All posts by Julia Rosen

“We the People” stand together for marriage equality and religious freedom

Some amazing volunteers put together this video for the Courage Campaign.  Unlike some other ads out there (NOM NOM NOM), individuals appearing in this video are real people, including a carpenter, lawyer, priest, and a soldier discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

Speaking of NOM…they are out today with their latest ad, playing the victim and trying to claim that they lose their rights when gay people want to get married.

As “We the People” explains, marriage equality and religious freedom are not in conflict. The constitution provides for a separation between church and state, meaning that no religious organization can be forced to perform or acknowledge same-sex marriage if they choose not to.

They are sowing fear and distorting the facts in an attempt to try and hold on to an increasingly smaller share of the American public.

NOM is putting Miss California up as their spokeswoman victim.  They probably correctly assume that she is a better mouthpiece than their most prominent board member, best-selling fiction writer Orson Scott Card.  PFAW:

(full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign)

“The NOM has argued that it is not a homophobic organization, but Card’s remarks suggest otherwise. Card, who represents the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the board and received an effusive welcome last week from NOM president Maggie Gallagher, supports criminalizing sex between same-sex adults:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books…to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens.

“Card has also advocated overthrowing the government if same-sex marriage is permitted:

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

Puts those comments about bigotry in context, no?

NOM is afraid of change. Don’t let them take away what makes this country so great.

Let us all stand together for equality and freedom.

Sign the pledge to repeal Prop 8. Please pass the video along to your friends and family.

Furlough Idiocy: One Size Does Not Fit All

This is monumentally stupid, counterproductive and illogical.  When Arnold ordered all state workers to take furloughs he insisted that there we absolutely no exceptions.  That edict is costing the state government and causing harm to the some of the most vulnerable Californians. Merc:

The governor, in the interest of fairness and simplicity, has insisted that his unpaid time off policy, which covers about 235,000 workers, be implemented across the board. So that means no exceptions even for the one state agency – a team of nearly 1,400 employees who review claims for federal disability payments – funded entirely by the feds.

Sending those employees home one day a month means the state will forgo about $10 million – or 5 percent of the agency’s $210 million annual budget – from Washington, without saving state government any money. Meanwhile, it’s taking the agency longer to process claims, delaying disability benefits at a time when such requests are soaring.

“There really is no reason to do this, it’s a no-brainer,” said Pete Spencer, the regional commissioner for the U.S. Social Security Administration, which oversees the disability claims program. “If the governor is saying he wants to take all the money the federal government is offering, this is one area he’s not doing it.”

Spencer wrote to the governor twice since November to explain the problem, and early last month received from Schwarzenegger what appeared to be a form letter in response.

Lovely.  Other states are not so stupid.  Over a dozen of them have exempted departments funded by the feds from hiring freezes or furloughs.  That’s just common sense.

This idiotic decision is causing a great deal of harm to those who are disabled and rely on the functioning of this department.

Spencer said the furloughs are prolonging the amount of time it takes for the agency to review benefit claims, forcing disabled people who qualify to wait longer for help. Also being put on the back burner are reviews of existing recipients to check whether they still qualify for benefits. Paring ineligible people from the rolls saves California money because the state pays a share of disability benefits, known as Supplemental Security Payments.

The Schwarzenegger administration is trying to defend itself by saying it is  an “equity issue”.  Screw equity.  Make decisions based on merit and efficiency.  One size never fits all.

No Exceptions to the Endangered Species Act

It was a compelling scene: Rep Dennis Cardoza and Rep. Devin Nunes brought in a bowl of 3″ long smelt and pictures of unemployed farm workers and their families to a House Natural Resources Committee meeting.  They were hoping to provide an effective contrast and convince their colleagues to make an emergency exemption to the Endangered Species Act.

The state is in the third year of a drought and it has gotten so bad that in order to protect a federally endangered species a federal judge in 2007 ordered the state and feds to cut down on the amount of water pumped through the delta to save the smelt.

This is not simply about a species of little fish.  The smelt, as Kevin Freking at the AP writes “a bellwether for the health of the delta, the heart of California’s water-delivery system.”  More from the article:

With that, he offered to submit a fishbowl filled with nine minnows for the Congressional Record. The fish were rainbow smelt, not the endangered delta smelt, which are illegal to possess without a permit.

Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, responded by asking him to take the plastic wrap off the bowl so the fish could get some air, which Nunes did. Napolitano served as chairwoman for Tuesday’s hearing.

I can’t just picture that scene in my head. Can’t you?

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said some of the lawmakers were “cherry picking history” and ignoring that water has been pumped into the valley at rates that exceeded what was appropriate.

