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California LGBT Legislative Caucus elects new leaders

Low says Caucus will build on historic gains

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LGBT Caucus 2018: Top: Susan Eggman, Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins, Ricardo Lara, Scott Wiener; Bottom Cathleen Galgiani, Evan Low, Sabrina Cervantes (Photo courtesy LGBT Caucus)

And then there were seven. On Monday, the California Legislative LGBT lost a prominent member with the historic swearing-in of State Sen. Ricardo Lara as Insurance Commissioner, the first openly gay person elected statewide to a constitutional office in California. But the loss was a motivator: two days later, the Caucus unanimously elected San Francisco’s prolific Sen. Scott Wiener to serve as the new Chair and Assemblymember Todd Gloria from San Diego to serve as Vice Chair. Their mission is to build on their accomplishments, as well as help mentor the next LGBT legislative generation.

“I am honored and humbled to serve as Chair of the LGBT Caucus and I am grateful to my colleagues for placing this trust in me and in Caucus Vice Chair Todd Gloria. For nearly 30 years, I have dedicated myself to the LGBT community, and this work is deeply personal for me. I want to thank Assemblymember Evan Low for his extraordinary leadership of the LGBT Caucus for the past two years. Under Evan’s leadership, the Caucus has made huge strides,” said Wiener said in a press release.

“We’ve made significant progress in California as an LGBT community, with strong civil rights protections and more and more openly LGBT elected officials,” Wiener continued. “Yet, despite those advances, our community continues to face major challenges around discrimination, violence, lack of healthcare access, housing instability, and economic insecurity. Transgender Californians continue to experience extreme violence, poverty, unemployment, and incarceration; LGBT people disproportionately experience homelessness; LGBT young people are committing suicide at alarming rates; too many people continue to become infected with and die from HIV; LGBT seniors have far too little support; and our federal government is literally trying to erase us. Yet, I am optimistic about the future, given our pro-LGBT Governor and Legislature. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues – both LGBT and allies – to ensure California remains a beacon of hope for our entire community, here and around the world.”

“We are lucky to have these outstanding champions fighting for us in Sacramento,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, who also thanked Low for his service.

“Under the leadership of Assemblymember Evan Low, the Legislative LGBT Caucus has continued to break ground, making progress inside the Capitol and for all Californians,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “I congratulate Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria for taking on the challenge of continuing those gains as Caucus Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively.”

The past two years under the ubiquitous outgoing Chair Evan Low have been extraordinary for the 17-year old, all-LGBT Caucus, especially considering the religious-right anti-gay knuckle-draggers in the Republican-dominated Legislature that lesbian and gay legislators had to fight against after Sheila Kuehl’s historic election in 1994. Jonah Markowitz’s 2016 documentary film Political Animals shows what Kuehl, Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe had to endure before Gray Davis was elected governor in 1998 and the tide against LGBT dignity and equality started to fundamentally change.

Now the California Legislature has a super-Democratic majority and a super-progressive governor, Gavin Newsom.

“We have the most openly LGBT legislators than any other legislature in the nation,” Low told the Los Angeles Blade in an extensive interview. “We want to build on that. It’s something that we care very deeply about. And these are not just legislators who come from the coastal communities but from the Central Valley and Stockton and we have the youngest Latina LGBT legislator in Sabrina Cervantes.”

Low says the LGBT Caucus is “very excited” but “we have much work to be done. That’s why we’re going to focus on a very robust legislative package in the LGBT Caucus and also recognizing that we have such a key champion in Gavin Newsom who made history by putting the stake in for us on marriage equality (in 2004). So the stars are aligned and we’re so excited for 2019.”

At Equality California reception for Ricardo Lara Jan. 7, 2018: Todd Gloria, Cathleen Galgiani, Ricardo Lara, Scott Wiener, Evan Low, EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur (Photo courtesy San Garrett-Pate, EQCA)

Low notes that the LGBT Caucus will look at a number of areas, “making sure our LGBT seniors retire and age with dignity in areas of housing and access to healthcare services,” for instance.

