Criminals on Both Sides of the Bars

Prisons are supposed to be secure places where offenders are held accountable and prepared to lead law-abiding lives when released. In fact, that’s right in the Bureau of Prisons’ Mission Statement, “to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” However, that’s hard to do when some of those running prisons are criminals themselves. 

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice found that employees of the Bureau of Prisons have committed rape and murder, taken cash to smuggle drugs and weapons into prisons, and stole government property such as tires and tractors. In addition, the IG found that BOP employees had filed false reports, incited violence, lied, were stalkers, and took bribes. Since 2019 more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for these crimes.

Those crimes were committed by the people that are supposed to be “correcting” the behavior of inmates. Good luck with that!

Last November, the Warden of the women’s prison at FCI Dublin in California was indicted for groping a female inmate, asking two inmates to strip naked for him, and taking and storing photographs of a naked inmate in her cell.

He is also accused of trying to deter one of his victims from reporting the abuse by telling her that he “was ‘close friends’ with the person that investigates allegations of misconduct by inmates, bragged that he “could not be fired.”

This year another BOP employee at FCI Dublin was arrested on charges he coerced two inmates into sexual activity. It appears that some randy foxes are guarding the henhouse.

I have a unique perspective on the crimes committed at the Dublin prison. I was inmate 06833-097 at the Dublin prison complex from March 1994 to February 1995. At that time, it was an all-male labor camp. While imprisoned there similar corruption happened regularly.

One day, I was exchanging my tools at the Tool Shed. Clay and Joe, the inmates assigned there, told me that the foreman of the landscape crew had come into the shed and ordered them to go and pick up cigarette butts in the maintenance yard behind the shed. This was odd because there were plenty of inmates assigned to sweep up the butts, and the shed would be left unsupervised while they were out in the yead.

However, Clay and Joe knew better than to question the foreman. After several minutes passed, they saw him put something in the back of his pickup and drive off. They returned to the tool room and noticed two empty outlines where brand-new Skilsaws had been hung just that morning. When Joe and Clay reported the missing saws to their supervisor, he listed it as an “inmate theft.”

Because I had been in government other inmates would tip me off about staff thefts. For instance, in the week before the prison would take inventory prior to the start of a new fiscal year, several inmates told me to keep my eyes and ears open. They predicted that word would spread through camp that the Supply Room door had been left open and the officer was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough, soon inmates were scurrying back and forth between the Supply Room and their lockers with their arms full of socks and underwear.

Later that afternoon a surprise shakedown of all the inmate lockers was called and all the extra items were confiscated. The officers returned the inventory to the Supply Room. The scam was that a couple of days later when taking inventory, it was “discovered” that there were shortages for many items carried on the books. The shortages were attributed to “inmate theft” thereby covering up all the clothes that the staff pilfered for their families the preceding year.

As for staff dalliances with the female inmates, I learned that prior to my arriving at the camp several officers had been frog marched out the prison gate for having sex with female prisoners in return for smuggling in drugs and cigarettes.

The women’s prison was adjacent to the Garage where I was assigned for much my time at Dublin. We were able to visit through the fence with the women inmates. While this is secondhand info, it was confirmed by the women inside the fence as well as male inmates who were in the camp when this occurred. The BOP brushed the scandal under the carpet. Rather than charging the officers for their crimes the offending officers were merely reassigned to other prisons.

The crimes I have described were committed by “bad apples” among prison officials. I admire many of the who have dedicated their lives to keeping prisons safe while helping prisoners become better people. The work of these heroes is undercut when the prison system doesn’t cull these bad actors from their ranks.

The Roman poet Juvenal wrote, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Who will guard the guardians? If prisons are to send inmates home better than when they went in the ethics of the corrections profession must be restored. The acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons just announced he is stepping down. However, real change requires more than a change at the top. It means a fundamental change in the BOP the culture that has tolerated such criminals among their ranks. The Bureau of Prisons needs a top-to-bottom housecleaning. And  it needs it stat.

