Hotel Workers Union Hosts Panel To Move Toward a Long Beach Ordinance to Protect Housekeepers from Excessive Workloads and Sexual Violence

21 Aug
DSC_0050

Audience before the panel discussion, on Thursday, Aug.17, on working conditions of hotel housekeepers; photo by Barry Saks

More than 150 people attended a panel discussion, as part of the Stand with Women Campaign on Thursday, Aug. 17, at the First Congregational Church, at 241 Cedar Ave, on women in the hotel industry, toward Long Beach adopting an ordinance to address sexual assault and workloads.

The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice, and UNITE HERE Local 11 sponsored the discussion.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, of the United Methodist Church, emceed with the panelists: Juana Melara, who is a hotel housekeeper; Nereyda Soto, who translated for Melara; M. Lorena Gonzalez, a citywide Seattle Council woman; Katherine Spillar, the Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Long Beach 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez; and Maria Elena Durazo, who served as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor from May 2006 to December 2014.

Besides the Long Beach Councilwoman Gonzalez on the panel, the other Long Beach council members in the audience were Vice Mayor and 9th District Councilman Rex Richardson, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga.

DSC_0063

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson after introducing Katherine Spillar hands the mic to her, on Thursday, Aug. 17, for her to speak on the panel on hotel housekeepers in Long Beach; photo by Barry Saks.

The Bishop, who served as the Vice Moderator for the Central Committee of World Council of Churches, said, “I think it’s a very special time for us to stand with women, to support women in the workplace and to prepare ourselves to help people to inact the kinds of policies that will ensure dignity and safety for the working women…Unfortunately many of these women are in terrible working conditions and that subjects them…to working to long and also to the problems of sexual harassment.”

Spillar, who is also the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, said, “(T)hose of us who are the victims of discrimination or who are oppressed in the workplace banding together and organizing to push forward.  That is how change is made.”

DSC_0087

Maria Elena Durazo, on Thursday, Aug. 17, speaks on panel on housekeepers in the Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks 

Durazo, who, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal, has declared she is running for a California Senate seat in 2018, added, housekeepers must knock on doors and “hope the person who answers the door is not a sexual deviant.”

DSC_0090

Hotel housekkeper Juana Melara (left) with her translator Nereyda Soto (right) speaks, on Thursday, Aug. 17, on panel on working conditions in Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

Melara, who spoke in Spanish, in which Soto translated in to English, said she has been a hotel housekeeper for 22 years and that her workday she gets paid begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m.  However, she must get to work before 8 a.m. to prepare her cart, which her employer doesn’t consider as part of her work.  She said she cleans 14 or 15 rooms each day but she gets frustrated because at times she doesn’t have the necessary tools.

Once she had to work on her hands and knees because she didn’t have the needed tools.  She said she must lift the mattresses, which is heavier than her own body weight and sometimes a room may have more than one bed. Because of the stressful workloads, housekeepers are sometimes not aware of their surroundings, enabling hotel guests physically to take advantage of the housekeepers.

One time a guest tied a worker up with a telephone cord, locked her in the room and sexually assaulted the worker.  The worker left in an ambulance and never returned.

Once a guest asked Melara for a massage and another time a male guest exposed his “private part” to her and feared she would be raped.  Security arrived 20 minutes later.  By the time security came, he had exposed himself two other coworkers and was never caught.

Melara received a standing ovation.

DSC_0100

Seattle Councilwoman M. Lorena Gonzalez speaks, on Thursday, Aug. 17, on panel regarding working conditions for housekeepers in Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

The Seattle Councilwoman, who is also a former civil rights attorney, said she grew up as a migrant farm worker, picking fruit, cherries, apples and asparagus that her family could not afford.  She added, “(T)he guest is not always right.  Rape is never right…That’s about power.  It’s about who has it and who doesn’t.”  She spoke about the Seattle law protecting hotel workers.  She said, “If somebody has been raped or somebody is in the process of about to be raped, it is common sense to have a panic button to make sure that they can get the help they need.”

DSC_0116

Lena Gonzalez, who represents the 1st District on Long Beach City Council, speaks. on Thursday, Aug. 17 on panel regarding working conditions in hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

Long Beach Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, said tourism in Long Beach is “looking good,” hotel occupancy is “80 percent,” which “7 percent above the national average,” and “the port has had the best cargo forecast in decades.”  However, she said, “49 percent of hotel housekeepers have reported incidents of sexual harassment” and hotel housekeepers in the service sector have the highest rate of workplace injury.   

