Does Berkeley’s Teachers Union Support Free Speech to Suppress Free Speech?

“There is no free speech for fascists. They do not have the right to organize for genocide.”
–  Yvette Felarca, as reported by Frances Dinkelspiel writing for Berkeleyside, Nov. 2, 2016

Most anyone who follows current events is familiar with the riots at UC Berkeley that stopped a planned February 1st appearance by Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Fewer people may be familiar with Yvette Felarca, an activist and organizer with the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a “coalition to defend affirmative action, integration and immigration rights and fight for equality by any means necessary.” Mother Jones, who probably would not opine to this effect without strong evidence, in 2005 called BAMN “a Communist front-group.”

If you watch this recent television interview with Felarca on KTVU Oakland, or her recent interview on Fox News, you will see she is carefully making a case for violence against “fascists.” In her Fox interview, Felarca defines fascism this way: “A fascist is someone who is organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, and a movement of genocide.” She goes on to say – regarding Yiannopolous – “he should not be allowed to speak in public, to spread his racist, misogynistic, and homophobic lies. No, he does not have the right to do that.”

UC Berkeley, 2/02/2017. Free speech tactics aimed at suppressing free speech.

The UC Berkeley riots are not Felarca’s first experience with street activism. As reported by the Daily Californian, “The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on administrative leave Sept. 21 [2016] after she was filmed physically attacking a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in June.”

You got that right. Felarca is a humanities teacher at a public middle school. And six weeks after being placed on leave, Felarca returned to the classroom.

So here’s the question. A representative from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers was present at the Felarca’s reinstatement meeting, and presumably was involved in the negotiations between Felarca and the district. And as Felarca’s attorney puts it, “We continue to … fight for her free speech right and academic freedom. We also seek damages for the violations on her rights … to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.”

To fight for her “free speech.” Free speech that attacks any alleged “movement of genocide.”

Would a spokesperson from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers care to comment on the free speech rights of teachers who oppose the position their union takes on abortion? Because apparently, in the world of California’s public education system, people who engage in provocative speech that challenges left-wing truisms can be accused of building a “movement of genocide,” whereas people who consider millions of terminated pregnancies to be actual genocide are silenced by their unions.

One may believe abortion is murder or one may believe it is an inalienable woman’s right. One may believe that Milo Yiannopolous is a dangerous agitator, or one may believe he raises important counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom of the left. But regardless of personal sentiments and principles, can anyone deny that the teachers union takes political stands that not all their members will agree with?

Consider this quote from former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose, including measures that would have endangered the lives of teenage girls. Currently, California is one of only ten states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”

Polarization is nurtured when people feel victimized by institutionalized hypocrisy and double standards. Felarca and her movement engaged in violent suppression of free speech because they claim – with no evidence – that Yiannopoulos is a genocidal fascist. Does the teachers union condone her activities? And if not, are they willing to make a statement?

Meanwhile, with their political support for a woman’s right to choose well documented, every year in California the teachers union forces collects millions, if not hundreds of millions, in agency fees from members who – with ample evidence – consider mass abortions to be genocide. And they condemn the activities of teachers who oppose their position.

If this is not a double standard, then the term has no meaning.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

In California, the Anniversaries of Two Big Ballot Initiatives Go Unreported

University-of-CaliforniaThe media usually love to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of a major law or policy shift. During 2016 in California, however, they took a pass on mentioning two key milestones.

November 5 marked 20 years since California voters approved Proposition 209 — also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative — by a margin of 54 to 46 percent. This measure ended racial, ethnic and gender preferences in state-college admissions, state employment and state contracting. Opponents claimed that Prop. 209 would bring on the end of affirmative action, but state colleges and universities could still cast the widest possible net for admissions and extend a hand to minority students on an economic basis.

The disaster that opponents predicted would result from Proposition 209 never occurred. As Thomas Sowell noted in his 2013 book Intellectuals and Race, declines in minority enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley were offset by increases at other University of California campuses. More important, the number of African American and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system went up, including a 55 percent increase in those graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Still, critics maintain that Proposition 209 harmed “diversity.” In bureaucratic parlance, “diversity” means that all institutions should precisely reflect the racial or ethnic proportions of the population. If they don’t, the reason must be deliberate discrimination, and the only remedy is government action — namely, racial and ethnic preferences of the type that the University of California imposed before Proposition 209.

