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Gov.Newsom Signs Executive Ord...

  • Gov.Newsom Signs Executive Order on Actions in Response to COVID-19

    • 06/03/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
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    SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom, May 29, issued an executive order extending authorization for local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, through July 28.

    The order also addresses a variety of issues in response to the pandemic, by extending the waiver permitting the Department of Motor Vehicles to allow for mail-in renewals of driver’s licenses and identification cards, and waiving certain programmatic and administrative requirements that restrict child care and afterschool programs from serving children of essential infrastructure workers.

    In addition, the order allows individuals enrolled in teacher preparation programs during the 2019-20 school year to obtain their preliminary credential without a teaching performance assessment, if the individual was unable to complete that requirement due to a COVID-19 school closure. Under the order, individuals otherwise eligible to obtain certain teaching or education specialist credentials or enroll in teacher preparation programs are permitted to do so without passing certain assessments, for which testing was suspended due to the statewide stay-at-home order.

    Details: newsom-executive-order 

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  • Preparing Los Angeles County for the Closure of the State’s Youth Prison System

    • 06/03/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
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    LOS ANGELESThe Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, May 26, unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-authored with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, which asked the County to begin to immediately prepare for the transition of youth who would have been committed to the state youth prison system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), to instead be in Los Angeles County’s care. The motion requests that the County of Los Angeles (County) begin the planning process to transform its juvenile justice system, and determine if an entity other than the Probation Department can be responsible for the custody and rehabilitation of youth previously sent to DJJ.

    This motion follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement as part of the State’s revised 2020-21 budget, that the DJJ will be closing. Starting January 2021, DJJ will no longer admit new youth; instead admitted youth will be housed at the county level. This move by the Governor is intended to help close a historic budget deficit created by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as to keep youth closer to their communities and families in the name of rehabilitation.  Counties have a short timeline – just over six months – to prepare for this increased responsibility.

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  • Oakland Caravans in Protest

    • 06/02/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
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    OAKLAND, CA – 31MAY20 – Thousands of people participate in a caravan of over 2000 cars from the Port of Oakland, to protest the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and African American and people of color killed by police.

    To see a full set of photos, click here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/56646659@N05/albums/72157714533842187

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  • APPLE SHED STRIKES WIN RECOGNITION, AND THE FIGHT GOES ON

    • 06/02/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Feature
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    Strikers at Allan Brothers. (Photo by Xolotl Edgar Franx)

    By David Bacon
    Labornotes, 6/2/20
    https://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2020/06/apple-shed-strikes-win-recognition-and.html
    https://labornotes.org/2020/06/apple-shed-strikes-win-recognition-fight-goes

    Thirty four workers at the apple packing shed that sparked a wave of strikes in central Washington went back to work on Monday with a written agreement recognizing their workers’ committee, Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia (Workers United for Justice). Of the 115 workers at Allan Brothers who walked out May 7, the 34 stayed out for the full 22 days, during which hundreds of other workers struck at six additional sheds in the area.

    According to Agustin Lopez, a leader of the movement who’s worked in the valley since the mid-1980s, “The most important thing to us is that the company is recognizing our committee as the representative of all the workers. Under the agreement we will continue negotiating for salary increases, better working conditions, and health protections. The agreement means that our rights as workers are respected.”

    The shed strike wave was touched off by the impact of the coronavirus on the hundreds of people who labor sorting fruit in Yakima Valley’s huge packinghouses.  While their numbers are smaller than the huge workforce of thousands who pick the fruit in the summer and fall, the shed workforce occupies a strategic place in this system of agricultural production. The virus has spread more widely here than in any other county on the Pacific Coast, with an infection rate of about 500 per 100,000. As of June 1 Yakima County had 3,891 COVID-19 cases and 90 deaths.  Twenty-four percent of people tested have been infected, and the local hospital system is at capacity with few beds available.

    “The most important demand for us is that we have a healthy workplace and protection from the virus,” Lopez explained at the start of the conflict. “Fourteen people have left work over the last month because they have the COVID-19.”