Pat Nolan is the Founder of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union conservativejusticereform.org

California Farmworkers Now Get Overtime Pay After 8 hours. Some Growers Say It’s a Problem

For the past two decades during the harvest season, 58-year-old farmworker Lourdes Cárdenas would wake up at 3 a.m. to get dressed, say her daily prayers and prepare lunch before driving an hour south from her home in Calwa to a farm in Huron. She’d pick crops like cherries, nectarines, and peaches from daybreak until sundown — at least 10 hours a day, six days a week.

There would be days where she wouldn’t get home until 7 p.m or 8 p.m., depending on traffic, she said. For many of those years, she was paid minimum wage. There was no overtime pay.

“It’s a long work day,” she said in Spanish. “I’d get home very late, exhausted. It’s very hard work being in the fields.”

For years, hundreds of thousands of farmworkers toiling in California’s agricultural heartland weren’t entitled to overtime pay unless they worked more than 10 hours a day. But that has changed due to a 2016 state law that’s been gradually implemented over four years. As of Jan. 1, California law requires that employers with 26 or more employees pay overtime wages to farmworkers after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

That means many farmworkers like Cárdenas will now be compensated time-and-a-half for working more than eight hours. It’s a change advocates say is long overdue to provide the agricultural labor force with the same protections afforded to other hourly workers. But opponents argue that the law — though well-intentioned — strains farmers who already operate on thin margins and confront other financial challenges. Employers also say the new rules will disadvantage workers, as they’ll likely reduce hours in an attempt to cut increasing labor costs.

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Under the law, which was authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, farmworkers began in 2019 to gradually receive the same overtime pay as employees in other industries. Farmworkers previously became eligible for overtime benefits after 10 hours, but the law has lowered the threshold for overtime pay by half an hour annually for the past three years, until reaching the standard eight hours this year.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Gonzalez said “none of my bills stole my heart more.”

The full implementation of the law for larger-scale growers marks the most recent win for labor advocates, who had been running a decades-long campaign to secure overtime pay for farmworkers. California is one of six states, alongside Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Washington, to provide overtime pay to agricultural workers. Many states, however, only provide overtime pay after the 60-hour threshold has been met.

FRESNO GROWERS CONCERNED ABOUT FARMWORKER OVERTIME LAW

Eriberto Fernandez, the government affairs deputy director at the UFW Foundation, which sponsored the California bill, said the law secures a basic protection for a workforce that has long been exploited. He added that agricultural workers were excluded from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that gave most employees the right to minimum wage and overtime pay.

“It’s a very historic and momentous occasion for farmworkers that they now, for the first time in the history of agricultural labor, have the same rights as all other Californians do,” he said. “For the first time since the 1930s, equal overtime pay now also applies to farmworkers.”

Fernandez said the law will provide farmworkers with more quality time with their families. He also said farmworkers, many of whom work ten- to twelve-hour shifts during the peak harvest season, will be fairly compensated for their labor.

“This is about leveling the playing field for farmworkers,” he said. “We’re hoping that this new law now puts farmworkers on equal ground with all other industries in California.”

But many growers say the new law could do more damage than good.

Ryan Jacobsen, a farmer and Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO, said the law doesn’t address the needs of the farming industry, arguing that agriculture requires a unique set of rules because it is subject to changing weather and seasons. And unlike other businesses, the labor-intensive industry requires more flexibility on scheduling and working, especially during peak harvest times, he said.

“Most of these jobs in the industry are still seasonal in nature and there are times of the year where there’s more work than there is in other times of the year,” he said. “In the California ag industry, there was always — up until the passage of this bill — an understanding that these employees would be able to make up these hours during these shorter windows because there’s not as much availability of farm agricultural work (in other times of the year).”

Daniel Hartwig, a fourth generation grape farmer from Easton who also works as the procurement manager at Woolf Farming, agreed. He said that the law makes an already fickle industry even more complicated for growers.

Growers have been concerned about labor costs increasing, in part due to California regulations, Hartwig said. He said many growers are reducing their employees’ hours and transitioning to cultivating other crops that don’t require as much human labor. Instead of planting fruit trees, Hartwig has switched over to nuts like almonds and pistachios, he said.