That’s one of the reasons the judge ordered state and federal wildlife agencies to revise how much water should be pumped out of the delta. Most of the pumping occurs from late spring through summer.

“The judge had no choice because the system was run right down to the margins where in fact he did kick in the protections of the Endangered Species Act,” Miller said.

We have lacked a sensible water plan for decades.  To allow more pumping risks devastating the entire ecosystem.  It is not about just a couple of little fish in a bowl.

The farm workers are devastated right now with the cutbacks to water supplies, but we need long term solutions, not short term actions that cause irreconcilable harm.

The Chamber of Commerce Responds and Obfuscates on the Employee Free Choice Act

Pop quiz hot shot: when someone gets two options, and picks option A, does that mean that there was never a choice to begin with?

I know, I know, that question really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But then again neither does the response by the Chamber of Commerce to the Courage Campaign’s email on the Employee Free Choice Act and Robert’s blog post about it. Here is the Chamber:

Language lesson for Calitics, the word option means “The power or freedom to choose.”  The Employee Free Choice Act gives no choice “if a majority of them sign cards,” there will not be an election.

Yes, that’s right.  Workers would get to choose how or if they would like to unionize under the Employee Free Choice Act.

Option A 50% of workers sign a card saying yes I would like to join a union.

Option B the workers request a secret election.

If they choose Option A and 50% of the workers sign the cards, then they do not do Option B.

The Chamber is confused, because quite often workers have to do both A and B under the current law and that is what is wrong with current labor law, among other things.

Why do they do both you ask….well, often workers will sign the cards, but the bosses will not want to accept the fact that their workers want to join a union.  The bosses decide at that point that they want a secret election.  Those usually take months to set up, giving the employers time to hire union busting consultants, spend work time threatening their workers that if they vote to unionize then they will go out of business and all too often, fire workers who are helping organize a union.

The Employee Free Choice Act puts the decision making power into the hands of the employees, thus the name of the act.  The end result is that workers will be able to more easily form a union when they want one.  That power shift away from the corporations that make up the Chamber of Commerce is what scares the pants off of them and causes them to make up nonsensical arguments.

(full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign. x-posted on Courage)

Fidelity: This video will break your heart

(full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign)

News broke Tuesday that the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on March 5, and will then make a decision within 90 days on the validity of Prop 8 and the 18,000 marriages that took place last year before the election.

When Ken Starr’s legal brief, on behalf of the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund went public in December, the Courage Campaign immediately launched the “Don’t Divorce…” campaign, asking our members to send us pictures with a simple message for Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund.

Those pictures, and the heartfelt messages on them, inspired Calitician and all around great guy Paul Delehanty (kid oakland) to send us a suggestion: Would Regina Spektor allow us to put your pictures to the words and music of her hit song “Fidelity”? So, we asked her and she very enthusiastically said yes.

Regina Spektor’s song, in concert with the pictures, shines a beautiful light on the 18,000 couples that Ken Starr wants to forcibly divorce.

Watch “Fidelity” and then tell the Supreme Court not to divorce 18,000 California couples. Tell the Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr’s case, and let loving, committed couples marry.

Sign the letter to the Supreme Court here.

SEIU, UHW and the move to create a statewide home care union

UPDATE: UHW just issued a statement, apparently a few members of the executive board planned to raise objections to both the substance and timing of this vote, since there is an official meeting Jan 20-21st. Stern decided to do the vote electronically with the deadline of 2 pm tomorrow.  More when I hear it…

ORIGINAL POST: I know I have been quiet here as of late, but I couldn’t let this pass without speaking out and making sure it did not fade below our collective radar.

Today a special meeting of SEIU executive board is being called by teleconference. On the agenda is the potential creation of a statewide long-term care union, a new local.  SEIU International has established them in several other states and they want to do it here in California.  That is not their only motivation and probably not their biggest one.  The creation of this new union would gut UHW, by removing 65k members.  This appears to be the solution that the International has come up with for weakening UHW, after the charges they went after UHW with fell apart during the trusteeship hearings in the fall.

The SEIU/UHW dispute aside, a statewide local sounds like it could be a good idea, no?  Consolidate everyone who have the same type of job and build a new local.  It might end up being a new benefit to the workers, or it might not.  It depends on if the new local is a better advocate for the workers than the one they left.  They would be leaving the known for the unknown.

One would think that SEIU members should have the say over whether or not they want this to happen.  Well, there was an election, technically speaking.  It gave all of the SEIU health care workers in CA two different options for creating a statewide health care local.  There was no option for workers to keep their current representation, staff and elected leadership.  Both would end UHW as we know it, which appears to be why the International is pursuing this, despite the results of the “advisory” election.