    During harvest time, trucks from the orchards haul loads of apples and cherries picked by thousands of farmworkers, laboring for the big growers of the Yakima Valley.  After the fruit is cooled and stored, orders from the grocery chains are filled by workers, mostly women, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front of fast-moving conveyor belts.  As apples and cherries sweep past, they sort it and send it on to other workers who wash and pack it, and eventually load it onto trucks.  By the time it appears on the shelves of supermarkets around the country, the fruit has passed through many working hands.

    Packinghouse laborers are almost entirely immigrants from Mexico, and most of the sorting jobs on the lines are done by women.  Their families make up the working-class backbone of the small towns of Yakima Valley.  Most have lived here for years.  Jobs in the sheds pay minimum wage, but they’re are a step up from the fields because they offer year-round work at 40 hours per week.

    While their numbers are smaller than the huge workforce of thousands who pick the fruit in the summer and fall, the shed workforce occupies a strategic place in this system of agricultural production.

    REACHED OUT TO UNIONS

    When the workers stopped work at Allan Brothers, demanding better safety precautions and $2/hour in hazard pay, they reached out to Dulce Gutierrez, who represents the Washington Labor Council in the Yakima Valley. Gutierrez in turn contacted Washington State’s new union for farmworkers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), at its office in Burlington on the coast. Ramon Torres, FUJ president, and Edgar Franks, political director, went to Yakima, where they’ve spent the last month supporting the strikers.

    The first company to settle was the Roche Fruit Company, after a lunchtime walkout, bolstered by the presence of FUJ organizers, got the owners to increase a hazard pay offer of $200 per month to $100 per week. Strikes then followed at Jack Frost Co., Matson Fruit Co., Monson Fruit Co., Hanson Fruit Co., and Columbia Reach Pack.

    To protect workers’ organizing rights, Columbia Legal Services and FUJ’s lawyer, Kathy Barnard from the labor law firm of Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, filed unfair labor practice charges against Allan Brothers. The workers’ committee charged that managers interrogated workers about their strike activity, threatened them with discipline if they joined the strike, increased wages for non-strikers in an effort to buy their loyalty, and disciplined an employee who brought water to the picketers.  (The recognition agreement did not include an agreement by the workers to drop the charges.)

    The company barred strikers’ vehicles from its parking lot, but the COVID-distanced picket line at Allan Brothers held up even under threats. Sheriff deputies arrested one man who told strikers that he planned to return with a gun and shoot them. In response, two workers, Maribel Medina and Cesar Traverso, began a hunger strike on May 19, after reading Cesar Chavez’s “Farmworkers’ Prayer.”

    DELIVERY TO THE CAPITOL

    When growers proved recalcitrant despite the pressure, workers increased it by going to the state capitol in Olympia on May 26. There they delivered 200 complaints against Allan Brothers to the  Department of Labor and Industries, and held a noisy rally outside the home of Democratic Governor Jay Inslee. “The companies thought they could contain this,” Franks explained, “but it put a lot of pressure on them and made the strike a statewide issue.”

    One worker, Julietta Pulido Montejano, from Columbia Reach Pack, told state officials, “We are on strike demanding protections from COVID 19. We want the company to respect social distancing, and to provide us with daily masks. We want to be able to take care of ourselves so we can go back to our families and not get them sick.” Thirty-one workers at Columbia Reach Pack have tested positive for the virus.

    COMPANIES START TO CAVE

    On May 22 the companies began to seek agreement, when the owner of Monson Fruit signed a written recognition of the workers’ committee, providing better health protections against the virus and $1/hour in hazard pay. Workers there then returned to work. Workers also went back at Jack Frost Co. with a promise of an increase they have yet to receive, but without a written agreement.

    At Matson Fruit the workers’ committee was presented with a written agreement. “But when they saw it set up a company union,” Franks said, “they rejected it, and they’re still on strike and talking.” At Columbia Reach Pack the company seems unwilling to negotiate, workers charge, and over 50 remain on strike.

    At Allan Brothers, while the agreement was signed and workers went back to work, committee members acknowledge that the conflict has not really ended. “Our fight continues,” said one committee member, Romina Medina. “But this agreement shows that we can still make important achievements after 22 days without working, without money and enduring intimidation, because we did not give up.”