“We can’t absorb those additional labor costs,” he said. “So we’ve just kind of refocused on making sure more of our crops are able to be mechanically harvested. Those are the choices we’re making. (The law) is hurting farmers, and it’s hurting the farm workers as well.”

Fresno County broke its own record for agricultural and livestock production in 2020, peaking at more than $7.98 billion, according to the crop report from county Agricultural Commissioner Melissa Cregan. Nuts were among the top earners. Almonds were the county’s top-grossing crop, earning $1.25 billion, while pistachios made up $761 million, the report found.

Fernandez, of the UFW Foundation, said it’s “unfortunate” that farmers are reducing hours for their employees given the county’s record-breaking years.

“These are the same arguments that we hear over and over again about how these laws are going to destroy agribusiness in California,” he said. “And if anything, we’ve seen the opposite — we’ve seen the California businesses thriving. For them, it’s a matter of economics and of profitability. They’re choosing to shorten worker hours to save money that they would otherwise have paid for overtime pay.”

CALIFORNIA FARMWORKER WAGES INCREASING

Farmworkers are some of the lowest-paid workers in the U.S, according to a 2021 report from The Economic Policy Institute. On average, farmworkers in 2020 earned about $14.62 per hour, “far less than even some of the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. labor force,” the report found. Farmworkers at that wage rate earned below 60% compared to what workers outside of agriculture made, according to the report.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Before Promising To Solve the World’s Big Problems, Politicians Should Aim To Fix Potholes

The lonely crusade against government hubris.

Upon election to office, politicians come to believe that they have the wherewithal to solve the world’s toughest problems. They usually mishandle the nuts-and-bolts chores they’re charged with addressing, yet dream of altering the Earth’s climate and eliminating enduring human conditions such as inequality and poverty.

Most pols view themselves as the second coming of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, or even Ronald Reagan, when most of us just want public servants who make sure the potholes are filled, the streets are marginally safe, the government budget balances, the trash gets picked up on time, and homeless people aren’t defecating in our local park.

The latest example of such governmental hubris comes from the county of Los Angeles which, you know, can’t even put an end to alleged gangs among the ranks of its own highly paid deputy sheriffs nor figure out how to run its child-protective services agency in a competent and humane manner. Now county officials want to “solve” the crisis of loneliness.

Before Christmas, the county Board of Supervisors “took on a problem that is typically private and put it in the public eye,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “They voted unanimously to ask staffers to research how residents are affected by loneliness and isolation and how the county can help—particularly during a pandemic where in-person contact has been off-limits.”

Loneliness is a serious mental-health scourge, but the last part of the above sentence provides insight into the main reason for the current bout of isolation. Governments want to study why we feel lonely and disconnected, but government pandemic rules limited the ability of Americans to socialize with one another as we approach two years of mandated social-distancing rules.

“Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, researchers warned in a recent webcast, and the problem is particularly acute among seniors, especially during holidays,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. You probably didn’t even know that there is a federal agency with such a name, but I digress.

“A Harvard University survey conducted in October 2020 found that feelings of social isolation are on the rise during the pandemic, and that those hardest hit are older teens and young adults—61 percent of respondents felt ‘serious loneliness,'” noted a Boston University report. “And social media, where young people live and breathe more than any previous generation, is not helping.”

Say it ain’t so. I’m not sure what Los Angeles County staffers will add to the debate, but the board might have thought about that scenario when it previously embraced draconian shutdowns rather than more reasonable and flexible pandemic-related restrictions. This is such a government phenomenon—create a crisis, then vow to solve it for us.

Fortunately, the county isn’t planning on repeating its mistakes as the Omicron variant emerges, at least not as of this writing. I don’t mean to be too hard on county supervisors, who at least acknowledge the pandemic-related policy causes of the Great Alienation. Their intentions are good, but you know what they say about good intentions.

“We didn’t mean to do it,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during the board meeting. “We don’t mean to cause isolation. But we are, in some cases, a part of the problem.” Indeed. Government officials don’t mean to cause many of the problems they do cause, which is good reason to at least show skepticism next time they want to save us from something.