Ballots representing 7.8% of eligible members were received, a horrible turnout.  Notice I didn’t say only 7.8% voted.  That’s because the rules were changed mid-election and members were encouraged to vote more than once.  UHW actively organized against the vote, and frankly organized circles around the International.

Perhaps just as important, union members presented the Election Officer with petitions protesting the election signed by 80,000 members.  These were accompanied by 40,000 formal letters of protest. UHW members presented these letters and petitions in sacks weighing hundreds of pounds. It was an astonishing outpouring of opposition, organized in less than one month.

It is fair to say that SEIU members are vehemently opposed to the creation of this new local based on the results of the election and the huge backlash against it.  However, the International is calling the election “a celebration of union democracy” and using it as justification during today’s board meeting.  They have not received a mandate to make this change and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best.

The International has the power to create this new local and that is just what they are going to do.  Stern would appoint the new leadership and staff would be found.  The members that would be forcibly moved would be under unelected leadership that could from from anywhere in the country.  They would be leaving, in at least the case of the UHW members, an incredibly strong, fast-growing union that has gained deep, far-reaching contracts that are in many cases considered the gold standard.  Through this fight with the International, UHW members have proven how dedicated they are to their leadership and staff and willing to do whatever it takes to defend it.

The result is that the path seems pretty clear.  Today the International will create the new statewide home care local.  UHW members will actively and strongly resist it.  That will create legitimate grounds for trusteeship, which the International would persue with pleasure.  The path is so clear that it seems like it is indeed the point.  This would gut UHW and end up with them trusteed.

Cal Winslow in the article I linked above and quoted goes into a longer deeper discussion of the larger fight between UHW and Stern/Internation.  We have covered this in some depth last year here at Calitics.  Generally speaking, the gutting of UHW would take away a strong ally here in California for the progressive movement.  They are organized, effective and tend to be more progressive when it comes to policy than Stern and those he appoints.  It is the difference between the Arnold health care plan that Stern flew in here to back and the Democrats’ legislation.

It is not my role as an outsider to tell SEIU how they should run themselves.  It is up to the members.  They clearly are not interested in what the International is attempting to force upon them.  That is the antithesis of a bottom-up people-powered union.  While I have great respect for a lot of the political work SEIU International has and continues to do nationally, this stinks for SEIU members in CA and for the larger progressive movement here.

This transcript from today’s Democracy Now! includes an interview with Sal Rosseli and the press release from the International on today’s events.  Here is the excerpt as it gives you a flavor of where both sides are coming from in their own words.

Sal Rosselli, I wanted to ask you very quickly-we just got a statement a few minutes ago within the show emailed to us from the Service Employees International Union. They say, “Today’s vote follows an exhaustive two-year participatory process including 13 days of hearings to determine how best to represent SEIU’s 240,000 long-term care members in California. In August, an outside hearing officer concluded that California’s long-term care workers would be better served if they were no longer divided among three local unions. Similarly, in June, the member delegates to SEIU’s quadrennial convention representing the union’s 2 million members overwhelming adopted a proposal that called for the creation of a single long term care workers’ union per state.

“The question facing the IEB today”-that’s the International Executive Board-“could not be more urgent. These are particularly challenging times for California workers. Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed dramatic across-the-board cuts in patient care and worker pay, including slashing the pay of many workers to a bare minimum wage, and long-term care members must to be organized to fight back.” They conclude, “The proposal being considered today would create the nation’s largest organization of long-term care workers, instantly making it a political and economic heavyweight in the nation’s most populous state.”

Sal Rosselli, your response?

SAL ROSSELLI: It’s disingenuous at best. You know, the hearings inside SEIU are kangaroo court type of operations. The bottom line is, workers need to be able to vote in a very democratic way about their future. And the workers in-the 150,000 workers in UHW in California have voted to stay united into one union.

It’s also hypocritical, because in every other state, including New York, long-term care workers are united with hospital workers. Enforcing a division of them in California, which is what Andy Stern is attempting to do, will delegate long-term care workers to permanent second-class citizenship. It’s the strength of hospital workers united with long-term care workers that’s fundamentally important to achieve quality patient care, achieve a real voice in staffing levels and achieve fair conditions for these workers.

My views are absolutely colored by watching the proceedings in the fall where SEIU was unable to prove that UHW did anything wrong and yet are doggedly continuing on a path to eliminate or vastly weaken UHW.  That said, I am interested in what others opinions are on the subject.  This is no cup of tea to talk about as two allies duke it out and good friends are on both sides.

