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Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Governor Newsom kick off Pride Month

We are grateful for our diversity, which is the strength of our state, and support those that work towards equality in California, Newsom said

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California Pride (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus stands in solidarity with allies across the world today, as June 1 marks the beginning of Pride Month. The annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community’s history and culture — now in its 52nd year — will provide numerous opportunities to highlight milestones achieved over the last year, as well as events expected to coincide with the state’s June 15 reopening.

In 2018, California became the first state in the nation to officially recognize June as Pride Month, when Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) authored AB 2969 and former Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. Pride Month not only commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which were prompted by a series of police raids targeting the LGBTQ+ community in New York City, but also celebrates the modern civil rights movement and recent advances in equality and inclusion.

“Words cannot convey how difficult this last year has been for so many people, which is why we feel so fortunate that Pride Month is coinciding with California’s reopening,” said Assemblymember Low, Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus. “Pride has always been a beautiful blend of civic engagement and celebration — part activism and part festival. As we return to seeing our loved ones in person, we will use Pride Month as an opportunity to recognize our victories in advancing equality while acknowledging that the struggle continues. We must be unwavering in our mission until every LGBTQ+ person can live a life free from persecution.”

Pride events this month will take place online as well as in person, and the Capitol Dome will be illuminated in Pride’s rainbow colors for an entire week starting on June 21. The lighting will mark just the second time in state history the dome has featured the “Colors of Progress,” which was first done in 2015 after the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.

Over the last four years, California has continued to advance legislation in the name of equality despite numerous attacks under former President Trump. The LGBTQ Caucus is grateful for the allyship of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has been a steadfast champion of the LGBTQ+ community since his time as Mayor of San Francisco.

“The LGBTQ Caucus and the community at large is undeniably still in a fight to secure equal rights for everyone, and recent attacks on transgender youth — as well as the isolation many have felt during this pandemic — has increased the urgency of the Caucus’ efforts,” Governor Newsom said. “As we once again celebrate Pride Month, we are grateful for our diversity, which is the strength of our state, and support those that work towards equality in California.”

Despite making substantial progress in representation — more than 220 LGBTQ+ candidates celebrated election victories across the country last year — the LGBTQ Caucus and the community at large is undeniably still in a fight to secure equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The past year has featured a substantial increase in legislative attacks on the rights of transgender youth, and the pandemic put a larger spotlight on disparities in our health care system when it comes to access and delivery of services to LGBTQ+ and communities of color.

“This has been an incredibly difficult year for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), Vice Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus. “Historic legislative attacks on our community in the midst of recovery from a global pandemic. It is more important than ever for our community to come together in celebration of Pride month this June. To show resilience and defiance in the face of such hate. This Pride will be a much-needed refuge from the storm and an opportunity to rally against inequality and injustice everywhere.”

Ricardo Lara, California’s first openly gay Insurance Commissioner and a former LGBTQ Caucus member during his time serving in the Senate and Assembly, noted that Pride Month is a chance to celebrate as well as renew our collective pledge to making sure all of California’s LGBTQ+ residents have an opportunity to prosper.

“I want to wish every Californian a Happy Pride Month! Together, we celebrate the hard work of our ancestors, the victories we’ve won, the strength and beauty of our diverse community, and the work ahead,” Commissioner Lara said. “Pride began as an uprising, and our fights for progress, inclusion, and civil rights are far from over.”

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego)called on the LGBTQ+ community and allies to reimagine what’s possible during Pride Month, while also paying homage to those who paved the road to progress.

“While our community continues to combat challenges confronting our LGBTQ+ siblings, we must also take a moment to celebrate our heroes and victories, and shine a light on their contributions for Californians and our country to see,” Senate President Pro Tem Atkins said. “From enacting laws that protect our rights and safety, to advancing language that is more inclusive and understanding, it’s inspiring to not only be a part of the movement, but to watch and learn from the next generation of trailblazers.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) noted that the Pride Flag will be flying high for the month of June, which will serve as a hopeful reminder of what’s possible when we collectively fight for equal rights.

“Pride Month and the rainbow flag are reminders that every single Californian deserves recognition of their identity and their humanity,” Assembly Speaker Rendon said. “LGBTQ rights are everyone’s rights, and Pride Month is a celebration for everyone.”