Do a Google search of “loneliness epidemic” and you’ll find multiple news stories, government statements, and academic reports—some even pre-dating COVID-19. A well-known book from 22 years ago, “Bowling Alone,” spotlighted the crisis in connectedness caused by trends in family, work, and media.

I don’t minimize this issue, but my wife offered my kids the best advice: Get together with friends. Turn off the TV. Log out of Facebook. Perhaps I should put her in touch with county brain trusts. Some issues are beyond the pale of government intervention. Sometimes we have to take control of our lives.

We all play along with the notion that politicians can solve all of our problems, even though we know better. I don’t know anyone who has heard, say, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s soaring rhetoric and come away thinking he’ll really change the Earth’s climate—even as he fails to keep his own Employment Development Department from sending billions of dollars in unemployment funds to scammers.

It’s not a Democrat vs. Republican thing, either, as GOP politicians have suddenly discovered the supposed crisis of masculinity just as they have long bemoaned troubles in the American family. Politicians are adept at mining votes by identifying societal shortcomings, but their solutions always involve giving them more money and power.

I eagerly await Los Angeles County’s report on loneliness, but I still wish county supervisors would spend more time filling the potholes.

This article was published by Reason

Remembering Kelly Ernby, A Dedicated Public Servant

The tragic passing of Orange County Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby from COVID-19 has brought forth praise for this wonderful woman’s devotion to her family, her friends, her work and her country.

She was a passionate and dedicated public servant.  She worked hard as a highly skilled prosecutor. She advocated for the people.

She handled civil and criminal prosecutions of unlawful business practices, false advertising, labor violations, environmental pollution, unlawful prescribing of narcotic pills and workplace safety violations.

She also volunteered with the DA’s Gang Reduction Intervention Program to educate children, teachers and parents about staying away from crime, bullying and gangs. This is the kind of work that saves lives.

Within the Republican Party, Kelly took the reins of the Precinct Advisory Committee. She organized our volunteers and mobilized them to Get-Out-The-Vote. She dedicated countless hours recruiting and developing grassroots workers. She brought forth a devotion for this role that I had not seen for many years.

I didn’t always agree with Kelly. But I have been left frustrated and disappointed in those who have disparaged her to score cheap political points.

Kelly was not only a wife and daughter, but she was a human being.  Within hours after word got out on her passing, the airwaves reduced her life of public service to a “trending topic.”

Disagreeing with someone’s views is one thing. But besmirching her for causing the death of others is unconscionable.  Have we lost all our social graces, respect for the dead and any humility?

The worst was by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a physician and pediatrician. He tweeted, “Tragically Kelly Ernby died of #COVID19 because she was unvaccinated, but sadly she infected others with #coronavirus or vaccine disinformation before she died that will led to death or disability for others in her community.”

But none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News on August 1, “In fact recent studies have shown the level of virus in the nasopharynx of a vaccinated person, who may not be symptomatic or mildly symptomatic, is the same as an unvaccinated person.”

Then there’s’ the Goldwater Rule, under which it’s unethical for physicians to publicly comment on the health of politicians not their patients. Pan was not her physician. He never examined her and only was going by media reports. His statement went well beyond the politics of the situation.

Ernby’s views were like many of those within the Republican Party, who believe personal liberty should determine the direction of your individual lifestyle, including health care.

Personally, I am vaccinated and I believe vaccinations work.  However, I completely oppose government mandated vaccinations.

It’s important to determine what works for you. I consulted with doctors and medical professionals. What works for me, though, doesn’t necessarily work for you. It’s why I don’t ask people if they are vaccinated and why I don’t get mad at others if I find out they haven’t received their vaccinations. 

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Inflation Is a Tax On Us All

Pinned on my office wall is a Zimbabwe $10,000,000,000,000 note. (That’s 10 trillion for those of you tired of counting zeroes). The currency is real, although Zimbabwe’s default currency is now the U.S. dollar. The central bank of Zimbabwe issued these $10T notes during the last days of hyperinflation in 2009, and they barely paid for a loaf of bread.

Ironically, you can now purchase one of these bills for about $27 U.S. dollars because they serve as collectors’ items or, more importantly, as a physical representation of the evils of inflation. Every economics professor in America should own one to show to their students on the first day of Econ 101.

