Month: December 2014

Should Workers on Christmas Get Double Time? Bill Seeks Just That

Monica Luhar for KCET – December 23, 2014

California employees working in fast food, retail, and non-union sectors could get much-needed relief for working during future holiday seasons.

AB 67, recently proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, would require employers in California to pay employees two times their hourly rate on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be implemented the same as overtime laws, which is currently set at one and one-half time’s an employee’s regular rate.

Gonzalez’ legislation — the Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2015 — was spurred by the deluge of retailers like Walmart and Target extending hours during the holiday season, and thus forcing many employees to work with very little incentive or extra compensation.

Three states — Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island — currently prohibit retailers from opening on major holidays, according to Gonzalez. But California has not stepped in.

Last year, she authored AB 1522, a landmark law highlighting three guaranteed paid sick days annually for employees. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, would approximately impact 6.5 million Californians who work under the fear that they will lose their job for taking a sick day.

“There are huge income disparities and we’re trying to chip away by making things fair. We shouldn’t penalize people — we should reward them,” Gonzalez told KCET in a phone interview. “We’re trying to create a system of laws that honor families, mothers and fathers, and hard working individuals.”

The legislation was prompted by Gonzalez’ own experience of watching her mother — a nurse — sacrifice holidays that were meant to be spent with the family in order to work.

“How do we honor people or the work they do?” questioned Gonzalez when asked about ways to alleviate the injustice of being paid minimum wage during the holidays. “[This legislation] is to honor every worker when they have to be away from their family and friends.”

While some sectors such as hospital and emergency services may already be compensated double or extra pay during the holiday, there are still economic disparities that exist among other large sectors like retail and fast food.

And there currently is no existing law in relation to holiday pay, said Gonzalez. “There is none, and people were shocked to find that out. There is no requirement. So just minimum wage — it’s the same requirement as any other day… It doesn’t solve the problem of people being ripped away from their families, but at least it values the worker a little more.”


State Reps Speak Out On Shootings of Unarmed Black Males

By Monica Luhar – Dec. 18, 2014

Non-guilty verdicts and decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed, black males have prompted widespread protests and calls for justice and accountability. But state representatives and the California Legislative Black Caucus agree that more needs to be done to address the thin ice that exists between law enforcement officers and communities of color.

In recent months, law enforcement agencies have been in the spotlight for incidents that left unarmed black males dead: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York City; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Dante Parker in Victorville, California; Ezell Ford in Los Angeles; Oscar Grant in the San Francisco Bay Area, and countless others.

“It is troubling to see so many officer-involved shootings across the country involving young men and boys of color,” Assemblymember Chris Holden told KCET in an email. “While we honor the courageous work of law enforcement professionals, and understand the challenges of their job, I can’t help but wonder what less-lethal option could be used to defuse a tense situation that involves minors.”

In August, the California Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference entitled “Young, Black and Unarmed” at the California State Capitol, condemning the recent trend of violence perpetrated by law enforcement against men of color. The conference began with the names and images of many black, unarmed males killed by the hands of police.

Among those who attended the conference were assemblymembers Shirley Weber, Chris Holden, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Steven Bradford. Weber, who facilitated the discussion, noted that in 2012, white officers killed black suspects twice a week in the U.S., or an average of 96 times.

The caucus has called for the expansion of early childhood education, boosting funding for K-12 public schools and enhanced access to rehabilitative services, and increasing the number of Californians who have health insurance. These proposals provide an opportunity to improve the outcomes of young black men and prevent the school-to-prison pipeline, according to the caucus.

Weber says the long-term effects of poverty is clearly an issue in the lives of young people of color. But systemic problems encountered by young people of color and the interactions with law enforcement still needs to be addressed, she explained. “So the more we focus on supporting conditions where low-income children can learn — including healthcare and nutrition — the better chance they have of succeeding,” she told KCET.

Yesterday, Weber introduced a bill — AB 66 — which intends to create a task force to study law enforcement body cameras and develop policies and best practices for departments that use them.

The bill falls in the midst of LAPD’s plan to become the first major police force in the nation to equip its police officers with approximately 7,000 police body cameras. It also comes after President Obama’s call for $263 million allocated toward equipping police officers in the nation with body cameras and training in the wake of recent verdicts in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.