In addition to the Capitol Dome lighting on June 21, the LGBTQ Caucus will also hold a ceremony that day to celebrate a diverse list of honorees who have dedicated their lives and careers to advancing civil rights and equality. More events will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

Below are additional statements from LGBTQ Caucus members and allies:

Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona):

“Another year and another opportunity to celebrate love, representation, and our collective passion for equality. May we use this month to reaffirm we are here, and queer, and fighting for the injustices we still face. As we continue the dialogue for justice, we should acknowledge this month as ours. May you find rest, inspiration, and solace.”

Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz):

“It is my sincere honor to wish all those celebrating a Happy Pride Month! As the Senator representing the 17th District, I take great pride that 40 years ago this November, I was first elected to public office. At that time, there were only 10 out LGBTQ people in office in the entire United States. When we formed the LBTQ elected officials’ association in 1985 there were only 15. For those of us that put ourselves out early, we enjoy the fact that there is a great deal of diversity, acceptance, and understanding in our country today. When I graduated from college it was against the law to be gay in all 50 states and now, surrounded by my LGBTQ Caucus colleagues, we are living proof of the great sacrifices and progress our community has made. This Pride Month and all those moving forward, may we choose to uplift and celebrate our LGBTQ community.”

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose):

“I’m proud to be the first openly Bisexual legislator in the State Assembly. Far too often, bi erasure makes too many of us in the community feel invisible. The fight for equality is far from over but we can continue to combat bi erasure and LGBTQ+ stigma by living authentically and educating others.”

Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego):

“This past year has shown the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in California. There is undeniably more work needed to ensure equal rights for all, and the rise in hate crimes and attacks on our transgender community prove this every day. As we enter into the month of Pride, let’s continue to celebrate the vibrant and diverse community so many have fought to create, and honor the lives of the LGBTQ+ heroes we have lost in the past year.”

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco):

“Pride is an incredibly important time for the LGBTQ community to come together, celebrate, and reflect. While I’m sad we won’t be together in person for every event this year, I’m confident this will be our last virtual Pride. I want to thank the Chair and Vice Chair for their leadership in putting together another outstanding Pride celebration.”

Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California:

“Now more than ever, it’s important that we unite as a community and celebrate Pride together — celebrate our progress, our resilience and our diversity. We’re proud to join the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus in commemorating Pride month and continuing our work to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people.”

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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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California voters give Newsom thumbs down on homelessness response

“I don’t think homelessness can be solved – I know homelessness can be solved,” said Newsom. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions”

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New Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell & Governor Newsom tour Folsom Lake reservoir (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

BOSTON – In a new poll released Friday conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College of more than 1,000 registered voters, half rated Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the homelessness crisis in California as ‘poor.’

The poll of more than 1,000 registered voters has a margin of error of +/-2.9%  (Graphic via KTLA)

Newsom’s low marks comes after an announcement earlier this week at a Project Homekey site located in Sebastopol, West of Santa Rosa, where he signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in California history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion over two years towards tackling the homelessness crisis head-on – helping tens of thousands of people off the streets while also demanding greater accountability and more urgency from local governments.

The new homelessness funding includes $5.8 billion to add 42,000 new housing units through Homekey – a national model for homeless housing. $3 billion of this investment is dedicated to housing for people with the most acute behavioral and physical health needs. This investment is the biggest expansion in decades in terms of clinically enhanced behavioral health housing in California.

According to the poll, homelessness ties with housing costs at 19% as the number one issue the state is facing today. COVID-19 ranks close behind at 16% (Graphic via KTLA)

“I don’t think homelessness can be solved – I know homelessness can be solved,” said Newsom. “We are going all-in with innovative solutions that we know work – with a focus on creating housing to support people with severe mental health challenges, and with more money than ever to move people out of encampments and into safer situations.”

California is home to more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless people with an estimated 161,000 people are experiencing homelessness, according to federal government data, and it has reached crisis proportions in many cities, especially in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in his annual State of the City address on April 19, 2021 that he will seek to spend nearly $1 billion on initiatives for addressing homelessness, as well as allocate $235 million for the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, intended to help up to 100,000 households and other critical needs.

There are deep disagreements in how to solve a problem that goes beyond economics, advocates claim they can’t house people quickly enough with a shortage of housing units and high rents. The issue is also further exacerbated by the complications of mental illness and addiction issues that require treatment and can make people resistant to accepting shelter.

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