    At Allan Brothers the Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia committee accepted the $1/hour wage increase offered by the company, and that had been accepted at Monson Fruit.  That
    $1/hour raise expires at the end of July, when the company has agreed to negotiate over wages.  Agustin Lopez said, “We are sure that we will achieve all our demands, because we will return with strength to the negotiating table then.”

    Torres believes that workers learned enough about collective action that they will be prepared to fight when the day comes. “It had a big impact on them,” he says, “since it was the first time they’d done anything like this. They are building a base, and learning how to organize collective action to fight inside the workplace.”

    Gutierrez says that winning health protections inside the sheds is a critical victory, given the dangers of the coronavirus: “There’s been progress made at all the warehouses with sanitation and safety. That is already a victory for every huelga [strike].”

    TAKING OVER CITY COUNCIL

    The strikes are partly a product of political changes sweeping central Washington. Gutierrrez herself ran on a slate of progressive candidates who gained a majority on the Yakima City Council in 2015. She won 84 percent of the vote and became the first Latina elected to the body. That election, in turn, was the result of a voting rights suit that overturned Yakima’s old citywide election system and ended decades of grower control of it.

    Nevertheless, apple shed workers still confront an entrenched anti-union industry. Its biggest players, Stemilt Fruit Co. and Zirkle Fruit Co., bring thousands of H-2A guest workers into Washington every year for the apple harvest in late summer and the fall. They have a long history of fighting unions and dominate the agricultural labor policies of the state government, even in Democratic administrations.

    Longtime farmworker organizer Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of the organization Community to Community, cautions, “This country gets its food supply on the backs of people who these companies treat as expendable. That hasn’t changed at all.


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  • Los Angeles County Imposes Third Night of Curfew

    • 06/02/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
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    Los Angeles County will be under a countywide curfew that runs from 6 p.m. today, June 2, 2020, through 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 3.

    The curfew does not apply to individuals voting in Special Elections occurring today in the City of Commerce and in El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera. In both elections, all voters were mailed ballots and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk has one mobile vote center in each jurisdiction that has been open daily since Saturday and will be open today until 8 p.m. Poll workers are also exempt from the order.

    This is the third night of a countywide curfew ordered to protect public safety.

    The County curfew applies to every municipality in Los Angeles County, but cities can implement stricter curfews based on their local needs. Please check with your local city to determine if they have implemented stricter curfews.

    In addition to voters and poll workers being exempt, the countywide curfew does not apply to the following: peace officers; firefighters; National Guard or other military personnel deployed to the area; emergency medical services personnel; individuals traveling to and from work; individuals working on a public work of improvement construction project; credentialed media representatives involved in news gathering; people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter; and individuals seeking medical treatment.

    The following cities have already implemented stricter curfews:

    Visit lacounty.gov/emergency for the most up-to-date information.

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  • Virtual Breakout During the Outbreak

    • 06/02/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Culture
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    Enjoy an immersive experience at 7 p.m., June 6, when listeners can live-stream soundpedro2020schizophonia for free, beginning with a live kick-off and Earmaginations videos. At 7:30pm the community is invited to create a virtual breakout during the outbreak by livestreaming sound art from porches, windows and balconies in a simultaneous community sound event. Sound works by various artists will be continuously released throughout the month of June, concluding with a SynthLab online dance party on at 7 p.m., June 30.

    At 7:30 p.m. on June 6, virtual attendees are invited to:

    Stream audio at soundpedro.org

    Play speakers from windows, porches, yards, balconies, etc.

    Collaborate with neighbors in a socially-distant sound art block party

    Stream anywhere-even from your car! Create your own soundscape!

    What is Schizophonia?

    Schizophonia is a term coined by R. Murray Schafer to describe the splitting of an original sound and its electroacoustic reproduction. This concept comes from the invention of electroacoustic equipment for the transmission of sound, which meant that any sound could be recorded and sent anywhere around the world.”

    Schedule

    June 6:

    7 p.m. : Virtual event kick off, including video welcome and reveal of month-long schedule, featuring adaptations and artifacts of proposed submissions. Earmaginations videos (follows video welcome)

    7:30 p.m. : Audio livestream of soundscapes from soundpedro 2020 artists.-Virtual attendees are invited to live stream soundpedro from their porches, windows and balconies in a simultaneous community sound event.