DSC_0052

Photo by Barry Saks

                      

Long Beach: 300 Gather to Mourn the Death of Heather Heyer and to Show Solidarity with the Victims in Charlottesville, Virginia

15 Aug
DSC_0178

The crowd at Harvey Milk Plaza in Long Beach, on Sunday, Aug. 13, to mourn the death of Heather Heyer to show their solidarity with the injured victims; photo by Barry Saks

About 300 people held a flashlight vigil, on Sunday evening, on Aug. 13, at Harvey Milk Plaza in Long Beach, California at 185 E. Third St. to mourn the death of Heather Heyer and to show their solidarity for the injured protesters against the white-nationalist Unite the Right Rally the day before in Charlottesville, Virginia when a car plowed into the protesters.

The vigil was organized by Michelle Connolly and Ashley Moulder, leaders from Indivisible Connected Long Beach, whose About Facebook page characterized itself as “(l)eading the resistance in Long Beach” and “(w)e are the joint forces of the local groups in order to resist the Trump & GOP.”

Connolly said, “We stand against this grotesque act of white terrorism, anti-Semitism and homophobia with outrage and sadness.  White people, I must address you, our work is just beginning and we must be made accountable.  This is our history….Being taught to not see color…has blinded us from the growing evils of institutional and systemic racism.”

Naida Tushnet, from the Long Beach Area Peace Network, told the crowd that Black Lives Matter taught her to say the names of the dead.  She ended her brief remarks by echoing Joe Hill.  Tushnet said, “Don’t mourn for me, organize.”

Kevin Joerger, 25, from the Long Beach chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America, reminded the crowd besides the death of Heyer, injured were members of the DSA, the International Socialist Organization, the Industrial Workers of the World and Antifa, an anti-Fascist group in the United States.

Other speakers from other organizations who spoke to show their solidarity were Together We Will, the Unitarian Church of Long Beach and the National Council of Jewish Women in Long Beach.

Former Long Beach Community College District Trustee Mark Bowen, 42, was in the crowd.  Bowen, who lives in Long Beach and teaches history in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said, “I am here because this is a very horrible time for our country with what’s happened in Charlottesville.  The hate has been ratcheted up to a level that is completely unacceptable and I lay it directly at the feet of our president and the hate he has been spewing for a couple of years.”  He added he’s proud of his veteran grandfather, who stormed the beach at Normandy against the Nazis and that he is disturbed Nazis are trying to empower themselves here in the United States.

DSC_0159

Kenneth Unger, on Sunday, Aug. 13, in the crowd listening to the speakers at Harvey Milk Plaza; photo by Barry Saks

Kenneth Unger, a San Pedro resident, was in the crowd.  Hunger, 74, who identified himself as an Ashkenazi Jew, said, “I think it is very important to show solidarity with the protesters in Charlottesville…protesting the Fascist…neo-Nazi movement.”  A little later, he added, “Part of my family was lost in the Holocaust and that must never, ever happen again.”

Heyer, 32, worked as a paralegal.  According to the New York Times, Heyer’s “friends described her as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.”

According to the Washington Post, the driver of the car was James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, and whose former teacher of Fields had said Fields “espoused Nazi ideals in high school.”

Reuters reported on Sunday, Aug. 13, that the White House said President Donald Trump’s remarks condemning violence “at a white nationalist rally were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.”

For the New York Times video of the events on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, click here.

Barry Saks is a socialist, an Ashkenazi Jew and an atheist.

 

Protesters Demand Long Beach Become a Sanctuary City

7 Aug
DSC_0070

Protesters chanting and demanding, Friday, Aug. 4, that Long Beach become a sanctuary city; photo by Barry Saks

About 20 people, mostly young and of color, stood on the corner of Willow Street and Santa Fe Avenue on Friday, Aug. 4, and chanted pro-immigrant slogans and demands for the Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.

The Filipino Migrant Center, which is part of Sanctuary LB (Long Beach), organized the protest.

The chants were in English, Spanish and Tagalog, also known as Filipino.  While most of the chants were in English, many were in Spanish and a small number in Tagalog.  Interspersed among the chants, the honking horns in solidarity could be heard, and at least once a hostile voice was heard out of a car.

