All posts by aliciatrost

It Is Time to End Discrimination Against Hard Working Latino Farm Workers

According to the Capitol Alert, Senator Florez is reporting the Governor plans to veto legislation that would give workers on California farms the same overtime pay standards as most labor forces.  Below is an op-ed by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on this significant civil rights related measure and why the Governor should sign it.    

It Is Time to End Discrimination Against

Hard Working Latino Farm Workers

By Senator Darrell Steinberg

Many Californians, including myself, are part of the growing chorus condemning Arizona’s show me your papers law.  A CNN poll this week found that three out of four Hispanic-Americans fear that it will result in discrimination and racial profiling.  No wonder.  The Arizona law requires law enforcement officers to detain and sometimes arrest people they “suspect” of being undocumented.   When someone is stopped it will be based on the color of their skin.  And if they can’t produce proof of citizenship on the spot they will be arrested.  

Once you step outside your home, can you prove your citizenship?  I can’t.  

But I wonder how many Californians are aware that our state has its own controversy over a law which discriminates against Latinos.  To put it simply, California’s law provides standard overtime pay to almost every private employee except for one group – farm workers, among the hardest working Californians.   And predominantly Latino.  Unlike other private workers they are denied standard overtime pay.  This is unjust.  And it is discriminatory.

I have joined Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez who is leading our effort to abolish the farm worker overtime discrimination law.  The Legislature passed Senator Florez’s SB 1121 this year.  But this long overdue reform will not become law without the signature of Governor Schwarzenegger, who has until August 2, to make his decision.  

There are historical connections between all discriminatory policies like the Arizona and California laws – they can be traced back to a time when institutional racism was openly endorsed by political leaders and even the courts.

The origins of excluding farm workers from the overtime law trace back to the segregated south during the Great Depression.

In the 1930’s an important part of the New Deal was the establishment of fair employment practices for American workers, including overtime pay.  But Congress was forced to compromise with powerful southern legislators who argued that fair labor practices for rural black workers would destroy their plantation system of agriculture.  

What did they mean by their “plantation system of agriculture?”  Everyone knew what they meant.  Eight out of ten plantation workers were African-American.  The southern system was almost entirely dependent upon a cheap supply of African-American labor.  Mistreated black workers in the cotton belt were essential to the traditional rural plantation system.

The southern legislators negotiating to exempt farm workers from new fair labor laws were not about to give up this oppressive system.  In the end, the southern employers won and farm workers were denied overtime pay.    

One Florida Congressman at the time was completely candid.  Representative J. Mark Wilcox bluntly stated in the Congressional Record that “there has always been a difference in the wage scale of white and colored labor.”  He went on to observe “you cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it.”  Others warned that overtime premiums would actually harm the minority workers themselves because employers would be forced to cut back hours.  

In 2010 California farmers are by no means racist or motivated by ethnic prejudice.  However, the arguments against correcting the discrimination in the existing overtime law are reminiscent of the old arguments.  I have heard, for instance, that thousands of Latino workers will have their hours cut if we pay them overtime.  

One cable show host asked me recently if I could point to the exact words in the Arizona law that mandated racial profiling – as if it did not matter what impact the law would have so long as the offensive words did not appear in the text.  Neither does California’s overtime law contain explicit language about ethnicity.  

But we all know who is affected.  The Governor should do the right thing and sign SB 1121 into law.

Steinberg Responds to Governor’s May Revise

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today called the Governor’s May Revise budget proposal a “non-starter.” Saying the Governor has chosen to surrender: “That he sees California as unfixable and that he proposes a budget that kills the economy and harms so many.”

Full Transcript of Steinberg remarks follow.

I could speak for a long time about the past and where to point the finger.

I could talk about sledgehammers, and automobiles and torn up credit cards.

I could talk about blowing up boxes.

I could talk about one of many silly metaphors.

But I will leave it at this: I am disappointed that the Governor has chosen to surrender.

That he sees California as unfixable and that he proposes a budget that kills the economy and harms so many.

It is a non-starter.

If God forbid this budget became a reality, California would be the only state in the union to not have a safety net for children.

Leadership is not about blaming others. It’s about finding solutions to tough problems to preserve the state and its people.

