Home > Statewide > California Black News Brief: Stories to Watch – Week Beginning 6/28/2020

California Black News Brief: Stories to Watch – Week Beginning 6/28/2020

By: Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media 

California DMV Resumes Driving Tests; Asks for Your Patience  

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) began administering behind-the-wheel drive tests June 26, after a long suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DMV will only be accepting previously cancelled test appointments and will make changes to increase the amount of tests each office can administer each day. 

Even with plans to increase testing hours, the DMV still expects it will take several weeks to get through these tests and begin accepting new appointments. DMV Director Steve Gordon said,

“I’m asking for everyone’s patience as we safely clear the backlog of behind-the-wheel drive test appointments. For all of those Californians who have been waiting, we know how important this is to you.” 

The DMV initially opened on June 11 to customers who had existing appointments, and for transactions that could only be completed in-person, including paying registration for impounded vehicles, applying for a reduced-fee ID card, or reinstating a suspended or revoked driver’s license. According to the D.M.V. website, new appointments are not currently available. 

There will be new testing protocols for behind-the-wheel drive tests to comply with social distancing. All applicants will have to wear a face mask throughout and answer screening questions before the exam. Temperature checks will also be taken in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, and will expand statewide in the coming weeks. 

The DMV’s test administrators will also give applicants pre-test instructions outside of the vehicle. They will wear face coverings and gloves, and will place plastic covers on the passenger seat and floorboard of each test vehicle. Also, at least two windows will need to be down throughout the test for increased ventilation. 

The DMV has also extended the enforcement date for REAL ID, the state’s enhanced identification card to Oct. 1, 2021, a year later than previously announced. After that, travelers will need a REAL ID to travel through T.S.A. checkpoints and to access federal facilities. 

“Stand Up:” California AG Shares Resources to Fight Hate Crimes  

On June 24, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with leaders of multiple California legislative caucuses, urged California residents to stand up to hate by reporting suspected hate crimes in a powerful video. AG Becerra office’s website also released sharable digital resources in 14 languages to inform the public about hate crimes. 

The video featured the respective chairs of the California Legislative Black Caucus, California Latino Legislative Caucus, California Legislative Women’s Caucus, California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, California Legislative Jewish Caucus and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. 

“It’s going to take all of us working together to take on hate and its corrosive effects on our society,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s why we stand united against hate and we hope you’ll join us in fighting back. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a hate crime, report it.  

“Millions of us call this state home —we won’t let trumped up rhetoric tear us apart. No matter where you’re from, who you love, or how you worship, it takes all of us to build a better place and a better future for our children.” 

The state Department of Justice’s renewed commitment to fighting hate crimes comes in the wake of increased reports of hate incidents and crimes that have accompanied the George Floyd protests and the hateful rhetoric surrounding COVID-19. 

“I commend Attorney General Becerra for bringing together this coalition of legislators to speak out against hate and bigotry,” said California State Senator Scott Wiener. ”Especially after last month — when, in an episode highlighting the structural racism embedded deep in our society, George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer — we must stand firmly against racism and hate.” 

According to the Attorney General’s office, a hate crime is defined under California law as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the victim’s race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Hate incidents are separate and defined as non-criminal actions or behaviors motivated by hate, including name-calling, insults and distributing hate material in public places. 

The Attorney General’s office also advises actions for people to take if they believe they’ve been the victim of a hate crime, including writing down exact words used and relevant facts of the incident, saving all evidence and photos, and getting the contact information of other victims and witnesses. 

Cal AG, City Attorneys Go After Uber and Lyft  

On June 24, a coalition consisting of the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the City Attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco announced plans to file a preliminary injunction motion to require Uber and Lyft to immediately stop misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors. 

The injunction motion follows the coalition’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, which alleges “that Uber’s and Lyft’s misclassification of drivers deprives workers of critical workplace protections such as the right to minimum wage and overtime, and access to paid sick leave, disability insurance, and unemployment insurance,” according to a June 24 press release from the Attorney General’s office. 

With this bold move in their legal battle against the two biggest ride-hailing companies, the Attorney General and city attorneys argue that immediate action needs to be taken, and that the companies’ misclassification harms the public by depriving the state of tax revenue and depriving their drivers of employment protections. 

“Misclassifying your workers as ‘consultants’ or ‘independent contractors’ simply means you want your workers or taxpayers to foot the bill for obligations you have as an employer — whether it’s paying a legal wage or overtime, providing sick leave, or providing unemployment insurance. That’s not the way to do business in California,” said Attorney General Becerra. 

“Now more than ever drivers need these benefits,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Despite a campaign of misinformation, nothing prevents Uber and Lyft from properly classifying drivers and giving them flexibility.” 

The motion is the Attorney General’s latest step towards enforcing AB 5, California’s worker misclassification law. Uber and Lyft have spoken against the law since it was passed September 2019, claiming that their business would be adversely affected. 

In a press statement, an Uber spokesman argued that the company’s drivers value their independence. “When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry,” the statement read. 

According to Lyft’s statement, the company believes “the courts should let the voters decide. Trying to force drivers to give up their independence 100 days before the election threatens to put a million more people out of work at the worst possible time.” 

Uber and Lyft have funded a campaign for a ballot measure in the November election, which would override AB 5 to classify ride-hail drivers as independent contractors and enact labor and wage policies, healthcare subsidies and occupational accident insurance for ride-hail drivers.

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