 

One chant was “No Ban, no wall, sanctuary for all.”  Another chant was “What do we want?  Sanctuary.  When do we want it? Now.”  A third chant was “Move ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), get out the way ICE, get out the way.”  Another chant was “Education, not deportation.”  A fifth chant was “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”  A sixth chant was “When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up, fight back.”  A seventh chant was “ICE out of Long Beach.”  And still another chant was “No borders, no nations, stop the deportations.” A ninth chant was “Tell me what you want, what you really want?  Justice.  Tell me what you need, really need?  Sanctuary.  How are we going to get it?  People power.”

 

Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, during a phone interview, after the protest, said, “I don’t oppose a local (sanctuary city) ordinance.  I don’t know what a local ordinance honestly would do….We can do one, which would be symbolic, but it’s not going to…really have an impact….We have so many individuals that are not only living in Long Beach, they may be undocumented but working outside the city.  So what good is it for us just to have a local Long Beach ordinance per se than a statewide one, where everyone is covered?”

Neither the Mayor, nor any of other eight City Councilmembers of Long Beach were available for comment.

Alex Montances, of the FMC, in an email before the event, said, “Long Beach should be a place where all its residents are cared for and protected, not a place where immigrant mothers, fathers, and children are afraid to walk to school, work, or even outside their house because they fear ICE and deportation raids. Mayor Robert Garcia and City Council need to pass a local Sanctuary City policy here in Long Beach to protect our immigrant community.  We need to make sure that our City is not participating, funding, or assisting Federal immigration enforcement.”

Leanna Noble was at the protest.  Noble said, “We need a local sanctuary city ordinance that’s got teeth, that will make sure that all of the residents…have their rights protected and that they can live here in peace and safety.”

Tamara Romero was also at the protest.  Romero said she was there in solidarity with the immigrant community and wanted Long Beach to have its own sanctuary ordinance because many immigrants live here in fear.

According to the Facebook event page of Sanctuary Long Beach, events are planned for Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 5:30 p.m., at Del Amo Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, and Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., at Pine Avenue and Broadway.

Meanwhile, according to a Los Angeles Times story in early August, that Federal immigration agents have shown up twice at California labor dispute proceedings to apprehend undocumented workers and that California officials sent a memo in July instructing staff members to refuse entry to ICE agents who visit its offices to apprehend illegal immigrants.

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday, July 5, passed California Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, and the California Senate, on Monday, April 3, passed it.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday, June 13, passed SB 31, known as the California Religious Freedom Act, and the California Senate on Monday, April 3, passed it.

The about page of the Sanctuary Long Beach reads, “(T)he Long Beach City Council passed a resolution in support of SB 54…which limits information sharing with state and local law enforcement and immigration enforcement agencies. While…this is a step in the right direction, we know from previous statewide legislation that addresses law enforcement, local policies are more effective for accountability, efficiency, and building trust with local leaders and (the) community.”

The Long Beach City Council, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, voted seven to zero with two absent to support SB 31, known as the California Religious Freedom Act, and to support as amended SB 54.

Those in favor were 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price, 4th District Councilman Daryl Supernaw, 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga, 8th District Councilman Al Austin and 9th District Councilman and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.  Absent were 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews.

SB 54 would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest people for immigration enforcement.  However, SB 54 provides two allowed exceptions.  First, it allows efforts to investigate, enforce, or assist in the investigation or enforcement of a violent or serious felony and second it allows the transferring of an individual to federal immigration authorities who has been previously convicted of a violent felony.

SB54 would also require by April, 2018, the California Attorney General to publish policies limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible for use by public schools, public libraries, health facilities operated by the state or a subdivision of the state, and courthouses and would require them to implement those policies.  It would also encourage other organizations providing services related to physical or mental health and wellness, education, or access to justice, including the University of California to adopt the policy.  SB 54 would require every six months, that a law enforcement agency participating in a joint task force with Federal immigration enforcement to submit a report to the Department of Justice and would require the California Attorney General by March 1, 2019, and twice a year after to report the types and frequency of those task forces, and to post those reports on the California Attorney General’s website.  SB 54 would require the Board of Parole Hearing or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify ICE of the scheduled release of all people confined to state prison serving for a conviction of a violent or serious felony or who has a prior conviction for a violent or serious felony.