In their comments throughout the day the Governor’s representatives have described the cuts he proposes as quote “terrible.”

I believe him …but his actions say it would be more terrible to delay $2.1 billion in corporate tax breaks than to save children, the elderly, and the most vulnerable.

His actions say it is more terrible to impose a tax on oil profits than complete elimination of county mental health services and child care.

He appears to have decided that the solutions are too difficult to achieve so he will accept these “terrible” cuts.

We refuse to wave the white flag.

California’s elected leaders- including myself- and the governor and the others need to stand up.

Given the choice between enacting $6 billion in cuts to services for the elderly, children and the disabled, or delaying corporate tax breaks, I’m for delaying corporate tax breaks.

Given the choice between cutting education by nearly $3 billion or seeking revenues from oil companies extracting oil in California, I’m for getting revenues from oil companies profiting handsomely in this state.

But I want to go beyond I think what you expect here which is sort of the give and take….

And [provide a] the recitation of our genuinely held beliefs and philosophy.

I want to state my perspective on the overall situation very clearly.

In my view-having now my tenth year in the legislature, second year as leader, having served on numerous budget conference committees-we have come to the end of trying to prop up this failed structure.

There is no more triage.

The status quo is unsustainable.

Our government is not structured to quickly and effectively respond to an economic crisis of this magnitude.

We are so balkanized that the people don’t know who collects the taxes and who provides the services.

Yes we need revenue, and we will fight for revenue, but not to prop up this outdated structure.

We must use this crisis now, not next year, not another report, not another study.

We need to bring government closer to the people.

The inside term is “realignment.”

What it means to the people of California is that we must take many of these state programs that otherwise may be decimated, and give them to the locals and the school districts.  Give them restored revenue and the ability to raise revenue themselves.

This is not theory.  This is not academic.  This is not a luxury.

Those who say – “too difficult, too complicated”, I challenge you to do this:

Bring forward an alternative that balances the budget, preserves essential public investments, and does not rely on gimmicks.  

Finally, I do want to respond to one thing that the Governor highlighted in his comments about the tax structure.

I think we all agree that California’s tax structure needs updating.  But to say that we are living through this budget crisis solely or primarily because of the tax structure is just plain wrong.

The Legislative Analyst said clearly that if we had adopted the Parsky Commission’s recommendations . . . revenue would actually drop $10 billion.

[The] Governor has this theory about GDP that he keeps talking about, but this is what we know about California:

Personal consumption in California has fallen by the largest percentage since 1980.

Home prices have plunged dramatically since 2007 from an average of $484,000 a home to $250,000.

The share of corporate income tax paid in California has fallen by nearly half since 1981.

So this idea that if our tax structure had only kept up with some phantom robust growth in our economy over the last couple of years . . .

This country, the world, and this state are living through the most precipitous drop in revenue, and it would be precipitous no matter what tax system we had.

The real answer here is we must restructure and realign this outdated structure that we have here in California and we need to provide the revenue to the entity that is in the best place to provide the services.  

Senator Steinberg Fires Back at Governor

Today the pro Tem sent the following letter responding to the Governor’s demands to create new programs, to spend money we dont have, and to protect wealthy corporations who commit tax fraud from being held accountable.

March 16, 2010

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

I write in response to your March 15, 2010, letter expressing your opinion on the Legislature’s job creation

efforts and mid-year budget actions.

Over the last two months, the Legislature has considered and approved – in a bipartisan fashion –

legislation that would reduce the state budget deficit by more than $4 billion and create more than 40,000

jobs. Since you called the 8th Special Session to address the state’s fiscal emergency, the Legislature has:

• Held 10 full Senate Budget Committee hearings to consider, review, and take hundreds of hours of

public testimony on your January budget and jobs proposals.

• Developed and passed to you 12 budget-related bills that combine to reduce the state’s deficit by

$4.1 billion.

• Introduced and began passing a 27-bill jobs package aimed at creating 140,000 jobs in California.

Eight of these bills passed the Senate and four are on your desk, awaiting your signature. The work


• Held necessary oversight hearings to ensure bottled-up federal ARRA funds are moving through

clogged bureaucracies – like the California Energy Commission – in your Administration.

