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Posted on: Jun 29, 2020

Coming on the heels of the recent national rulings protecting young immigrant and LGBTQ+ workers, California saw actions last week indicating steps toward progress in advancing racial and gender equity while also creating first-in-the-nation protections for agricultural workers.  

Last Wednesday, the California Senate voted to pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA5) by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), giving voters the chance to repeal Proposition 209 this November and reinstate affirmative action.

The bill, aptly titled The California Act for Economic Prosperity, passed on a 40-10 vote, easily garnering the two-thirds majority needed to put it on the November ballot.

CAAA sent letters of support to Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Senator Anthony J. Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, detailing the negative impacts Proposition 209 has had on California’s workforce since being enacted in 1996.

“One study estimates that women and people of color lose out on $1.1 billion each year in public contracting dollars -- lost opportunities to invest in women - and people of color- owned businesses, to help all Californians build professional skills, and share prosperity, rather than concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few,” the letter states in part. “This bill will remove barriers to women and people of color advancing in the workforce and to public investment in woman and minority-owned small businesses that generate good jobs; jobs we will need to rebuild California’s economy.”

To view the full letter, click here.

Meanwhile, the Department of Industrial Relations announced last week that California has adopted first-in-the-nation safety standards to protect agricultural workers who work at night.

“These are the first lighting standards in the nation written specifically to protect agricultural workers who harvest, operate vehicles and do other jobs between sunset and sunrise,” the announcement said.

Under the new standards which go into effect July 1, employers must ensure workers have adequate lighting and must develop protective measures to ensure workers are visible by other workers operating farm equipment and other vehicles. Employers must also hold safety meetings before each shift to inform workers about their surroundings and high-traffic areas.

These new measures will go a long way toward protecting the hundreds of thousands of Latinx farmworkers working in California who’ve been deemed essential during the pandemic.

To view the full announcement, click here.

As many Americans prepare to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day this weekend, recent events have reminded us we still have a long way to go in establishing true equality for communities of color and women. Here’s hoping we see some larger steps toward greater progress in the near future so that all Americans are able to achieve economic prosperity and the workplace benefits that come with gainful employment.