SB 31 would prohibit a state or local agency or a public employee from providing the federal government information regarding a person’s religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation when the information is for compiling a database.  It would also prohibit a state agency from using its resources to assist in compiling such a database.  However, one exception is for targeted investigations of individual based on reasonable suspicion that the individual has engaged or have been the victim of criminal activity and there is a clear connection between the criminal activity and the information collected.  A second exception is to provide religious accommodations.

 

 

 

DSC_0121

 

Protesters March for Single Payer in the California Assembly District of Speaker Anthony Rendon

27 Jul

 

 

DSC_0314

Protesters, on Sunday, July 23, marching toward Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s South Gate Office; photo by Barry Saks 

More than 150 people marched from Hollydale Park to the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in South Gate, on Sunday, July 23, for California Senate Bill 562, also known as the Healthy California Act.

At the rally in the park, people told the crowd why they were there with chants interspersed.

DSC_0228

Michelle Manos, Sunday, July 23, speaking to protesters gathered in Hollydale Park, South Gate, California; photo by Barry Saks 

One speaker was Michelle Manos, who’s an activist with California for Progress.  Manos said while this country may have a high standard of health care, “only certain people have access to that excellent healthcare and that is absolutely preposterous.  Your ability to survive a disease or an accident should not depend on the dollar amount in your pocket or bank account.”

DSC_0235

Yolanda Gonzalez, on Sunday, July 23, speaking to protesters in Hollydale Park, South Gate, California; photo by Barry Saks

Another speaker was Yolanda Gonzalez, who is a Green Party activist, said, “As an educator and a teacher for 25 years, I’ve seen students who can’t learn… because they are sick….They don’t make it to the doctor (because) they cannot afford the deductibles.”

A third speaker at the park was Lori Margaret.  She said she has worked all her life for nonprofits and “never had great health care.”  Margaret said, “With the ACA (Affordable Care Act), I actually was able to get my knee replaced and I had an emergency hysterectomy…and on my salary it was a lifesaver.  She added she will do anything to fight for the health care for everyone else.

DSC_0268

Marcia Martin, on Sunday, July 23, speaking to protesters in Hollydale Park, South Gate, California

Another speaker at the park was Marcia Martin, who later emceed the protest outside the South Gate office of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.  Martin, who is an environmental and racial justice activist, said, “The area I was born and raised in it has been subject to environmental racism.  It was contaminated by Exide Technology, which operated in the city of Vernon for over a 100 years.  For over 33 years, they operated on a temporary permit and spewed lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium 6, benzene, 1 3 butadiene into the atmosphere.  It contaminated our soil…and consequently contaminated our ground water…Pretty much we’re the most vulnerable community and most in desperate need of (Senate Bill) 562.”

One chant at the rally was “When the system fails us, what do we do?  Pass SB562.”  Another chant was “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, health care greed has got to go.”  A third chant was “Anthony Rendon, what do you say.  How many people died today?”  A fourth chant was “What do we want? Health care!  When do we want it?  Now.”  A fifth chant was “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”  A sixth chant was “When health care is under attack, what do we do?  Stand up, fight back.”

After the rally in the park, the protesters marched about three-quarters of a mile to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office.  One chant during the march was “Medicare for all is our fight.  Health care is a human right.”

At the office, more people spoke with chants interspersed among them.

DSC_0477

Reed Heisley-Shellably, on Sunday, July 23, speaking to protesters outside the office of Assembly Speaker Anthouy Rendon in South Gate, California; photo by Barry Saks

One speaker was Reed Heisley-Shellaby, who was identified as a member of the Los Angeles Green Party and Health Care for All, said we face a health care and a political crisis.  He said regarding healthcare in California three million people don’t have health care with many underinsured and some go bankrupt because of their health care costs.  He pointed out a disparity exists because of class and race.  He cited a study, which showed people living in South Los Angeles will live 11 years less than people living in Beverly Hills.  Heisley-Shellaby told crowd the health care crisis can be solved by getting rid of the health insurance industry.  He said the political crisis California faces is because “the Democratic Party leadership is bought by the health insurance industry and by the pharmaceutical companies.  Currently the chair of the Democratic Party in California, Eric Bauman, he was a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical companies….The Sacramento Bee reported that (Assembly Speaker) Rendon received over $36,000 in 2015….Rendon, Kevin DeLeon and Jerry Brown, all Democrats, have received combined $370,000 from groups opposed to Single Payer Health Care legislation and $3.4 million in campaign donation from the health insurance industry.”

