against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri,  and to work as coordinator of Solidarity Economy St. Louis.

“I realize that I’m doing the work my mom does,” Ho says. “My goal is to make room in the solidarity economy movement for people like my mom, who doesn’t consider herself a social justice organizer, but is clearly doing the things that all of us are talking about.”

Although cooperative economics have been practiced out of necessity by Asian American immigrants as a way to survive a hostile country that excluded their participation in the mainstream economy, Nguyen thinks that there are lessons that all communities could draw from.

“In our current age, with the ensuing climate crisis and widening wealth gap, our mutual survival is at stake. It’s not really an option to go at it alone,” she explains. “That’s the big thing to learn from refugee communities, we have to lift each other up.”

Shutdown at the Port of Oakland

About 30 truckers and 150 supporters rallied in front of SSA’s terminals at the Port of Oakland yesterday. The truckers formed a picket line in time for the 7pm shift of ILWU longshorman. Unfortunately, ILWU Local 10 called the Oakland Police to stand guard in front of the rally, to protect the ILWU members who crossed the picket line. The SSA terminal was not shut down.

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Beyond the Second Shift

Mothers working in restaurants face numerous challenges balancing their precarious work, for which some earn subminimum wages, with little to no child support.  Mothers must also work an unpredictable “third shift,” thanks to the erratic schedules endemic to our new service economy.  Working mothers are a floating and flexible workforce, always on call, without any control over their jobs or their hours.

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Decolonizing the Occupy Movement

When the Great Recession sank its fangs into the veins of this country on December 2007, for the first time, millions of white people woke to a different world. Unemployment and poverty are not unfamiliar bedfellows to people of color: Black unemployment has been at least double that of the rate for whites from 1973 to 2009; while Latinos were 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than whites for 28 out of the 37 years. The white middle class wasn’t able to get a job or pay their mortgage or healthcare bills.



Detroiters Rally to Stop Corporate Land Grab of Vacant Lots

The eyes of the food justice movement are turned towards the Motor City, where the local city council will vote Tuesday on a corporate investor’s proposal to purchase nearly 2,000 city-owned lots. Millionaire money manager John Hantz, who first proposed the scheme in 2009, says that the land will be used to create the world’s largest urban farm, returning Detroit “to its agrarian roots.” But community activists fear the sale will displace residents of the city’s Lower East Side neighborhood, most of whom are low-income black families.

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Farmers, Workers, Consumers, Unite!

Since its founding in 1996, the Community Food Security Coalition has been the leading voice for people of color and the poor in a food movement that often marginalizes them in favor of well-heeled “foodies.” This summer, the coalition announced that 2012 would be its last year of operation. The announcement left those of us in the food movement reeling.

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