    Bring out your sound equipment and share this event with everyone in your community.

    Please document and share your audio-visual experience on social media using  #soundpedro #soundpedro2020

    June 7-29:

    soundpedro2020 artists’ adaptations and artifacts of their proposed submissions revealed at regular intervals.

    June 30:

    7 PM : SynthLab online dance party. We stream; you dance!

    July 4:

    Roll out of living soundpedro2020schizophonic map

    soundpedro 2020 features over 50 local and international artists

    RSVP Here

    Share your audio-visual experience using #soundpedro #soundpedro2020

    Soundpedro is produced by the Long Beach artist group FLOOD in partnership with Angels Gate Cultural Center.

    Details: www.soundpedro.org

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  • Federal Authorities in Los Angeles Responding to Looting and Other Criminal Acts Unrelated to Peaceful Protests

    • 06/02/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
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    LOS ANGELES – In the wake of widespread looting and arson across the Southland, federal law enforcement officials are working closely with local authorities to identify instances in which criminals unrelated to legitimate protestors may be subject to federal prosecution.

    At the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI are employing the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to identify organizers, instigators and participants in serious criminal activity. Federal authorities are also coordinating federal resources with state and local partners, and will consider bringing federal criminal cases where appropriate.

    “The outrage and meaningful protests resulting from the death of George Floyd are completely understandable. We support and will protect those who wish to demonstrate peacefully,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “But some have chosen to act with violence by destroying property, ransacking businesses and setting fires. The criminals who have caused havoc in neighborhoods across Southern California appear to be exploiting a situation in which other citizens are exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and express their viewpoints. We are confronting this outlaw behavior by providing federal resources and working closely with local police to identify cases in which federal charges could be appropriately filed.”

    “The FBI supports and works diligently to safeguard legitimate protests and Constitutionally-protected free speech,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI does not tolerate crossing the legal line into criminal activity at the expense of innocent citizens and business owners, and we will work with our local partners to pursue federal prosecution, where warranted.”

    The FBI is asking members of the public to provide information that could be used to help identify actors who are actively instigating violence in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death. The FBI is accepting tips and digital media depicting violent encounters surrounding the civil unrest that is happening throughout the country. If you witness or have witnessed unlawful violent actions, you are urged to submit any information, photos or videos that could be relevant at fbi.gov/violence. You may also call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) to report tips and/or information.

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  • Long Beach and San Pedro Farms Feed the Needy During COVID-19 Crisis

    • 06/02/2020
    • Greggory Moore
    • Features
    • Comments are off

     

    By Greggory Moore, Contributing Writer

    It’s a big world, so perhaps there’s an urban farmer or three out there who is in it solely for the money. Talk to enough urban farmers, though, and you come away feeling these are people who do it for the love of food ― good food, fresh food, healthy food, real food. They love food but not the status quo of quantity over quality; of ridiculously complex, petroleum-guzzling supply chains; of mass-produced, preservative-laced, nutritionally dubious foodstuff. 

    They know there’s a better way, and they do what they do to prove it, to be part of the solution, providing not only quality food directly to their communities but creating an example for others to follow. Yes, they’d like to make money ― a necessary evil in this world ― but that’s not what drives them. 

    No surprise, then, that despite their own difficulties, urban farmers in our area have been volunteering time, labor, and of course food to help those most in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

    A few Long Beach farms are targeting aid to specific vulnerable populations. The Growing Experience, for example, didn’t have to look far to find a way to step up. A seven-acre farm and community garden located in the Carmelitos Public Housing Development in North Long Beach, Growing Experience staff have been providing bags of produce to seniors within Carmelitos ― and doing so in the absence of any extra funding.

    “Initially the L.A. County Development Authority [which oversees Carmelitos] wanted to stop all operations completely,” says Program Manager Holly Carpenter. “However, our staff pushed to be open to give away [our produce. …] We have been operating on reduced staff hours so we had to cancel our CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] veggie box orders during this time, [but] we set-up a quick pick-up right in front of the Carmelitos Senior Center, which allows residents with mobility issues to only have to come a short distance or have a neighbor pick up a bag for them.”