DSC_0589

Gayle McLaughlin, former Mayor of Richmond, on Sunday, July 23, speaking to protesters outside the office of Assemby Speaker Anthony Rendon in South Gate, California; photo by Barry Saks

Another speaker outside Assembly Speaker Rendon’s office was Gayle McLaughlin, who is running for Lieutenant Governor in 2018.  McLaughlin, who was the Mayor of Richmond, California from 2007-2014, said all four of her campaigns were funded without corporate funding.  She said democracy in California is under corporate control and that a corporate-free candidate should run against the Speaker.

On Friday, June 23, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee and will not move forward.

 

 

 

 

More than 100 Attend Town Hall on Single Payer in Rendon’s 63rd California Assembly District

14 Jul

 

DSC_0087

Audience at Town Hall on Single Payer, Saturday, July 8, in the Mayfair Activities Room of Mayfair Park, Lakewood, California; Photo by Barry Saks

More than 100 people, with some from the 63rd Assembly District of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, on Saturday, July 8, held, what the headline of the press release of the day before of California Nurses Association characterized as a “Town Hall… on Single Payer,” in the Mayfair Activities Room in Mayfair Park, 5720 Clark Ave., Lakewood, California, also in the Assembly Speaker’s district.

DSC_0036

Marcia Martin, Environmental and Racial Justice activist,on Saturday, July 8, speaking at the Town Hall on Single Payer on the contamination by Exide Technology; Photo by Barry Saks

The first speaker of the town hall was Marcia Martin.  Martin, who was identified as an environmental and racial justice activist, said, “I am a constituent.  I was born and raised and currently live in the city of Bell, which is in the district…My community lies within an area contaminated by Exide Technology.  It was a battery-recycling plant in the city of Vernon that operated for nearly 100 years…It spewed lead, arsenic, chromium-6, cadmium, benzene … and other carcinogens and toxics into the atmosphere.  We breathed it in.  It contaminated our soil and consequently has contaminated our ground water.”

DSC_0065

Michael Lighty, the Public Policy Director for the California Nurses Association, on Saturday, July 8,speaking at the Town Hall on Single Payer; Photo by Barry Saks

After Martin, Michael Lighty, the Public Policy Director of the CNA, spoke.  He said, “I know that there is some sense out there that SB (Senate Bill) 562 is a radical idea or something from the far left…. Have you ever heard of Warren Buffett? Now does anyone think Warren Buffett’s a leftist?” Because Warren Buffett came out this week, co-chair of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most successful investment companies in the world…and he came out for single payer….So what we are trying to do with 562 is take those principles that have succeeded in Medicare since 1965 and apply them to the rest of the health care population.”

One person in the audience before the start of the meeting was Bill Eisen, 72.  Eisen said lives in Torrance and thought healthcare should be a human right.  He said, “Our country needs to provide its citizens with affordable healthcare just like every other western country” and soon after added, “I frequently attend the Los Angeles chapter of the Healthcare for All group.”  When Eisen was asked if he were a registered Democratic, he said, “No, I’m registered (as) no party preference…I think the Democrats are totally corrupt right now.”

Another person in the audience was Jennie Vargas, 55.  Vargas, before the event started, when asked if she were from Rendon’s district, raised her hand.  Vargas said she lives in South Gate, is registered Green Party.  When asked if she was willing to protest outside Rendon’s office, she said, “I did that!”

DSC_0183

Audience, after the Town Hall on Single Payer event, on Saturday, July 8, posing; Photo by Barry Saks

 

Long Beach City Council at Next Meeting to Decide Yes or No on $2.5 Million Settlement Regarding Allegedly the Use of Excessive Force by LBPD

8 Jul

One agenda item the Long Beach City Council is to decide or not on the Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin’s recommendation that $2.5 million plus attorney’s fees and costs in full settlement be paid to the cousins, Miguel Contreras and Miguel Vazquez, and their attorneys, to lawsuits filed.

Court records show, in October 2016, a jury, in the Los Angeles courtroom of Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh, awarded the two cousins more than $1.5 million in a lawsuit filed against the city and the two Long Beach Police Department officers, alleging they used excessive force.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram story, “Cousins win $1.6 million verdict after graphic video shows Long Beach police hitting them with batons,” of Oct. 11, 2016, identified the police officers as David Faris and Michael Hynes and pointed out the LBPD did not “deny striking Contreras and Vazquez with the batons.”  In the story, Long Beach Deputy City Attorney Howard Russell, said, ‘Our contention was and is that the officers acted reasonably and lawfully.’