The proportionality dogma isn’t law, yet politically correct administrators believe that some groups are “overrepresented,” that is, there are “too many” of some kinds of people on campus. This usually means Asians, targets of much discrimination in California history. In recent years, UC campuses have bulked up on high-salaried diversity bureaucrats. In similar style, the city of Sacramento has created a new position for a “diversity manager.” Politicians have also deployed measures such as the 2012 Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, sponsored by West Covina Democrat Ed Hernandez, who claimed it would ensure that universities would “reflect the diversity of the state.” Asian groups cried foul, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, returned SCA 5 to the Senate without a vote.

The 30th anniversary of another historic California ballot measure passed without notice in November. On November 4, 1986, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Official Language of California Amendment. This measure directs the state legislature to “preserve the role of English as the state’s common language” and refrain from “passing laws which diminish or ignore the role of English as the state’s common language.” Seventy-three percent of California voters approved the measure, a landslide by any definition, and it’s still on the books. So what has the government of California done over the last 30 years to ensure that the democratic will of the people was respected? Nothing; they ignored it. “In short, state legislators and public officials acted as if Prop. 63 never existed,” wrote Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow in 2006. As this writer, an immigrant, can testify, some level of proficiency in English is a requirement for American citizenship, which, in turn, is a requirement for voting. Yet, in 2016, the California voter guide came in English and, count ‘em, six other languages: Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. With 17 propositions to translate into seven languages, the voter guide packed the heft of a phone book.

A raft of stories accompanied October’s tenth anniversary of the passage of California’s “historic climate law,” yet not a single one commemorated the passage of successful propositions to end racial quotas and establish English as the official state language. Sadly, the Golden State’s political class and old-line establishment media remain out of touch with the people.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation.

This piece was originally published by City Journal online

Berkeley Soda Tax: First Month’s Take, $116,000

As reported by the Contra Costa Times:

BERKELEY — Several City Council members and other boosters of Berkeley’s first-in-the-nation soda tax giddily reported the first month’s haul — $116,000 — on the steps of the municipal office building on Milvia Street on Monday.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli, a prominent booster of the freshly enacted tax, projected the first year’s proceeds at about $1.2 million.

On Nov. 4, voters approved Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distribution of most sugar-sweetened beverages, by a better than 3-1 margin, even though, as a general tax with proceeds to go into the general fund, it needed only a simple majority.

The city did not estimate what the tax might bring in, but …

Click here to read the full article

Soda Tax Difficult to Swallow in Berkeley

The city of Berkeley, Calif., is finding it’s not so easy imposing a soda tax. Since the tax’s Jan. 1 imposition, retailers find it’s a burden changing prices for just one type of item in one city.

Measure D, officially the City of Berkeley Sugary Beverages and Soda Tax, last November overwhelmingly was passed by 76 percent of city voters. The tax is a penny per ounce. So a 16-ounce Coke would be hit with 16 cents. There are exceptions for small businesses.

The measure passed even though the soda industry spent $2.4 million against it, an estimated $30 per registered voter. Opponents warned of increased costs to consumers.

The pro-Measure D coalition called itself Berkeley vs. Big Soda. It maintained on its website, “We face a serious health crisis:40% of kids will get diabetes in their lifetimes unless we do something about it. The link between sugary drinks and diseases like diabetes is undeniable.”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a Berkeley resident, wrote in the Huffington Post in favor of the tax, “Berkeley’s Soda War pits a group of community organizations, city and school district officials, and other individuals (full disclosure: I’m one of them) against Big Soda’s own ‘grassroots’ group, describing itself as ‘a coalition of citizens, local businesses, and community organizations’ without identifying its members.”

The text of Measure D claimed “this Ordinance is to diminish the human and economic costs of diseases associated with the consumption of sugary drinks by discouraging their distribution and consumption in Berkeley through a tax.”

Measure D set up a new bureaucracy, the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts, to recommend to the City Council how to spend the taxes collected.

Compliance

But things are turning out more complicated than expected. Camilo Malaver co-owns the San Francisco-based Waterloo Beverages company, reported Berkeleyside. “In January, when the tax was implemented, Malaver decided to stop restocking his supply of craft sodas and naturally sweetened beverages in Berkeley to avoid further confusion. … His frustration was aimed primarily at the city for what he saw as a poor job relaying information on how to comply with the tax.”

Malaver said, “Berkeley is a good city to do business with the university, but now, it’s tough. We’re in limbo. Everybody’s lost and [we] don’t know what to do.” The university itself, as a state entity, is exempt from Measure D.