Milton Friedman explained that inflation is always “a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”

Inflation hits everyone, but especially the middle class and those on fixed incomes. Inflation is a threat to the middle class because price increases reduce purchasing power so that the things that the middle class could previously afford are now out of reach. This pushes the lower rungs of the middle class out of the picture.

The disproportionate impact of inflation on the middle class relative to the wealthy may seem counterintuitive because the inflation rate — projected now at over 6% — is the same for everyone. But while all suffer the same rate of inflation, those with lower incomes tend to have lesser means of adapting to the increases in consumer prices. The suggestion from Biden’s White House chief of staff Ron Klain that inflation is a “high-class” problem is insulting.

Click here to read the full article at the Whittier Daily News

California Is Swimming In Money. How Will Gavin Newsom Spend California’s Budget Surplus?

For the second year in a row, California’s budget is poised to avoid economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Gov. Gavin Newsom with a good problem: how to spend a projected $31 billion surplus.

By Monday, Newsom must unveil his proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which starts July 1. His proposal will kick off months of negotiations with lawmakers, who face a June 15 deadline to pass a budget.

Analysts predict the state’s highest earners will continue to prosper and pay high taxes, resulting in another big surplus. The budget Newsom signed last summer included a projected $80 billion surplus, which allowed lawmakers to provide COVID-19 relief and send stimulus checks to millions of Californians.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has recommended that lawmakers appropriate no more than $3 to $8 billion in new ongoing spending, and use the rest on one-time expenses that won’t force cuts in the future when there’s less cash available. The office also advocated for lawmakers to add to reserve accounts in anticipation of leaner budget years in the future.

Newsom has said he wants to use most of the extra money for one-time spending on areas including budget reserves, pension debt and the social safety net. He has also suggested more stimulus checks could be on the table.

“I think that’s the approach: fiscally disciplined, recognizing this is not a permanent state, recognizing the one-time nature of most of these dollars,” Newsom said in November.

MORE POLICE FUNDING

In November, after a spate of high-profile retail thefts, Newsom announced that his 2022 budget proposal will “substantially” increase funding for cities to crack down on organized retail crime.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who leads the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, said she thinks addressing retail theft makes sense, but wants to see specifics.

“We need to do something to deter those crimes and hold people accountable,” the Bell Gardens Democrat said. “I want to see the details and see that the funding is used effectively and not just padding departments.”

She said she also wants to see more money in the budget to change a culture of hazing in California prisons.

Last year, The Bee reported on two California State Prison-Sacramento officers who died after reporting harassment, hazing and corruption by their colleagues. One officer’s death was ruled a suicide. The other died of a fentanyl overdose. Since then, the state has moved to fire two officers and discipline 10 other employees at the prison.

Garcia also pointed to the case of a prisoner who was tortured and beheaded by his cellmate, which officers failed to report for hours.

“Breaking the law and being in jail shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Garcia said. “Being an officer shouldn’t be a death sentence either.”

MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS

Newsom intends to steer more money toward screenings for dyslexia and add more funding for early education, he told The Sacramento Bee in an interview last month. Newsom has dyslexia and wrote a book last year inspired by his struggle to read because of the condition.

He said his proposal will aim to help kids who “start behind.”

“We did a lot more last year than we did the prior year, and this year’s budget’s gonna see a hell of a lot more, forgive my language,” he said. He also said he wants to expand literacy programs through First 5, a state program for kids under 5.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Harris Loses Another Staffer

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday that it was naming an aide to Vice President Kamala Harris as its new executive director.

Vincent Evans is returning to Capitol Hill after nearly a year in the vice president’s office as Harris’ deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.

Evans is among a string of staff departures from Harris’ office in recent months as she confronts the high expectations and scrutiny that accompany being vice president.

As executive director of the 56-member Congressional Black Caucus, Evans will work closely with the group’s chair, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).

“Vincent will help the CBC reach greater heights and make substantive advances in 2022,” Beatty said. “In addition to his experience, he brings great passion for further strengthening the CBC’s top priorities moving forward.”