Low says there is special focus on the transgender community to make sure trans people are recognized. They will build off of “SB 396, for example, by Sen. Lara on the Transgender Work Opportunity Act. And SB 310, the Name and Dignity Act, by Sen. Atkins. And the Gender Recognition Act recognizing gender non-binary individuals,” Low says.

“There are lots of the things we want to partner on working with Trans Can Work insuring we have an inclusive workplace and laws and we will continue to do many of these different things.”

Low is mindful of California’s position as a beacon of light during these difficult times. “We’re excited by the progress we’ve had, in particular, given where the Trump administration is, we feel that in the absence of leadership – and in fact, in response to the attacks from the Trump administration—the state of California needs to be the blue print for other states to pass similar legislation.” 

Low notes that, contrary to the anti-LGBT disparaging comments made in the past, “now some Republicans are voting in support of our legislation. We had bipartisan support of a travel ban to states that discriminate; on the Chechnya Resolution calling on Chechnya to recognize the importance of the LGBT community; bipartisan support on “conversion therapy” as a fraudulent practice. And this is what I think is so transformative—why it’s so important to get openly LGBT people to be in these key positions to change the hearts and minds of everyday Californians. We want to demonstrate that this is not partisan and that love transcends partisanship.”

In addition to introducing new laws, the LGBT Caucus also intends to exercise an oversight function to ensure the laws are enforced.   

“While we can talk about the legislative successes and what’s being signed—for example when the governor signed my bill ensuring LGBT training in law enforcement and in the academies and POST training—we can’t just wipe our hands clean and say everything’s done. Fine and dandy,” Low says. “We need to do the necessary follow-ups with the police departments, police chiefs, training academy to making sure what that looks like and that it’s adequate.”

Additionally, the LGBT Caucus hopes to re-introduce bills vetoed by Gov. Brow, such as legislation for LGBT training in schools by Tony Thurmond who is now the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

And, Low says, speeding up his already fast delivery, “what we’re so excited about is that this is not just a project for the LGBT Legislative Caucus but we’re also having straight allies asking to champion and play a key role in some of these areas.”   

Last year Low pulled a key “conversion therapy” bill announcing that in his tour around the state to garner support, he discovered some evangelical Christians who—while they still believed homosexuality is sinful—disavowed the harmful junk science practice. Low says he’s been meeting regularly to engage these Christians.

Kevin Mennoia is the former president of the National Evangelical Association and he agreed with this notion of not only saying that ‘conversion therapy’ is anti-Christian but is also harmful. He penned an op-ed In the Orange County Register to state that,” Low says. “That’s very transformative. It is my hope that we can work with them and convene to say that they can be part of this process to join us in lock step to denounce ‘conversion therapy’ and to celebrate our basic humanity.”

Low says he is not fixed on a date to re-introduce that bill. “We’re still in that legislative process,” he says. “But given my deep engagement on this issue, you can image that I’ll be very passionate about trying to get some type of partnership that will come up into legislative format. Hoping within the next couple of months.”

Low is very firm on one point: “We will not shy away and we take these obligations very seriously that’s why we want to convey that we are convened back and ready to go.”

Interestingly, shortly after the LGBT Caucus issued their press release about the change in leadership, Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s office announced that the new LGBT Caucus Vice Chair is also now running to be Mayor of the City of San Diego.

“It’s clear that San Diego needs strong, experienced, and progressive leadership in the Mayor’s Office – leadership that has the courage to take our city beyond business as usual and solve the long-standing problems that have faced our city. That’s why I’m running for Mayor,” Gloria said in the press release. “San Diego may be America’s Finest City, but we should strive to be more than just fine. We should dare to be great.”