Some Angelenos say body cameras are just a cover up or Band-Aid for the troublesome relationship with law enforcement and communities of color. But Weber — and the California Legislative Black Caucus — believe that these deep-rooted problems need to be addressed from a policy level so that the public does not end up in the same place a few years from now.

Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber addressed the press on the shootings of unarmed black men and recent policies to protect people of color.
Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber addressed the press on the shootings of unarmed black men and recent policies to protect people of color. | Photo: Courtesy of California State Assembly.
“There is data indicating that body cameras reduce violent incidents involving law enforcement, so I’ve introduced legislation this week to create a task force so that we engage the affected communities, including law enforcement, and develop guidelines and best practices for their use,” she said. “The experience of young black males is that their guilt is always presumed and that they are always seen as a threat — an imminent danger — so much so that even when they are unarmed, law enforcement feels justified in using deadly force.”

Weber explained that it’s not just because of these incidents that have caused anger — but that there have been deep-rooted, long-standing issues of distrust between law enforcement and the black community. “When attempts were made to bring the killers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner to justice, the victims’ families were faced with a campaign of character assassination by law enforcement and a justice system that was unwilling to convict, prosecute, or even indict. That is why there is such anger now,” she said.

Nationwide protests have also spurred conversations on social media, with a series of hashtags condemning law enforcement’s treatment of communities of color. Hashtags include #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe — the last phrase uttered by Eric Garner who was killed at the hands of police officers.

“Strange that there are protesters carrying signs saying, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It reminds me of the widespread motto from the Civil Rights era: ‘I Am a Man.’ But once again, African Americans feel that they have to reaffirm the simple fact of their humanity because they don’t see it reflected in our justice system,” Weber added.

For a recent senate hearing on civil and human rights, California Congresswoman Judy Chu urged the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act in addition to updating the Department of Justice’s racial profiling guidance to eliminate the use of biased-based profiling relating to race, ethnicity, and religion.

“There is a tide turning in our country. Communities of color are increasingly feeling as if they are being left out and treated unequally before the law,” wrote Chu in a written testimony. “But Ferguson and protests around the country tell us that these communities are speaking up and demanding real change.”

Bill Seeks Commemorative Holiday for Filipino American Leader

Monica Luhar for KCET – December 15, 2014

As California schools begin to add curriculum about the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement, a new proposal could enhance those lesson plans even more. Earlier this month, a state bill submitted to the legislature looks to proclaim a special day in honor of one of the movement’s leaders.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) — the first Filipino American elected to the Assembly — introduced AB 7, which would require the state of California to observe Larry Itliong Day annually on Oct. 25, the day of his birth. October is also Filipino American History Month.

“While Filipino Americans comprise an ever-growing population in California, their contributions to the farm labor movement have been largely overlooked,” Bonta told KCET in an email. “I am excited to have the opportunity to provide a voice for the Filipino American community — a community whose contributions have been historically under-emphasized in the story of our state.”

Itliong was a prominent Filipino American farm labor organizer and leader who improved the lives of farm workers by fighting for equal rights, better conditions, and wages in California, during the ’60s and early ’70s. He worked alongside prominent Mexican American civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez to find common ground and create a union between a majority of Filipino and Mexican American farm workers. After merging, the groups later became known as one united entity: the United Farm Workers.

But the contributions of Itliong have been largely brushed aside and overlooked, and advocates like the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown are working to bring back his legacy and that of other Filipino Americans.

Itliong led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee which consisted of a majority of Filipino American farm workers. Itliong and many other Filipino American farm workers like Andy Imutan, Philip Vera Cruz, and several others spearheaded the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 in Delano, California, and organized protests against unfair conditions and wages.

As a result of the strike, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the National Farm Workers Association merged and became known as the United Farm Workers. After working alongside Chavez with the UFW movement, Itliong shifted his focus to fight for Filipino American retired farm workers’ rights.

In 2010, Carson City became the first city in the U.S. to officially establish Larry Itliong Day. Other municipalities that have recognized Larry Itliong Day include Elk Grove and Los Angeles County.

Itliong not only represents the role of Filipino Americans in the movement, but also represents his work with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and other important labor leaders. It also reflects the collaborative efforts between both the Latino and Filipino communities, Bonta said.