In a statement, Evans said he was “deeply honored” to be chosen for the post.

“I started my career in Washington working for a member of the CBC, so I know firsthand the tremendous leadership and impact this caucus has in Congress and across the country,” Evans said. “As we write the next chapter of the CBC story, I am excited for the opportunity to lend my experience and passion for supporting the collective vision of this storied caucus.”

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

House Democrats Size Up Next Leaders As Pelosi Rumors Churn, Midterms Loom

With Republicans favored to regain the House in November’s midterm elections, talk on Capitol Hill has turned to the future of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that Pelosi, who turns 82 in March, will leave Congress at the end of this term — especially if Democrats receive the walloping forecast by most polls.

GOP lawmakers and operatives insist that President Biden’s plummeting approval ratings, announcements by at least 24 Democratic lawmakers that they will not seek reelection, and historical precedent that the party controlling the White House often loses congressional seats in midterms augurs that a “red wave” is coming this fall.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has made hay of the whispers, repeatedly referring to Pelosi as a “lame duck Speaker” on social media and during press conferences. 

However, multiple Democratic sources say that a large midterm loss is not inevitable. They note that 11 of the 16 House Democrats who have announced they would rather retire than seek another two-year term are in their 70s and 80s, suggesting they are motivated by other factors than dread of at least two years in the minority. (Four other departing House Democrats are running for the US Senate, while another four are seeking other office.)

One Democratic source also pointed to grudging praise recently offered by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a indicator that Pelosi’s powers over her caucus have not yet faded.

“She has been amazingly effective for a very long time,” Gingrich told “Fox & Friends” Monday. “She survived losing the Congress [in 2010], came back as the minority leader, got to be Speaker again, and with a tiny majority, she accomplished things I didn’t — as a former Speaker, I didn’t think were possible. So, you at least technically have to have a real respect for her professionalism, her toughness, the degree to which she owns the House Democratic Party. When she leaves, there will be a big vacuum.”

But not every Democrat is so optimistic about the party’s chances.

“I believe if Democrats (miraculously) retain a majority in 2023, she’ll stick around for one more Congress,” one lawmaker told The Post. “If not, I suspect she’ll defer to a new generation of leadership.”

Click here to read the full article at the NY Post

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Resigns for Labor Union Post

Gonzalez to become next leader of the California Labor Federation

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) announced her resignation from the Assembly on Monday to become the next leader of the California Labor Federation, one of the largest and most influential union groups in California, later this year.

Gonzalez, a graduate of Stanford University, Georgetown University, and UCLA, got her start in politics in the early 2000’s as a senior advisor to then-Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante. However, her background as a community activist and organizer won her influence among those in labor, as well as a failed run for San Diego City Council against future Mayor Kevin Faulconer in 2005, culminated with her becoming the CEO and Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO in 2008.

After five years as one of the most powerful labor leaders in the state, Gonzalez was elected to the Assembly in 2013, where she quickly became one of the top union and worker advocates in Sacramento. Among some of her more notable bills were AB 1522, a 2014 bill-turned-law that granted sick days to part-time employees, and AB 480, a 2017 passed bill that added child care product subsidies for parents entering the workforce while coming off of welfare.

However, by far her largest and most controversial legislation was AB 5, the 2019 law that drastically altered the contractor worker landscape in the state by having most contractor employees be reclassified as employees. While the aim was to have more workers provided labor protections and more benefits such as health coverage, the law instead hurt many independent contractors, caused many companies to hire fewer people because of the increased costs, and proved to be so inconsistent that the law has been consistently been altered – even before coming into law in 2020.

While AB 5 has been somewhat weakened since becoming law, with many industries such as rideshare companies and trucking groups fighting to remain exempt through legal action and voter propositions, it still stands in California as of January 2022 and remains a major victory for the labor movement in California.

Due to her labor background and work as an architect of several pro-labor pieces of legislation in the past, she had been touted s a replacement for longtime CLF Executive-Secretary Art Pulaski for some time. In November, the CLF was confident enough in Gonzalez that they voted to recommend her as their next leader.