    The Growing Experience is able to give away 30 bags of produce per week, each containing six items that may include collard greens, green onions, swiss chard, beet greens, beets, turnips, oranges, lemons, limes, salad mix, artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, avocados, and eggs. Carpenter looks forward to giving away even more. 

    “We are hoping to resume to full-time [operations] soon,” she says. “However, until [then] we are limited in our ability to grow and produce more bags to give away. […] We don’t know how long we will be maintaining this ― it depends on when our management decides we can resume our normal CSA and produce sales. But for the time being, I see us continuing through June.”

    In March, Farm Lot 59, a half-acre food oasis in Central Long Beach, launched a Farm-to-Family Program for the Elizabeth Anne Seton Residence (better known as “Seton House”), which offers emergency shelter to families, pregnant women, disabled, and elderly persons experiencing homeless.

    “With our restaurant partners shuttered, we designed a program to make the best use of our harvest to meet the immediate needs of our community,” says Farm Lot 59 founder Sasha Kanno. “Together with Chef Eugene Santiago of Baryo, we […] are providing 120 healthy, fresh, organic meals per week for residents and staff of Seton House. […] We have secured funding to continue this program through June 8, and we are actively seeking additional donors to extend the program.”

    Meanwhile, Long Beach Organic, a nonprofit dedicated to “locat[ing] urban vacant lots from public and private owners and turn[ing] them into beautiful community gardens for local and sustainable food production,” is donating additional produce from their eight gardens to the food pantry operated by Cal State Long Beach.

    “In the midst of our own semi-shutdown, the Long Beach Organic board decided to dedicate more of our produce ― about 100 pounds per week so far ― to the food bank [as a replacement for] our usual round of spring/summer projects: community work days, cooking and gardening classes, kids’ program, fundraising dinners, etc., all of which are cancelled during the shutdown,” says Joe Corso, the nonprofit’s garden director. “We [gardeners] can still work with each other with social distancing and benefit the community in a badly needed way.”

    Corso says the extra food is the result of “those who can to donate each week. The gardeners at our various gardens leave produce on Thursdays. I drive around and take it to the Zaferia Junction Garden, where a few volunteers wash, sort, and bag it. Mark [Smerkanich, an LBO volunteer] picks it up on Friday morning and drives it to the school. We have managed to do all this with proper social distancing. As the program expands it will involve more volunteers and drivers.”

    Long Beach Organic has also expanded the number of charity plots at their gardens, converting formerly empty plots and community areas into designated plantings for the Beach Pantry, work they were able to effect in part due to a $1,500 grant they received from the Long Beach Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. “These new plantings will bear much more produce in the coming months, and our gardeners will also be able to share their summer bounty as the season progresses,” Corso says.

    In San Pedro, Feed & Be Fed reports they are delivering about 10 pounds of produce from their small 6th Street garden each week to those in need ― particularly seniors and disabled persons ― and to San Pedro Meals on Wheels. “And as our spring harvest comes in, we anticipate being able to offer small bags of produce to our larger community,” says board member Christian Guzman, who adds that a second garden (currently being built in northwest San Pedro) “will probably have a crop for harvest at the end of summer.”

    On the other hand, Green Girl Farms has focused on fostering food self-sufficiency in San Pedro. 

    “Out of concern for our volunteers and clientele, we closed the farm to the public when the shelter-in-place orders took effect,” says founder Lara Hughey. “At the beginning of the order, we were in the process of removing spent winter crops and replacing them with summer crops, so did not have food to sell or donate. Instead we’ve been donating seedlings and seeds so that our community can be growing their own food.”

    Hughey says the giveaways, which are announced via Green Girl Farms email and social media, generally take place at least twice a month, with members of the public pre-ordering their seeds/seedlings of choice to ensure minimal contact during curbside pick-up. “So far we have given away over 700 seedlings and nearly 500 packets of seeds,” she reports.

    Food self-sufficiency is also the thrust of North Long Beach Victory Garden’s efforts ― not only during the crisis, but going forward into better days. Over the last couple of months this offshoot of the University of California Master Gardener Victory Garden Program has given away over 2,000 seedlings they received from the Fullerton College horticulture program and Seeds of Hope.