In the past, Bonta has introduced similar legislation such as AB 123, which would require social science curriculum to incorporate instruction highlighting the contributions of Filipino Americans in the farm labor movement. Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law in 2013.

Bonta was raised at the United Farm Workers headquarters in La Paz in Kern County where his parents organized farm workers. He was inspired to introduce the bill after his personal involvement with the farm labor movement. “My parents raised me to value public service and encouraged me to give back to the community,” he said.

Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center, supports the proposed legislation, which she says will go one step further toward incorporating the history and achievements of Itliong in the education system.

Numbering more than 1.1 million in California, Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American group in California.

“Filipinos are the largest (Asian and Pacific Islander) population in California, and that legacy really should be in our history books,” Soriano-Versoza told KCET. “Major historical facts have been missing from our history books for many decades, and it’s encouraging that the more complete story may now be told in our classrooms.”
AAPI Civil Rights Heroes – Larry Itliong from Advancing Justice – ALC on Vimeo.

Soriano-Versoza says that in the last decade, farm workers in California were finally able to win overtime pay. Currently, overtime pay for agricultural workers is required in California, Hawaii, and Maryland.

“I always ask people:’Have you heard of Larry Itliong,’ and almost no one has heard of him,” said Soriano-Versoza. “Everyone should know Larry Itliong just as much as Cesar Chavez, and for the same reasons.”

– Departures: Historic Filipinotown, in the Present Tense
– SoCal Connected Video: Jeepney Tours in Historic Filipinotown

Actress Goes Public with Depression Battle, Alopecia Diagnosis

By Monica Luhar for NBC News – November 18, 2014


Jackie Nguyen no longer spends hours tediously curling, brushing, straightening, or washing out her long, straight, black hair with scented shampoo and conditioning products. These days, after donning a hat or a wig, Nguyen is out the door in minutes. That’s the way it’s been, ever since she lost her hair.

On a warm August evening in 2014, Nguyen — then a 25-year-old musical theatre actress — followed her normal routine. She took a late night shower, blow-dried and brushed her hair. A few minutes later, she noticed more hair than usual on her brush — handfuls of hair had fallen out. She combed again. Again, clumps came off.

She panicked, called her boyfriend, then her best friend. After a few days, she finally told her family, then headed to the hospital in San Diego.

“I checked myself into an ER. I spent hours and hours in the hospital with a doctor, therapist, different dermatologists, gynecologists, every type of ‘gists’ you could fathom. I had every type of blood test, eye test, lady part test, everything,” Nguyen, based in New York, wrote in her blog.

Jackie Nguyen takes a series of selfies documenting her hair loss. COURTESY JACKIE NGUYEN
Jackie Nguyen takes a series of selfies documenting her hair loss.

After ruling out cancer and an array of other possible diseases, Nguyen was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder commonly diagnosed during childhood that can lead to hair loss.

“I was speechless,” said Nguyen. “I had never heard of alopecia before. It was mysterious and scary.”

Nguyen is one of nearly 6.5 million Americans and 145 people worldwide — men and women — diagnosed with alopecia areata, according to Gary Sherwood of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

 “Per the most recent incidence study, 2.1 percent of the population has been, is, or will be affected by alopecia areata,” said Sherwood.

“When I stare in the mirror now, I don’t see long, straight, Asian hair”

He notes that although the disease is more likely to present itself during childhood, diagnoses can come at all ages, even as late as Nguyen’s.

“When I stare in the mirror now, I don’t see long, straight, Asian hair,” said Nguyen. “It’s a shock when you’re a woman in show business. When you’re constantly judged upon your looks probably 60 to 70 percent of the time.”

When she was first diagnosed, Nguyen’s doctor asked if she had been battling stress or depression at any point during her life. Reluctantly, she nodded her head, and thought back to the years when she struggled with severe depression shortly after the unexpected loss of her brother in 2007.

So much of Nguyen’s energy over the years had been devoted to building her professional life, she’d never paused to reflect on her own emotional well-being. Pursuing a career in the arts had already been a tough pill for her Vietnamese-American parents to swallow.

“It was a long battle with my family as far as gaining support,” said Nguyen. “But as soon as they saw me cast as Kim in ‘Miss Saigon,’ they completely dropped their guard and supported me.”