The question of her acceding Pulaski was still open until late December when redistricting of Assembly districts pushed Gonzalez into the same district as Assemblywoman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego). Facing a potential polarizing primary election this June, as well as having to recover from a recent bout of cancer and the invitation of leading the CLF still open, Gonzalez agreed to the position on Monday.

Gonzalez out in the Assembly

Speaking from the opening of the January session on Monday, Gonzalez gave her farewell to the Assembly.

“An opportunity to serve in this capacity doesn’t come up but every few decades, and as I think you all know, serving working Californians is my singular priority,” said Gonzalez. “I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

“We expanded workplace rights for grocery workers, hotel workers, warehouse workers, janitors and home healthcare workers, paramedics, nail technicians, construction workers, clerical staff, delivery drivers, gig workers, garment workers, disabled workers and more. First in the nation’ described countless laws we wrote pertaining to worker rights and more. We did a lot. But the only way to truly change the lives of working Californians is to empower them at work. No law is ever as powerful as a union contract. So, now, I will simply continue my service by singularly focusing on strengthening the labor movement.

Pulaski, who has led the CLF since 1996, approved Gonzalez as his probable successor on Monday.

“I couldn’t think of a more qualified, passionate and committed leader to continue the critical advocacy of working people at the nation’s largest state federation of unions,” added Pulaski.  “Assemblymember Gonzalez lives and breathes union values every day.”

While Gonzalez received many other goodbye praises on Monday, others noted that her leaving would be positive for the Assembly.

“Labor just lost its strongest ally in the Assembly,” said “Dana,” a Capitol staffer to the Globe. “We’ve gotten a bunch of calls about this from worried union people. They’re happy she’ll be the head of the [CLF], but they are terrified as this could mean that AB 5 will be left more undefended and that other labor bills won’t have quite as big a supporter. Of course, many others like this and hope that her vacancy is otherwise filled with someone not as strong in labor.”

“Honestly, about as many are cheering her going out of the Assembly as being saddened by it. She’s still in a powerful position and can easily go back into politics from where she is at. But she’s out now.”

Gonzalez will have a as-of-yet unknown role within the CLF until July, when an election for union leadership is to be held after Pulaski’s stepping down. A special election is expected to take place sometime this year to fill her now vacant Assembly seat.

This article first appeared in its entirety in the California Globe

San Francisco Now Has 3rd Highest COVID Transmission Rate In California

San Francisco now has the third-highest coronavirus transmission rate in California, with a daily average case rate of about 104 per 100,000 residents.

The county recorded a seven-day average of 896 cases per day on Dec. 30, the most recent available data. That is more than double the previous peak of 388 cases, a seven-day average recorded on Jan. 12 last year.

At least one Bay Area county, Napa, is out of available intensive care beds as the virus once again tightens its hold on the region.

San Francisco’s transmission rate ranks in California behind only Los Angeles County, with 118 cases per 100,000 residents — the highest reported there since the start of the pandemic — and Mono County with 109 per 100,000. Across California, the seven-day average is 75 cases per 100,000, and in the Bay Area, it is 63 cases.

San Francisco officials said infections among staff members are starting to affect city departments. The Municipal Transportation Agency said Monday in a memo obtained by The Chronicle that it is implementing COVID protocols at its offices on South Van Ness Avenue after an outbreak involving several staff members.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Bay Area also hit their highest number since mid-September over the weekend.

Data analyzed by The Chronicle shows 746 Bay Area hospital patients testing positive with the coronavirus as of Sunday — a figure not seen since the tail end of the summer delta surge. Of those patients, 149 were in intensive care unit beds — a 50% jump since Christmas.

That is already putting stress on some hospital systems in the region. Napa County has no ICU beds currently available, said Leah Greenbaum, the county’s emergency services coordinator.

“The current surge is driving more patients to the health care system, and it is also impacting staff,” she said. “When staff become infected with COVID-19, they cannot come into work and care for patients, which can cause significant strain on the health care system.”

The number of hospitalizations in the Bay Area, a lagging indicator of pandemic trends, has risen sharply since mid-November with the spread of the omicron variant and the persistence of the delta variant, and it shows no sign of abating.

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