    “The [giveaways] this spring were directly focused on fulfilling the increase in the numbers of people wanting to grow fruits and veggies as COVID-19 kept them at home,” says Master Gardener Jeff Rowe. “[…] I set a goal of fostering the creation of 1,000 backyard farms in Long Beach.”

    In addition to growing food, in normal times the North Long Beach Victory Garden offers free vegetable- and fruit-growing classes, which Rowe says are currently being brought into the virtual world for home consumption. 

    “Several Master Gardeners from Los Angeles County are working feverishly to convert the Victory Garden curriculum to an online package so we can expand our ability to teach people how to become backyard farmers,” he says. “[…] In a sense, everything we’ve been doing at the North Long Beach Victory Garden was a preparation for [COVID-19] ― to get people to become more self-sufficient and to experience the taste thrill of eating freshly harvested food.”

    COVID-19 has created a new normal, one that in the short term is causing some among us to struggle with the most basic of needs: food. Our urban farms are not only addressing this struggle in the short term, but also attempting to make increased food self-sufficiency a part of our new normal, a shift that will stand us in good stead in good times and bad.

    If you are in need of food, desire more information, or want to volunteer or donate to one of the urban farms/gardens profiled in this article…:

     

    THE GROWING EXPERIENCE

    750 Via Carmelitos, Long Beach 90805

    (562) 984-2917; holly.carpenter@lacda.org

    https://growingexperiencelb.lacda.org/

     

    FARM LOT 59

    2714 California Ave., Long Beach 90755

    https://www.farmlot59.org/

     

    LONG BEACH ORGANIC

    (562) 438-9000; info@longbeachorganic.org

    http://longbeachorganic.org/

     

    NORTH LONG BEACH VICTORY GARDEN

    6509 Gundry Ave., Long Beach 90805

    https://www.facebook.com/NLBVictoryGarden/

     

    FEED & BE FED

    429 W. 6th St., San Pedro 90731

    c.louis.guzman@gmail.com

    https://www.feedandbefed.org/

     

    GREEN GIRL FARMS

    390 W. 14th St., San Pedro 90731

    https://www.facebook.com/greengirlfarms/

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  • Long Beach Mirrors Protests Across the Country

    • 06/01/2020
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

     

    By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer

    People of all races, color and creed flocked to downtown Long Beach Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the protests against police unjustifiably killing unarmed black people nationwide.

    Protests across America were ignited after the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd who was 46 when he was killed. Floyd who was black was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white cop who held his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, in which Floyd could be heard begging for his life because he couldn’t breathe, after he threw him onto the ground when he had trouble putting him into his squad car. Floyd worked security at a nightclub and his employer also had paid Chauvin to park outside of the club in his patrol card while he was off duty in order for club patrons to know not to get too out of hand because the cops are right outside.

    After America watched this event unfold, thanks to bystanders who were filming, in utter disbelief. After soaking it in, the disbelief turned into outrage. People ― black, Latino, white,  Asian American in major cities across America took to the streets. So much anger and energy brewed from not only this incident, but the many that have taken place, especially within the past decade.

    May 30 was Long Beach’s turn to mourn and the masses showed up. As soon as you drove off of the Vincent Thomas bridge and into downtown Long Beach, you felt the energy. At 3 p.m. the intersection of Long Beach Blvd. and Broadway started to fill as a speaker with a megaphone stood in the middle of the street and spoke of the unarmed black civilians who were killed at the hands of a white man in a police uniform. 

    The speaker, who was joined by the protesters, yelled into the sky the names of victims of police violence as if they could hear them, and promised the world that they would never be forgotten and their deaths won’t be in vain. 

    The intersection continued to fill until it matched the protesters’ fury. After 45 minutes, the intersection became an entire block filled with people, from sidewalk to sidewalk. Once the street was packed, the speaker then yelled to march. Hundreds of people, with banners, flags and everything they could sport that broadcasted the way they felt began to march, yelling out no justice, no peace, black lives matter, no racist police and many slogans that have coincided with these events. 

