Calls for California’s corporations to do their share in protecting workers and communities
SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, October 19, Asian American and Pacific Islander labor and community leaders spoke alongside gig workers at a virtual press conference to urge California voters to protect workers and invest in our communities by voting No on Proposition 22 and Yes on Proposition 15.
The pandemic has exacerbated the economic and health gaps in California, including AAPI communities, and voters have a chance to stand with workers and close a tax loophole on commercial properties and generate much-needed funding for California public schools and local communities.
Prop 22 would have a significant impact on AAPI and immigrant communities.
A recent study by the UC Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation shows that 1 in 3 San Francisco drivers are Asian, and 56% of gig drivers are immigrants. “Prop. 22 will hurt workers like me, who are mostly workers of color and immigrants,” shared Saori Okawa, who has been a driver for over 3 years. During the pandemic, AAPIs face vastly disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection and death, and we believe that all workers deserve basic protections to keep our families and communities safe.
When the pandemic hit, drivers like Jing Xiao, Saori Okawa, and John Meijia had to choose between putting their health on the line and drive to make money to support themselves and their families, or stop driving to keep themselves and their families safe. “It’s already a challenge trying to make ends meet as an Uber driver, but their ballot initiative would make it nearly impossible,” says Okawa.
“Prop 22 would leave me and other drivers without protections. We need to hold corporations accountable and put people above profits.” said John Meijia, who has driven for both Lyft and Uber.
Prop 15 will bring in $12 billion dollars a year to community resources and schools without raising taxes for renters, small business owners, and homeowners. “We have a once in a generation opportunity to make the future brighter by supporting Prop 15. As a provider of mental health services in Alameda County, I know how much the bill will provide infrastructure to address homelessness, gaps in mental health services, and other issues impacting our communities,” shares Yeon Park, APALA National Executive Board Member and Vice President at SEIU 1021.
Local communities and small businesses are also struggling to respond to COVID-19, including minority and women-owned businesses. “By closing loopholes used by large corporations, it will not only level the playing field for small businesses, there will be more funding towards social services, preparation for future events like pandemics, earthquakes, and wildfires, and more resource-funded schools,” adds Park.
Isaiah Aiotolu, a student at Sacramento State University shares why he supports Prop 15. “As a first -gen, low-income, minority student, I know the struggles of not having resources, but if I had the opportunity to change that or to even lessen the struggle in someway for future students, for my nieces and nephews, for the future generations in my communities, then I would without a doubt, take advantage of that opportunity. That’s why it is important to vote Yes on Prop 15 because it will put our schools and communities first and provide resources that we need and that we deserve.”
Lilibeth Mora, Equity Teacher Leader at Vallejo Unified School District and member of Filipino Advocates for Justice, shares the needs of students and teachers, and the role of educators during the pandemic. “Imagine right now being a student who has either witnessed a family member that’s lost their job, or got sick with COVID-19, and still having to deal with accessing your virtual class using a smartphone with limited data or unreliable wifi. Now imagine you being a teacher, who has to care for over 100 students with those and other various needs everyday. We as educators have a daunting task ahead, being frontline essential workers meeting
the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students while preparing for a safe return to our school. And, we have to do this within an education system that’s 39% in the nation for school funding.
“Inequality in our education systems are here, and have been here for a long time,” shares Mara Randle, teacher for youth with special needs at Oakland High School, and member of Oakland Educators Association and APALA.“I currently have a student with a laptop that has no microphone, so she takes notes on paper and shows the notes on the screen – this is infuriating. We are the community that is hurting. Our students and our future are hurting. We have a chance to make a difference.”
Our teachers, drivers and other essential workers are doing their share and more, and we are calling on California’s corporations to do their part. (AJPress)