• Joined you on a bipartisan leadership trip to Washington, D.C. to ensure California receives its fair

share of federal funds to help us meet our current fiscal challenges.

As I stated during our phone conversation yesterday, I remain optimistic that we can work together to

achieve our common goals of balancing our budget and stimulating our economy through job creation.

While Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have already taken bold and decisive steps toward

these objectives, we recognize that more can and needs to be done. We look forward to working with you

on this, and offer the following to guide our discussion.

Your letter mistakenly claims that the budget legislation sent to you last week addresses only

$200 million of the state’s $20 billion budget deficit. Actually, the mid-year actions taken by the

Legislature would have reduced the deficit by 20 percent, or more than $4 billion.

Unfortunately, you vetoed one measure that would have cut our deficit by $2.1 billion, and

appear intent to veto another measure valued at more than $1 billion. In short, it is your actions

that threaten to reduce the value of the Legislature’s budget solutions from more than $4 billion

to only $200 million.

With respect to the gas tax swap measure, you are correct that the version passed by the

Legislature differed from your original proposal. But that is hardly a reason to veto the measure

that is currently awaiting your signature. You claim your proposal would have provided $1

billion in lower gas costs for consumers. Unfortunately, this claim is not only unsupported by

any evidence, but is actually refuted by the conclusions of the state Attorney General and

experience in other states that have reduced fees on gasoline. The evidence actually establishes

that consumers end up paying as much or more for gas after implementing such marginal fee

decreases, and that the end result is increased profits for oil companies. As the Hartford Courant

reported when Connecticut tried a similar gas tax cut, “Gas taxes and prices are not connected in

an ironclad way. The tax can be cut, but the benefits to consumers will be swallowed up in

higher prices at the pump. In the future, the Governor and Legislature should build tax policy on

a firmer foundation.”

Further, your proposal would have resulted in a dramatic reduction in revenue for transit and

road improvements that Californians deserve, and that also help create and maintain more than

15,000 jobs. In other words, because the Legislature shares your commitment to job creation, we

sent you the version as modified. I hope you will reconsider your stated intent to veto the

measures on your desk.

Next, you take issue with the bill we sent you that provides tax relief for victims of short sales

and developers of renewable energy projects because the measure also includes a provision that

imposes penalties on the wealthiest individuals and corporations that commit tax fraud, with full

due process and appeals available to those fined. It is disappointing that you would consider

vetoing this legislation over a provision that has been part of federal tax law since 2007, when

President Bush signed it into law. Aside from conforming with federal tax law, the penalty

provision also ensures that the vital tax relief we provide to short sale victims and renewable

energy developers is paid for, reducing the effect on our budget deficit. We believe the tax

conformity measure we sent you is fiscally responsible. Of course, if you find a conforming

penalty for the wealthiest tax frauds unacceptable, we would seriously consider an alternative

revenue source more to your liking, and of equal value, to include in the measure.

Which brings me to your concern about the Legislature’s failure to immediately approve and

embrace your specific “job creation” proposals. While we share a common goal to create jobs

and stimulate California’s economy, I remain committed to doing so in a fiscally responsible

manner. Unfortunately, the cornerstones of your jobs agenda would add more than $200 million

to the state budget deficit. I would love to work with you on a way to provide tax breaks for

homebuyers and “clean tech” companies in a manner that doesn’t worsen the budget deficit and

further reduce state support for public education. As you so eloquently stated in your weekend

radio address about the state budget situation, “When you’re in a hole, the first rule is stop


With regard to your $3,000 hiring tax credit, the Legislative Analyst said that it was poorly

designed, wouldn’t create new jobs, would provide a windfall to businesses that are planning to

expand on the natural, and creates new borrowing that would have to be repaid by businesses

with a tax increase. As I told you yesterday, I am happy to work with you on alternatives to this

proposal that would have a better shot at creating new work opportunities for the thousands of

unemployed Californians.

Governor, thank you for your letter and your commitment to restoring California’s economy in a

fiscally responsible manner. I look forward to working with you in the days and weeks ahead to

achieve our common goals.



President pro Tempore of the Senate