A problem is that the soda market has changed from the days when the market mainly was such Big Soda suppliers as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. As with the craft brew markets for beer, “craft sodas” have popped up like those sold by Malaver.

When potentially hundreds of different items are involved, that complicates trying to figure out if a beverage is taxed, or is exempt. For example, the ordinance taxes “heavily presweetened tea,” but not regular tea, or slightly sweetened tea.

The big distributors offering a limited number of different drinks more easily can comply than can the small or medium outfits. As Berkeleyside notes, “All but one of the distributors who spoke to Berkeleyside were small- to medium-sized local distributors that sell craft sodas, sweetened teas and energy drinks.”

The confusion over what to tax also is reminiscent of the controversy over the statewide 1991 Snack Tax. As part of a $7 billion tax increase to close the budget deficit of that year, the tax was imposed on formerly exempt snacks. Except that some snacks, such as nuts, remained exempt. But it wasn’t clear whether candy with nuts was taxed, or exempted.

The Los Angeles Times reported in October 1992, “SACRAMENTO — A year and a half ago, part of the answer to the state’s dire need for higher revenue was extending the sales tax to snack foods, candy and bottled water, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Pete Wilson.

“Today, with the signatures of nearly a million Californians standing behind Tuesday’s ballot measure to repeal the tax, no one — not the governor nor a single lawmaker who voted for it — has stepped forward to support keeping the tax.”

On Nov. 3 that year, two-thirds of voters backed Proposition 63, which repealed the tax.

Dollar Tree

Meanwhile, one large outfit affected by the Berkeley soda tax is discount chain Dollar Tree. A 16-ounce soda formerly cost $1, plus Berkeley’s 9-cent sales tax. (In California, sodas are taxed, unlike most other food). Now on top of that is placed the new soda tax of 16 cents (1 cent per ounce). Total: $1.25.

Berkeleyside reported in January, “Dollar Tree — which sells a variety of products for $1 or less and has more than 5,200 stores in North America — decided to pull out sodas in its Berkeley stores when the soda tax went into effect on Jan. 1, according to Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations.”

Guiler said, “Due to the increased cost from the Berkeley sugary drinks and soda tax, we are no longer able to carry sugary drinks and soda at the one-dollar price point.”

Ironically, Dollar Tree still sells fruit juice, even when it is saturated with sugar, because the beverage is not subject to the new tax.

Future taxes

A 2013 bill for a statewide soda tax, SB622, died in committee. It was by state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel. According to the March 2 Sacramento Bee, it’s unlikely to come back in the Legislature any time soon.

A tax increase still requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature. With Republican gains last year in the Legislature, Democrats’ two-thirds supermajority is long gone. And if there’s one thing Republicans can agree on, it’s opposing higher taxes.

That leaves anti-soda forces hopeful that Berkeley’s example can be poured out into other cities, even though 30 previous tries have failed.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

UC Berkeley Slammed Over Allegedly Biased Minimum Wage Report

A top researcher has called out University of California, Berkeley for allegedly releasing a biased research paper that served as leverage for the San Francisco minimum wage increase.

Economic expert Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, argues that a biased research paper by UC Berkeley helped lead residents of San Francisco to support a rapid minimum wage increase, which possibly contributed to several businesses closing. As Saltsman argues, the wage increase makes the cost of operations a much worse burden for business owners. They often have to cut hours or even in some instances completely close their business.

The paper, “San Francisco’s Proposed City Minimum Wage Law: A Prospective Impact Study,” was released in August, and argued that an increase of the minimum wage will have a vastly positive impact for workers in the city.

“Drawing on a variety of government data sources, we estimate that 140,000 workers would benefit from the proposed minimum wage law, with the average worker earning an additional $2,800 a year (once the law is fully implemented),” the study noted. “Our analysis of the existing economic research literature suggests that businesses will adjust to modest increases in operating costs mainly through reduced employee turnover costs, improved work performance, and a small, one-time increase in restaurant prices.”

The following November, residents of the city voted to increase the minimum wage gradually to $15 an hour over the course of three years. Saltsman argued the UC Berkeley study used biased findings.

“These are the comforting studies they can turn to,” Saltsman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It creates stories that say you can raise the minimum wage without consequences.”

“If you look at the methodology,” Saltsman said. “Basically they didn’t take into account the fact it could have a negative impact on employment.”

