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Black Caucus Members’ Bills Protecting Black Children, Union Workers Advance

Antonio Ray Harvey| California Black Media

Pro-public service legislation introduced by Assemblymember Tina McKinnor’s (D-Inglewood), Assembly Bill (AB) 1, moved closer to becoming law when it was passed by the Assembly with a 66-3 vote in late last Month.

It is now under consideration in the Senate.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Newsom, the bill will permit California legislative staff to unionize and collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions, regardless of their political affiliation.

“Legislative staff aren’t looking for special treatment. They are looking for the same dignity and respect afforded to all represented workers,” said McKinnor in a statement after her colleagues voted to advance the legislation.

“To the staff in our district offices and Capitol offices – including our dedicated committee staff – that honorably serve the people of the State of California every day, know this: We see you and we respect you,” McKinnor continued. “With AB 1, we are taking action to make sure that current and future legislative staff, regardless of their member’s political affiliation, are afforded a safe, equitable and fair opportunity to build a noble career in public service.”

McKinnor, a former legislative employee herself, said at the Women In California Legislature” speakers series on March 8 that she was an original signer of the “We Said Enough” letter in 2017. The correspondence led to the “Me Too” movement to address workplace

sexual harassment, retaliation and intimidation within the California Legislature.

Mary Virginia Watson, chief of staff for Assemblymember Liz Ortega (D-Hayward), supports AB 1. Watson has been a campaign director, campaign, director, and political organizer.

“Congrats to #CALeg staff! I was proud to speak in favor of #AB1 in (the) policy committee, and as a chief of staff, I 100% support Leg staff’s right to unionize. A union would improve recruitment and retention and help the legislature better serve Californians!,” Watson tweeted.

If AB 1 is approved, it will take effect on July 1, 2024.

Another bill, dubbed the “Ebony Alert” bill, would help locate missing Black youth and Black women in California also made it out of the Senate last week with a 39-0 vote.

Senate Bill (SB) 673, authored by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), establishes a notification system to address the issue of missing Black children and young Black women in California who do not receive enough attention.

“The Ebony Alert would ensure that resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black women and Black children in the same way we would search for any missing child and missing person,” Bradford, Vice Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), stated in March.

The Black and Missing Foundation Inc. (BAMFI), reports that 38% of missing children in the U.S. are Black, despite Black people making up 14% of the population. Black children are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their white counterparts who are classified as “missing.” Therefore, when Black children are reported

missing, law enforcement does not always treat those cases with urgency or issue Amber Alerts.

The AMBER moniker – which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response – was created as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.

“When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time. They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them,” Bradford said.

Bradford’s Ebony Alert bill is inspired by a similar bill, the Feather Alert, introduced by Assemblymember James Ramos (D-San Bernardino), the only Native American serving in the California Assembly. The Feather Alert law, which took effect in January, assists law enforcement to quickly notify the public when Native American Californians are reported missing.

Black women and girls face a higher risk of being harmed and trafficked. According to a report by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on human trafficking incidents in the U.S., 40% of sex trafficking victims were identified as Black women.

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