Please Don’t Divorce Brian + Brian

(full disclosure: I proudly work for the Courage Campaign)

Last night the news came down that the Yes on 8 campaign and their new lead lawyer Ken Starr filed a brief seeking to forcibly divorce the over 18,000 couples who were able to get married between the court case and election day.  It was something they said repeatedly that they wouldn’t do this.  Liars.

I called up Brian L. last night and asked if he and Brian D. could take a picture holding this sign.  We sent it out to several hundred thousand Courage Campaign members this morning asking them to do the same thing, or an adaptation: “Please don’t divorce my mothers,” “Please don’t divorce my friends, Name and Name,” or “Please don’t divorce Californians.”…

The pictures are pouring in and they are heartbreaking.  And we are going to get them up and public as soon as we can.

But first, there are 51 MILK + LOVE events happening in 39 communities in California.  Courage Campaign members picked a MILK screening and paired it with one of the “Light Up the Night” vigils organized by Join the Impact.  Ironically, the vigils are in honor of the couples who have their marriages in the courts hands.  The vigils were long planned, but they are taking on a much greater meaning in the wake of the court filing by the Yes on 8 campaign.

We are asking attendees to bring pieces of paper and markers to the events.  I am headed to the one at the Tower Theater here in Sacramento at 1:40.  There are 69 people who have RSVP’d!

Thank you Brian and Brian for taking the picture.  I am damn proud that we finally get a chance to start showing all of these couples and make them much more than a number.  It is just a start.  We have a lot more work to do.

Breaking: Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary

According to the AP:

Labor source: Obama picks California Rep. Hilda Solis for labor secretary.

That is the entirety of the report.  If proven true and it’s not like we hear a leak from the Obama team that isn’t later confirmed, this would be a big loss for California.

Some around these parts were hoping she would throw her hat in the ring as a strong progressive and run for governor.

That said, this would be a big win for labor.  If true, it will to be great to have her championing the labor movement from within the Obama administration.  She will be a breath of fresh air compared to the Bush administration’s approach to labor regulations.

A friend that works for the AFL-CIO reminds me that she has a 97% lifetime rating from them.

UPDATE: Statement from Cal Labor Fed Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski over the flip.

“With the selection of Hilda Solis as our nation’s next Labor Secretary, President-elect Obama gets a warrior for working families who brings a unique blend of experience and passionate advocacy on workers’ issues.

“Working people in California know what a champion they’re getting in Rep. Solis. From her time fighting for a higher minimum wage in the California state legislature to her support for expanded access to health care and fair trade in the U.S. Congress, Solis has shown time and again that she’s committed to protecting the interests of working families. Throughout her career in Congress, she’s voted in favor of working families 97 percent of the time, including 100 percent last year.

“With Solis at the helm, we’re absolutely confident that the Department of Labor will return to its primary mission of looking out for the health and welfare of America’s workers. The California Labor Federation looks forward to working with and supporting Rep. Solis in her new role.”

Sacramento: 1,000-2,000 for Joint the Impact Prop 8 Rally

“What do we want?” “Equality!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

Sacramento Join the Impact rallyThat has been the rallying cry the past few weeks as thousands have gathered in Sacramento, out in the streets, in the public square and in front of the State Capitol.  Today we gathered in Cesar Chavez square right in front of the Sacramento City Hall.  The police I talked to estimated the crowd between 1,000-2,000 people.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside with our community, in joint action, to speak out against the rights that were taken away from so many Californians on election day.

The rally was one of hundreds of Join the Impact protests planned for today in small towns and big cities across the country.  It was the brainchild of an ordinary activist who thought big, built a platform and watched it explode.

The main organizer of this event was a new local group called Equality Action Now.  They have put together a website and an email list, were selling t-shirts, gathering donations, got the permits and loudspeakers, and coordinated a list of speakers to address the thousands of gay people and their allies.  It is truly incredible to see the work people are putting into organizing in their own communities.  They are not the traditional standard bearers of the equality movement or the large organizations.  These are few people who stood up and decided to be leaders.  They are the strength of this new movement for equality.

Sacramento Join the Impact rallyThese local, impassioned and empowered new organizers and leaders are the reason why the next time marriage equality is on the ballot we will win.  We have all felt the taste of defeat and the pain of having our rights taken away.  All of us can and must do more than we did this past time.

For those who haven’t been to one of these rallies, I will try and explain the emotions being there, especially as a gay woman.  At first it is a thrill to see so many people, people you didn’t know existed, gathering today for the same purpose.  Then you feel a sense of power being amongst the crowds, the unity of purpose, the strength in numbers.  But then sadness starts to creep in and the pain of realizing what transpired to make this happen.  It is emotional and tough to stand there and chant for rights you once had and chant against your fellow Californians who voted to take away those rights from you.