    The protesters who filled the street marched through Long Beach Boulevard, down Ocean Boulevard, past Cherry Street., up to Broadway Avenue and back down to Ocean Boulevard. Drivers along those streets couldn’t do anything but watch as the streets were impeded. None of them seemed to mind and they joined with the protesters honking and making noise and showing their support.

    “I’m here to stand up against police brutality,” said Rachel Kester, a Long Beach native. “And stand with Black Lives Matter. I think as many people as possible should be here.” 

    Everywhere the protesters went people came outside of their homes, to their balconies and atop their roofs to voice their support and show their solidarity with them. People were climbing on top of anything, newspaper stands, mailboxes, to show their solidarity and be noticed more or less. 

    The gathering of hundreds was way too big for only one person with a megaphone to lead the chants as they marched along with their flags and banners plastered with supporting sentiments, so multiple people took on the role.

    From the front to the back, no part of the line of protesters were ever silent. Even those who couldn’t hear, took to the streets. One woman, pushing her wheelchair bound, 96 year old mother who served in World War II and was hard of hearing said they were marching because they both felt like it was their duty to be there, even though their friends and other relatives stayed home fearful of the raucous atmosphere amidst news reports of violence at the recent protests.

    “I’m here because I feel that I saw a lynching,” said Liz Amill who was pushing her mother Barbara Hendick through the crowd in a wheelchair. “I saw it. It could [have] been my children and we’re done with it. She’s fought all her life. She’s defending diversity. I feel nothing but good energy here.”

    People are fed up with having to be afraid of those who are tasked and paid to protect them because of widespread abuse of authority without consequences. Chauvin, a trained officer who was charged with third degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death ― a charge that means Chauvin unintentionally killed Floyd. It’s hard to imagine a person accidentally putting their whole body weight on a subdued person’s neck on the ground. What would the charge be if he wasn’t a cop?

    The march began to shrink at approximately 6 p.m. when people, separate from the protesters, began looting stores at Long Beach’s downtown outlet mall, the Pike. Many protesters didn’t want to be a part of the looting and began walking separately to leave the area. 

    The protesters who continued to march went down Pine Avenue across Ocean Boulevard to the Pike. Officers who were already in the area to quell the looting dispersed tear gas and shot rubber bullets at protesters until they took off running in all directions. 

    Around the Pike, people were running with clothes in their hands. And shoes were strewn about on the ground alongside a bunch of empty jewelry boxes taken from Kay’s Jewelers. Even though most of the protesters didn’t participate in the looting, some did and unfortunately that has been what people are talking about. 

     

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  • Hidden in the New House Coronavirus Relief Bill: Billions for Defense Contractors

    • 06/01/2020
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    A section of the HEROES Act championed by Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly would cover executive compensation and other perks for defense and intel contractors. The legislation’s wording mirrors what an industry group proposed.

    Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 23. (House Television via AP)

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    When they passed another bill this month to help the tens of millions of Americans left unemployed and hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats in the House of Representatives touted the $3 trillion legislation’s benefits to working people, renters, first responders and others struggling to get by.

    They made no mention of the defense contractors.

    Tucked away deep in the nearly 2,000-page Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, is a section that will funnel money to defense and intelligence companies and their top executives, according to experts.

    The section of the new bill seeks to “clarify” a provision of the $2 trillion CARES Act that passed on March 27. That legislation reimburses firms for the wages and benefits of contract employees who must be kept “in a ready state, including to protect the life and safety of Government and contractor personnel,” but who can’t work because federal offices are closed or they’re following stay-at-home orders.

    In language that mirrors what an industry group proposed, the HEROES Act goes beyond just reimbursing wages. It says that such firms can bill the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies for a range of other costs associated with “the financial impact incurred” of keeping workers employed during the health crisis. That includes for “fees,” a term of art in federal contracting, and “general and administrative expenses,” a catch-all phrase associated with the costs of running a business such as paying executives, running the corporate office and even marketing and sales.

    The Senate has yet to take up the new House bill, so the companies have not reaped a windfall yet. But experts say that if the Senate passes a new bill, this clause would likely survive.