Saltsman argued that the study only looked at how the wage increase will benefit workers, as opposed to how it may negatively impact businesses. If a business owner is unable to hire as many employees or has to close their business because of the higher cost of operations, it becomes bad for workers, too.

“These contribute to the public policy debate,” Saltsman continued. “It’s become a key position in the public policy debate.”

Saltsman said their approach and the results of the study are not at all surprising. Some of the researchers involved had activist backgrounds.

“The problem at UC Berkeley is they are presenting themselves as unbiased economists,” Saltsman notes. “This is the sort of thing you expect from an advocacy group.”

Michael Reich, one of the researchers involved in the report, shot back at the claims the study was biased.

“In restaurants and retail, stores both open and close all the time. You’d need to know whether closings increased and openings decreased relative to a control group,” Reich told TheDCNF. “That’s an objective method that all economists, including me, use to identify the causal effects of a policy.”

Though the wage increase has not gone into full effect yet, opponents are already pointing to several businesses that have closed. These include Borderlands bookstore, Abbot’s Cellar, Luna Park and Source.

Follow Connor on Twitter

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

Berkeley Minimum Wage Hike Study Ignores Key Factor

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal for a $13.25 citywide minimum wage hit a speed bump last week when two city councilmen — Mitch O’Farrell and Felipe Fuentes — insisted on an independent analysis of his plan.

They specifically objected to the group of researchers originally chosen to conduct that analysis, from a labor union-aligned research outfit at the University of California-Berkeley, due to concerns that their final product wouldn’t be sufficiently independent.

Are these concerns justified? Berkeley professor Michael Reich, who has accompanied the mayor on pitch meetings for the proposed wage hike, doesn’t think so.

Reich and his co-authors have been busy writing various reports on California minimum wage increases. In 2014, for instance, they released four separate reports on proposed city minimum wage increases in the state — in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland — and another report on a proposed statewide wage increase.

The geographies and populations studied varied dramatically, as did the minimum wage policies proposed: From $11.50 an hour in San Diego up to $15 an hour in San Francisco. And in every instance, the conclusion that Reich and his team produced was the same: Substantial loss of entry-level jobs is unlikely to occur following a minimum wage increase. (This consequence was apparently so remote in San Diego that it wasn’t even worth mentioning in the report.)

This kind of unanimity on the question of job loss and the minimum wage is highly unusual, to say the least: The issue has been studied exhaustively over the past two decades, and according to a summary of all these studies by economists at the University of California-Irvine and the Federal Reserve Board, a majority of the research points to job losses following a wage hike.

Policymakers curious how Reich and his team consistently reach a conclusion at odds with this economic consensus should read the fine print. In a seven-page document released last year explaining how they estimated the impact of citywide minimum wage increases, they offered this disclaimer: “We do not make any adjustments for potential positive or negative changes in employment due to the minimum wage increase.”

Got that? The reason why this team from UC-Berkeley consistently finds no impact on employment from a higher minimum wage is that they assume at the outset it doesn’t exist.

You could have all sorts of fun evaluating public policies following this approach. For starters, you might study the increased revenue from a new 50 percent tax on all new car purchases in Los Angeles — and assume at the outset that higher taxes won’t affect consumers’ purchasing decisions. Or perhaps you could study the ramifications of a $20 per-car toll on the Golden Gate Bridge — and assume from the start that higher tolls won’t impact driving habits. In both cases, you’re guaranteed to succeed!

Of course, if the assumptions are unjustified — if higher taxes on cars really would reduce purchases, for instance, and if a higher minimum wage really could hurt job growth — then this approach starts to run in to trouble.

It’s even more problematic in the case of Reich’s team at UC-Berkeley because the backgrounds of these researchers suggest they have more than the data in mind. Ken Jacobs, for instance, who was a co-author on all four of the city minimum wage studies, was formerly employed as co-director of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition. Today, he oversees the Center for Labor Research and Education, which is supported by many of the same unions pushing for a higher minimum wage. Another co-author of these papers, Annette Bernhardt, made the leap to Berkeley from the National Employment Law Project , which boasts of “coordinating the campaign to lift the federal minimum wage to more than $10 per hour.”

The least that the City Council can do is commission a report whose independence is not in doubt. With an average 30 percent of Los Angeles’ job-seeking youth failing at finding a job, it’s crucial that any additional barriers to employment associated with a higher minimum wage be seriously examined rather than ignored as if they didn’t exist.