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California

Following Newsom’s vaccination measures, California employers follow suit

We will work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting economic recovery

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Los Angeles Blade Graphic

SACRAMENTO – Throughout the past week, some of California’s largest employers – both private businesses and local governments – have followed Governor Newsom’s lead in implementing vaccine and testing measures for employees. After California implemented new vaccine verification and testing requirements for state and health care workers on Monday, and with President Biden following suit this past Thursday, employers have implemented similar measures for thousands of employees throughout the state.

  • City of Los Angeles: “Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez announced today that they would push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for City employees, beginning with a requirement that workers either submit proof of vaccination or a weekly negative test.”
  • City of San Francisco: “City officials said that the requirement would promote safety in municipal workplaces and among the general public, given that police officers, firefighters, building inspectors and other city workers come into regular contact with members of the community. ‘With those two things in mind — the safety of our employees and the safety of the public we serve — we made this decision,’ said Carol Isen, San Francisco’s director of human resources. ‘We believe this step is a simple one to take. It’s safe, it’s very effective, and it’s going to guarantee the safety of all.’”
  • San Diego County: “The County will begin requiring its employees to verify COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. Details being worked out but implementation expected by mid-August. Vaccination is the key to fully and safely reopening the economy.”
  • City of Long Beach: “We are announcing today that all @LongBeachCity employees will need a mandatory vaccination or be required to show a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Thank you to the 72% of employees who are already vaccinated. It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership. I strongly support Governor @GavinNewsom’s action to do the same for state employees. The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available. I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.”
  • Google: “‘Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,’ Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations ‘in the coming weeks’ and to other regions ‘in the coming months.’”
  • Facebook: “‘As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,’ VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. ‘How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.’”
  • Netflix: “Netflix has become the first major studio to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for its U.S. productions. The move comes after studios and Hollywood unions last week finalized an agreement that allows producers to require vaccines for the people who are potentially at highest risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 on set: actors and the crew who work most closely with them. Netflix was particularly quick to implement the policy. More major studios are expected to follow in the coming weeks as they work out the challenging logistics of overhauling their approaches to pandemic safety on set.”
  • Lyft: “As of August 2, all employees working in Lyft’s offices are required to be vaccinated, according to an email Lyft (LYFT) CEO Logan Green sent to staffers that was viewed by CNN Business.”
  • Uber: “Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) is pushing back its back-to-office date to late October globally, and all employees in the United States will have to be fully vaccinated before returning to office, a spokesperson said on Thursday.”
  • California Business Roundtable: “The governor’s approach will allow economic recovery to continue while redoubling efforts to encourage vaccinations. From the beginning of the pandemic, the business community has been a partner with the governor and public health officials by implementing mitigation protocols and testing, hosting vaccination clinics, communicating the need to get vaccinated, promoting the vaccine through its own PSA, and offering incentives to employees and customers. We will continue to look to work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting employment opportunities or our economic recovery at this critical stage, while paying special attention to continued outreach to Black and Latino communities, of which 51 percent and 49 percent remain unvaccinated, respectively.”
    • The coalition includes:
      • California Business Properties Association
      • California Hotel and Lodging Association
      • California Manufacturers and Technology Association
      • California Retailers Association
      • California Restaurant Association
      • Orange County Business Council
      • Los Angeles County BizFed
      • Central Valley BizFed
      • Inland Empire Economic Partnership

Here’s what health, labor, and other local leaders have also said about Governor Newsom’s vaccine and testing measures:

  • California Hospital Association President & CEO Carmela Coyle: “The new public health order announced today by Gov. Newsom will help ensure that California remains ahead of the curve in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is again on the rise nationally, and in California, driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. It is imperative that we all do everything possible to protect patients and our communities from COVID-19 illnesses and death. Everyone should get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective — and they are free. The evidence is clear — vaccination against COVID-19 has prevented people from becoming seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, or dying from the virus, as well as spreading it to others. To date, 75% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose, with minimal side effects. Requiring health care settings, including hospitals, to verify the vaccination status of all health care workers — and to expect those who are unvaccinated to wear masks and be tested regularly — are important and necessary steps that must be taken in this extraordinary situation. The Governor’s announcement is essential to keeping patients and those who care for them safe.”
  • California Primary Care Association Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Witte: “The California Primary Care Association supports twice weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated healthcare workers. The science is clear: the vaccines work, and they are safe. Over 97% of people seriously sick or dying from COVID-19 viral infections are unvaccinated. This trend is completely preventable with increased vaccination, to the point of herd immunity of our population, when we can begin to look at the pandemic ending. Twice weekly PCR testing for all unvaccinated healthcare workers fits the model for good prevention: accessible, accurate, inexpensive and easy to administer. This is an important addition to prevention of COVID-19 infections. CPCA is in full support.”
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President/CEO Jodi Hicks: “Once again, the state of California is leading by example, using data, and following best scientific practices to protect millions of people from COVID-19. We commend Governor Newsom for today’s announcement: implementing a vaccination verification system for employees in high-risk environments – a critical step in helping curb the recent uptick in spread across the state and get us back on track. Planned Parenthood continues to work closely with providers and government officials across the state to ensure access remains equitable and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic have access to correct information about the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and Planned Parenthood will continue to encourage every Californian who can to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
  • California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D.: “Throughout this crisis, health care workers have been a source of strength, sacrifice and perseverance. Ensuring all of us are vaccinated against COVID-19 sends a strong message that the safety of our patients and our colleagues is top priority. It is a duty that comes with our responsibility as people who care for others. We can all do more to keep each other safe, and health care workers in particular have a moral and ethical obligation to do all we can to protect our patients. When someone comes into a health care setting, they deserve to know the medical personnel who care for them are doing everything in their power to keep them safe. Ensuring that all health care workers are protected against COVID-19 will help put patients at ease and will help us bring this deadly pandemic to an end. So many physicians, nurses and medical workers have sacrificed so much over this last 18 months. We know what this virus can do. Many of us have witnessed the devastation first-hand. After going through so much, it is heartbreaking to see cases rise once again, especially when we have vaccines that can stop the spread of this deadly disease. We’ve come too far to ease up now in our fight against COVID-19. It makes sense for the health care community to lead the way in requiring vaccines for our employees. We will continue to do all we can to help convince all Californians that vaccines are safe, effective and critical as we come together to bring this pandemic to an end.”
  • SEIU-UHW Executive Committee Member Gabe Montoya, EMT: “California’s frontline workers in health care and frontline jobs serving the public are growing increasingly concerned as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. We support Governor Newsom’s efforts to ensure vaccinations reach more Californians because these life-saving shots not only prevent death and grave illness from the virus but also prevent more dangerous variants from taking hold. Since this pandemic began, belonging to a union has given workers the strength we needed to speak up for our own safety and the communities we serve, from demanding PPE to creating the conditions for students to return to schools safely. For this reason, we will continue to bargain with our employers to ensure that implementation of the policy includes workers’ voices and push for recognition of all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic.”
  • United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals President Denise Duncan, RN: “COVID-19 transmissions are high, we’re in a fourth surge, and we know that unvaccinated people are suffering the most. This is a forward-thinking order from Governor Newsom which will save lives by protecting patients and caregivers both. Our nurses and health care professionals are still reeling from the last year and a half of the pandemic, including staffing shortages. This is a proactive step to protect patients, workers, and the broader community.”
  • California Statewide Law Enforcement Association: “The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents peace officers across the state, responded to the order by sending a message to members reiterating the state requirements and pledging to follow up on outstanding questions. ‘CSLEA is in the process of confirming that testing will be done at no cost to the employee and on State time and how employees will be compensated for self-quarantine if mandated to do so,’ the union said in a statement. … ‘Further, the State is not presently mandating proof of vaccine, though it would likely be legal if it did. Employees can elect to decline to provide proof of vaccination if they are willing to adhere to the masking and testing requirements,’ the union said in a memo to members.”
  • California Correctional Peace Officers Association: “Glen Stailey, the union’s president, said in a statement, Gov. ‘Newsom’s new vaccine policy is a reasonable compromise that we can get behind. It provides for regular testing at work for those who have chosen not to get vaccinated — this will prevent the spread of the virus among correctional officers and incarcerated individuals alike.’”
  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “I support Gov. @GavinNewsom in requiring #Covid vaccination or regular testing of employees. I believe we should do the same in @TheCityofSac for the sake of our employees and customers.”
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California