    The legislation was effectively a stealthy way to bail out the defense and intelligence government contracting industry and their executives at taxpayer expense, said Mandy Smithberger, who directs the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

    Others agreed. “It’s one thing for the government to say, ‘We’ll keep the workers going,’” said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore School of Law professor who specializes in government contracting. “But this is money for the firm.”

    In a statement provided by a spokesperson, Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who championed the relief bills’ contracting sections and whose Virginia district is home to many contract employees and companies, said the legislation’s goal was to make sure these firms “can survive this crisis and recover their lost revenue.”

    He said the HEROES Act language wasn’t intended as a “loophole” for firms to bill for expenses like corporate headquarter costs and said he would “object if the Trump Administration interpreted it as such.” But he didn’t answer questions about why he fought to include the broader HEROES Act language that would allow for such charges or why its text matched what an industry group had proposed.

    The defense and intelligence agencies have increasingly become reliant on hundreds of thousands of government contractors for everything from fighting on the battlefield to setting up classified computer systems to cleaning offices. At the Department of Defense, which spends more than all other government agencies combined on contractors, the amount obligated for such agreements jumped from $189 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $320 billion in fiscal 2017, according to a July 2018 Congressional Research Service report.

    While small businesses that contract with the government would qualify for the reimbursement outlined in the COVID-19 relief bills, major multinational corporations like Raytheon Technologies and market champions like Amazon Web Services would too.

    The taxpayer price tag for the section would be enormous.

    Already the federal bailout for just payroll and benefits for defense contractor employees stuck at home outlined in the CARES Act will run in the “billions and billions,” the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Ellen Lord, told reporters in an April 23 press briefing.

    Executive compensation, fees and other expenses would be on top of that.

    In federal contracting, general and administrative expenses relate to all the costs of running a home office, including support staff whose jobs can’t be billed to any one government contract and the salaries of executives. (The Bipartisan Budget Act caps the amount executives can be paid from a government contract at $540,000 a year, though the firms can augment that through other means, including by using profits from a government contract.)

    The HEROES Act language introduces its own ambiguity about what firms can charge when it comes to what are referred to as “fees.” In certain federal contracts, the recipients are paid a fee on top of their costs. In others, fees refer to money contractors pay to third parties like lawyers and accounting firms. The new language opens the door for contractors to count those as billable, even if work isn’t being done, said Tiefer, the contracting expert.

    “And now they still collect even though some of their workers are home,” he said.

    At issue is a section in the CARES Act that reimburses contractors at “minimum applicable contract billing rates.” The vaguely worded term touched off a blitz of inquiries and suggestions in the weeks after the CARES Act passed from Beltway firms who perform IT, security and other national defense services for the federal government. The HEROES Act section pushed by Connolly seeks to “clarify” that.

    The Intelligence and National Security Alliance, a trade group that says it represents more than 160 companies that do work for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, was among the firms that lobbied for the new language. In an April 15 letter to the DOD, Larry Hanauer, the group’s vice president for policy, suggested that the term “minimum applicable contract billing rates” should mean “an employee’s base hourly wage rate, plus indirect costs, fees, and general and administrative expenses.”

    That language made it into the HEROES Act, which defined “minimum applicable contract billing rates” to include costs “such as the base hourly wage rate of an employee, plus indirect costs, fees, and general and administrative expenses.”

    Peggy O’Connor, an INSA spokeswoman, said nobody from her organization discussed the HEROES Act with Connolly’s office and she didn’t know how the group’s suggested definition of “minimum applicable contract billing rates” wound up in the bill.

    “There were a lot of letters drafted by various organizations,” she said. “We posted ours, as well as various government guidance memorandum on our website, which is open to the public.”

    The industry’s largest trade organization, the Professional Services Council, issued a statement thanking Connolly for his efforts after the HEROES Act passed the House on May 12. A spokeswoman for PSC declined to answer questions about the bill’s language or the group’s interactions with Connolly ahead of the vote.

    The six-term congressman has long been an advocate for contracting firms and before joining Congress worked for the Science Applications International Corp., a government contractor that became Leidos. Among his top contributors since taking office in 2008 are government contractors Northrop Grumman, Leidos and Deloitte LLP.


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