Today, I ended up leaving before the march around the Capitol, because it was too hard on my girlfriend to be there, sharing an intimate pain in such a public manner.  This is still raw, still painful.  It will always be emotional, but the anguish should fade.  Hopefully, the energy will not.  We need all of the people rallying together across the state and country to put in the hard work to repeal Prop 8.

More about the rally on the flip, including pictures…

Freddie Oakley, Yolo County RegistrarFreddie Oakley, the Yolo County Registrar, was a bit nervous addressing the crowd.  It was the largest one she had ever addressed, but she did a great job.  She delighted in telling us the story of her getting kicked out of her church.  You see for the past few Valentines days, same-sex couples have come into her office requesting marriage licenses.  While she could not grant them, she would issue a statement regretting the lack of equality.  Evidently, this motivated a few people to protest in front of her church.  Her pastor eventually asked her to resign, which she was more than happy to do.  Why would she want to be affiliated with a church that so sharply conflicted with her own values?

My favorite sign was held by a soldier in desert cammos: “I fought for EVERYBODY’S Freedom and Happiness!!!”.

Unfortunately, there were a few people across the street with very large signs telling us “A Moral Wrong Cannot Be a Civil Right”.  Anybody with an opposing view who wants to chime in below?  The detractors had a few kids holding up signs.  There were perhaps a dozen people over there, and it was about half black and half white.

The local Fox and NBC affiliates had cameras wandering around, and I saw a few other print media interviewing rally attendees, so there is bound to be some press coverage.

Soldier at Sacramento Join the Impact RallyI have a few more pictures from today up on my flickr No on 8 photoset.

Prop 8: Questions about what went wrong, so we can fix it for next time

I wrote much of this as a comment in Paul’s post, but wanted to expand some on it and make sure these questions don’t go down the rabbit hole.  There will be a lot of introspection about this campaign, how we lost and why we lost.

I was proud to work along side many wonderful hard working staffers on the campaign down this final stretch.  This post is not directed at them.  They did a commendable job with what they were asked to do.  And for those feeling the if only I volunteered a little earlier, or a little longer I say this.  Prop 8’s passage is not about any one person’s failure at the grassroots level to get involved.  With this margin of loss, the blame has to go to the top.

But who is the top?  That is indeed part of the problem.  Today, I am left with a lot of questions about the strategic decisions the campaign made.  This is not a comprehensive list and is mostly focused on what I saw from within the campaign this past week.  I was not around at a deep enough level earlier to see what happened from the minute they started circulating the petitions to get this on the ballot.  Those who know more about earlier time periods, or have strategic decision questions of your own, please chime in the comments.

These are my thoughts, not that of my employer and I offer them now as part of an effort not to assign blame, as much as figure out how we fix it for the next fight.  What we did this time did not work.  Today we wake up to discrimination being written into our state constitution.  We must figure out a way to take it out, one way or another.  Most likely, that will involve another initiative campaign.

My 16 questions are below the fold:

1) How many campaign managers were there?  

2) How many times did they restructure the decision making tree?  

3) How many different strategies did they have?  

4)How did they only plan for a max budget of $20 million when they ended up with closer to $40M?  

5) Why did they not anticipate and better counter the opposition’s messaging?  

6) Who really thought it would be a good idea to run a No campaign with green check marks and “Equality for All” as the slogan?  

7) Who made the decision not to strongly make the argument that Obama opposes 8 to his supporters?  

8) Who decided that not having a true ground game was a path to victory?  

9) Who thought that paid phones to voters were more effective than grassroots supporters making calls?  

10) Who put together an out of state phone banking program and then never really effectively launched it.  

11) Who thought it was a good idea to have the only ask of volunteers election weekend (Sat-Mon) to come in for a one hour training?

12) Who thought it was a good idea on election day to have the main volunteer ask to stand in front of polling locations, which are mostly churches and schools and pass out cards for a campaign where churches and schools were the main contentious issues?

13) Who thought that waving signs brings a significant amount of voters to the polls?

14) Who never came up with a legal strategy to counter people being kicked away from those locations?

15) How did the campaign really think that they would have the legal right to stand on church property with No on 8 signs?

16) Why was the campaign complacent with just having labor endorsements, instead of getting their advice on how to run a field campaign, use their field resources like phone banks, encourage them to communicate with their members and just generally be a major presence in the campaign?

As you can tell, I have a lot more questions than I have answers.  And right now, I am incapable of writing much more.

This is a terrible terrible day to be GLBT and a Californian.