According to the same story, it was in late November of 2010 in the early morning hours “when Contreras and Vazquez were returning from The Falcon bar in Long Beach…(w)hen they got back to Vazquez’s apartment in the 1600 block of Broadway, Vazquez saw officers Faris and Hynes yelling at a small group of people that included a friend of his, according to Vazquez’s lawsuit, Vazquez claimed that when he tried to find out what was going on, one of the officers told him to go home and pushed him away.”  Then the altercation between the two LBPD police officers and two cousins was video-recorded on a cellphone.

To watch the video, click here.

Two Hundred Protest for Single Payer Outside California Assembly Speaker’s Office in Los Angeles County

29 Jun
Crowd

Protest, on Tuesday, June 27, in favor of Single Payer outside of California Assembly Speaker’s South Gate office; Photo by Barry Saks

More than 200 people protested, outside the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, Lakewood), at 12132 Garfield Ave., South Gate, on Tuesday, June 27, in favor of Senate Bill 562, also known as the Healthy California Act.

The program consisted of skits, speakers and chants.

DSC_0659

The character, “The Grim Reaper, on Tuesday, June 27, at protest; Photo by Barry Saks

The program started and ended with a skit linking the Assembly Speaker to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies through their campaign donations to him and to death through the character of the Grim Reaper signifying it.

David Sirota, in a June 26 article for the International Business Times, wrote, “Since 2012, Rendon has taken in more than $82,000 from business groups and healthcare corporations that are listed in state documents opposed the measure, according to an International Business Times review of data amassed by the National Institute on Money In State Politics. In all, he has received more than $101,000 from pharmaceutical companies and another $50,000 from major health insurers.”

DSC_0550

Former Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen speaks, on Tuesday, June 27, at Healthcare for All rally in South Gate, Calif., outside of the office of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; Photo by Barry Saks.

One speaker was Bao Nguyen.  Nguyen, who is a former mayor of Garden Grove, said, “Coming from Orange County, we’re all not conservative….We need healthcare too….Being I guess a politician, …we know what campaigns take and we know that you don’t have to take the money…We do not want our representatives to sell us out, especially here in California.  What difference are you (Assembly Speaker Rendon) compared to what is happening in Washington?”

A second speaker was Brenda Gutierez, who said she is a diabetic and had healthcare until she lost it this year.  Gutierez said her diabetic medication is going to cost monthly $674.85.

One chant was “Rendon, Rendon, shame on you, action now on 562.”  A second chant was “Medicare for all is our fight.  Healthcare is a human right.”  A third chant was “What do you do when your healthcare is under attack.  Stand up, fight back.” A fourth chant closer to the end of the program was “Recall Rendon.”  A fifth chant was “What do we need? Healthcare.  When do we want it? Now.”

One protester outside of the Speaker’s office was Rachel Burkhardt, 44, who now lives in Burbank, and is a stay-at-home mother “with some free time” because her two children are “at day camp.”  Burkhardt characterized herself as a registered Democratic, who believes in women’s and abortion rights.  She said, “There is no reason why our country can’t have a single-payer system…I want us (California) to lead the nation with a single-payer system…I feel like on a daily basis there is so much like soul-crushing news,…it hurts me….This is really the first time I’ve felt really compelled to pay attention and become active…What is so amazing is seeing this resistance build up.”

One person outside, who had a recall Rendon sign but was not protesting Rendon’s decision and who opposes the Healthy California Act, was Arthur Schaper. Schaper, with his iconic red Make-America-Great-Again baseball cap and President Trump tee-shirt, said, “I think single payer, forcing that on every person in California would be the most uncivil thing to happen.”  When Schaper was asked how many people he brought with him, he refused to answer.

A statement issued on the Assembly Speaker’s website, on Friday, June 23, in part, said, “As someone who has long been a supporter of single payer, I am encouraged by the conversation begun by Senate Bill 562.  However, SB 562 was sent to the Assembly woefully incomplete.”

While the Speaker decided the bill will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee, near the end of the statement, Rendon left some hope for supporters of the Healthy California Act by adding “this action does not mean SB 562 is dead….(I)t leaves open the exact deep discussion and debate the senators who voted for SB 562 repeatedly said is needed.”