Employees of statewide LGBTQ+ group Equality California form union

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU and Lambda Legal have formed unions in recent years.

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Equality California staff volunteer for congressional candidate Christy Smith, March 2020 (Photo Credit: EQ Calif. Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – A supermajority of workers at Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, announced the formation of a union, Equality Unites, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

In a letter sent via email Thursday, the staff urged Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, who is leaving his post at the end of 2021, and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang to voluntarily recognize their union, inclusive of all non-Director level employees.

The union organizers laid out issues that merit the need for the union and what is felt to be critical concerns including addressing employee hiring and retention — particularly among employees of color, trans, gender nonconforming and intersex people — salary, raise, and promotion transparency, guidelines around overtime and fair compensation, a healthy culture of feedback, and any decisions that impact their health, safety and lives.

Organizers also pointed out that the staff at the non-profit organization had exceeded all expectations and kept the organization afloat during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers also want to ensure that all employees have a voice as the organization undergoes a change in and restructuring of leadership, as well as a shift in goals and mission.

“CWA Local 9003 is proud to welcome our newest bargaining unit, Equality Unites,” said CWA Local 9003 President Marisa Remiski. “We are urging management to voluntarily recognize them and CWA Local 9003 as their Union. We look forward to working together!”

Late Thursday afternoon Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang responded in a written statement;

“This morning, Equality California received notice from our employees that they intend to organize a collective bargaining unit and a request that we voluntarily recognize it. As a progressive civil rights organization, Equality California has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with unions in support of workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain,” the statement read.

“We remain fully committed to these pro-worker values, and we intend to support our employees’ organizational efforts and voluntarily recognize a bargaining unit. We look forward to continuing to provide a supportive and equitable environment for all of our employees and to working collaboratively with them going forward,” Zbur and Hoag added.

Zbur and Hoang’s voluntary recognition of the union is significant. Employers often resist efforts to unionize by forcing employees to vote or engaging in other practices to dissuade workers from organizing.

But the outgoing and incoming executive directors of the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization immediately made clear that they have no intent to do so, and instead will support the employees’ efforts.

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU, Lambda Legal and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have formed unions in recent years.

Throughout the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, labor unions have played an important role in advocating for LGBTQ+ Americans. In 2007, Pride at Work — an official constituency of the AFL-CIO — signed onto an amicus brief in support of marriage equality in In re marriage cases.

Unions like the Communications Workers of America, California Teachers Association, United Food and Commercial Workers, and more staunchly opposed California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which sought to prohibit marriage equality.

More recently, unions have played a crucial part in advancing protections for LGBTQ+ workers, including the overwhelming 90% of union support for the Equality Act (H.R. 5) and celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision in Bostock, which affirmed that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination under federal law.

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Los Angeles

BNT: Buck case highlights intersection of race & sexual orientation

Journalist Jasmyne Cannick, said that the case “intersected race.” She joins “Black News Tonight” to discuss the case and its impact.

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Screen shot via Black News Tonight

PHILADELPHIA – Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill Wednesday, Los Angeles based political strategist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick, who has covered the Ed Buck case, told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation.

“As much as this case is about Ed Buck, it’s also about our housing crisis, and what it makes people feel they have to do — play Russian roulette with their lives just to have a roof over their heads,” Cannick stressed.

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