Nguyen went on to receive her BFA from California State University at Fullerton before moving to Los Angeles, and booked her first national tour with “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” She moved to New York in 2012, and has called the city home since then.

Nguyen threw herself into breaking barriers in musical theater, earning leading roles in “Miss Saigon,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Road to Saigon” with international and well-respected troupes.

Talent and ability weighed into each casting decision, but so did physical appearance — and Nguyen, whose hair continued to fall out, was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about hers.

An updated series of selfies by Jackie Nguyen, as her hair continued to fall out after her alopecia diagnoses.
Nguyen worries her condition will affect her career. How will she re-market herself? How will she book commercials as a bald, Vietnamese-American actress?

“I’ve been struggling mostly with feeling confident as a bald woman and not feeling insecure,” said Nguyen. “Some days I don’t care at all. But then there are days when I don’t even want to be seen in public.”

Eventually, Nguyen knew she needed a way to address the emotional burden that contributed to her condition. To help handle her stress, she made the difficult decision to share it. She turned her usual platforms for expression — her photography, social media accounts, and blog — into vehicles for her to vent.

“If you’re Asian and depressed, you would talk to your friends, not your parents.”

For much of her life, Nguyen had never publicly discussed how depression had seeped into other areas of her life, crushing her lively spirit, making everyday activities into herculean efforts.

She wrote about the days when depression confined her to her bedroom. She wrote about the horror of helplessly watching her hair fall out, day after day, and her daily struggle to conceal that loss. But she also wrote about the love she felt from friends and family, the support she received in her darkest days, and the push she needed to get back into the audition room.

One week, she was writing about the latest show she was working in North Carolina. The next, she was writing about losing her hair.

“I was going into another show two weeks later and my hair was falling out so fast and I was already encountering so many people asking me, ‘Are you okay? Are you sick?'” said Nguyen.

Jackie Nguyen with boyfriend Nate during their trip to Colorado in October, 2014. COURTESY JACKIE NGUYEN
Jackie Nguyen with boyfriend Nate during a trip to Colorado in October, 2014.

Nguyen now believes her delay in dealing with her depression could have contributed to her sudden diagnosis. Blogging gave her an opportunity to not only discuss her sudden alopecia diagnosis, but also shed light on depression and mental health –- topics that continue to be taboo among Asian Americans, she said.

“I know so many first-generation, Asian-American friends who suffer from depression and anxiety. They’re not able to talk to their parents because their parents make it seem like you need to be strong and not break down,” said Nguyen. “If you’re Asian and depressed, you would talk to your friends, not your parents.”

Over time, Nguyen’s blog posts have transitioned from performance highlights and overseas trips to honest musings on her battle with hair loss and depression, like this one from a post titled, “Fortune Favors the Bald!,”

“I want others to feel like there’s someone out there willing to be completely honest and open”

“My life has been changed with my new friend, Alopecia. She’s that one friend you think is super annoying; she’s always tagging along, maybe talks too much, supes self-centered but really means well and eventually will be the one to help you when you need it most. In the meantime, Alopecia is a basic bitch.”

Recently, she decided to take control of her follical fate. With her boyfriend at her side, she completely shaved her head. He followed suit, in solidarity. Jackie announced her decision with excitement on her blog: “I am free.”

But she continues to document the inevitable dark days that followed.

“I want others to feel like there’s someone out there willing to be completely honest and open about an experience that might not be the best,” said Nguyen, “and still find some way to make it through.”

Jackie's selfie of her newly-shaved bald head, for her October 2014 blogpost "Fortune Favors the Bald!" COURTESY JACKIE NGUYEN
Jackie’s selfie of her newly-shaved bald head, for her October 2014 blogpost “Fortune Favors the Bald!”

Monica Luhar is an assistant web producer and reporter for KCET’s award-winning show, “SoCal Connected.”

Where Can I Park? Parking Tips for Thanksgiving

By Monica Luhar – KCET

November 25, 2014

Figuring out where to park can be especially stressful during the holiday season. With dozens of “No Parking” and “Street Sweeping” signs, it’s easy to get lost in a deluge of endless signs marked with different time zone restrictions.

Thankfully for Southern Californians, some cities have lifted select parking restrictions during the Thanksgiving holiday (and the day after).

After speaking to several city representatives, we’ve compiled a list of parking enforcement tips for the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation states that certain city parking regulations are not enforced on national holidays, including Thanksgiving Day.

According to LADOT’s department policy, the following parking regulations will not be enforced during national holidays, unless signs note otherwise. The LADOT has compiled and confirmed this list of parking regulation exemptions with KCET:

-Time Limit signs
-Parking meters (unless posted to include holidays)
-“No Parking” signs with specified days and times (i.e. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.)
-“No Stopping” with specified days and times (i.e. 7 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.; 4:00 p.m., to 6 p.m.); This includes peak hour parking restrictions.
-Preferential parking districts (unless posted to include holidays)
-Street sweeping (not enforced on Thanksgiving Day, or the day after Thanksgiving, according to LADOT)

The following will still be enforced on all days, including national holidays:

-Red zones, including bus zones.
-Yellow/white zones (on request only)
-Handicap zones
-“No Parking Anytime” signs (including “Tow Away, No Parking Anvtime” signs)
-“No Stopping Anytime “signs that do not refer to a specified time limit.
– All temporary “No Stopping” or “No Parking” signs
-Complaints for service, including but not limited to: blocked driveways, etc.


City of Santa Monica:

The following will not be enforced in Santa Monica, according to the Planning & Community Development department:

-Parking meters on Thanksgiving Day (exception includes meters that are enforced daily).
-Street cleaning on Thanksgiving and the Friday after Thanksgiving.
-Preferential Parking (residential and visitor permits will not be enforced on Thanksgiving Day).

Pro tip: Parking meters that are enforced daily can still be enforced on Thanksgiving, according to Eric Widstrand, acting traffic and parking manager at the city of Santa Monica.

City of Pasadena

-All parking meters will be free and parking time limits will not be enforced on Thanksgiving Day.
-Regular enforcement scheduling for metered parking will resume on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

City of San Diego

-There will be parking exemptions for parking meters, yellow commercial zones, green short-term zones, and 1-2 hour time limited parking zones. Unless otherwise noted, all other parking regulations will still be enforced by the city.

City of Long Beach

-Parking meters and signs that read “Except on Holidays” will not be enforced on Thanksgiving Day.
-Street sweeping will not be enforced on Thanksgiving Day, or the day after. (So you don’t have to worry about a hefty $50 fine, as noted in the Long Beach Municipal Code.

City of Riverside

– There will be no exemptions. “Thanksgiving is a holiday and Friday is a city holiday, so enforcement typically is lighter on those days,” said Phil Pitchford for the city of Riverside.

City of San Luis Obispo

– There will be no exemptions, even for street cleaning and the “No Parking 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.” regulations. Meters are enforced on holidays, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m; Sundays 1 to 6 p.m.
-In the downtown San Luis Obispo area, visitors can park in public parking structures for 75 cents an hour. The first hour is free.

City of Anaheim

-Street sweeping will not be enforced on Thanksgiving Day or Friday.

City of Santa Barbara

Parking Structures in downtown:
-Free parking in downtown structures on Thanksgiving Day. Normal rates will resume Friday.

Street Parking in Santa Barbara:
-15-, 75-, and 90-minute parking zones not enforced on Thanksgiving Day only. Street sweeping will not be enforced Thanksgiving Day and Friday.
-No parking enforcement on Thanksgiving Day.
-No street sweeping on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, Nov. 28; All other restrictions will be back in effect the day after.

Santa Barbara Waterfront Parking Lots:
-Stearns Wharf and Leadbetter Beach lots are free on Thanksgiving Day.
-Main Harbor Parking Lot and all other self-pay parking lots will follow regular hours and fees throughout the weekend.

City of Ventura

-The city is not currently scheduled to change any parking policies during the holiday shopping season according to city transportation manager Tom Mericle.
– Regularly scheduled metered parking will still remain in place.
-“We have found that this period of time is some of our highest demand, and the parking policies are in place to allow for turnover of the prime spaces along Main Street, while allowing free and convenient parking in the close parking lots to encourage spaces for holiday shoppers,” explained City Transportation Manager Tom Mericle.

Watch: Reforming L.A.’s Parking Tickets