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What Solidarity and the month of May mean to me

If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement – the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery – the wage slaves … Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up… You cannot put it out..” –August Spies  before being sentenced to death in 1886 by an Illinois court.

The Haymarket Martyrs, as many familiar with U.S labor history term the group, received worldwide attention at the time of the event, but many today do not know they are the reason International Workers Day is observed worldwide on May 1.

On May 4, 1886 a Chicago rally in support of an 8-hour work day was held in Haymarket Square. Chicago at the time was a hub of labor organizing activity, and a day earlier violence had broken out at the McCormick Harvesting Company aimed at striking workers.

The  police tragically killed workers during the rally when they opened fire on the crowd. The Haymarket crowd had been relatively peaceful; they were responding and gathering to protest the police killings from the day before, but as the police began to disperse the crowd, an unknown person threw a bomb at police. Police responded with  gunfire,killing other police officers and civilians. The aftermath led to the round up, trial, and execution of eight radical unionists.

As we end the month of May, it is the first day of month, not the last, that led to reflections on labor’s struggle but also other May Days and the moments activism and hope with them.

As a community college student in 2006, I cut my teeth on Mayday  activism at East Los Angeles College. Federal anti-immigrant legislation  had caused massive rallies across the country, and LA was no dififerent. In Los Angeles, massive student were spontaneous and uncoordinated. Student groups across L.A worked together to make May Day 1, 2006 huge, and it was. Some of the high school and college students that walked out of class later became professional labor/community organizers, teachers, professors, policy advocates, lawyers, and doctors.

Then came May Day 2016 and May Day 2017, when I was organizing with the L.A Street Vendor Campaign, which these marches with  hot dog vendors fighting to have their labor be formalized and no longer criminalized.  This, of course, was before the bill to legalize street vending in California was passed. Seeing vendors lead the march, knowing many ran from the police with scalding hot equipment in fear of police violence, brought me such joy. They owned the streets in a peaceful demonstration of power. The visuals/optics and their chants I can still hear.

To me, May Day is the day workers across the world show their political power. But it is more than that. It is a day when the poor, the economically marginalized and empowered communities highlight their struggle. It is a day on which I’ve taken my children out to gather with other likeminded folks to celebrate and demonstrate people power. I want my children, the future, to know the worker struggle continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis Of Governor Newsom’s May Revision of California’s 2024-2025 Budget

May 10, 2024

The Governor released his May Revision on May 10, estimating that the budget shortfall for the 2024-25 fiscal year grew by approximately $7 billion from the January Proposal to approximately $44.9 billion. This differs from the Legislative Analyst’s Office earlier estimate of $73 billion, with differences attributed to higher revenue projections and different Proposition 98 calculations. After accounting for the early action budget package that included $17.3 billion of solutions, the remaining budget problem is approximately $27.6 billion.

Western Center on Law and Poverty appreciates that the Governor maintains some of the previous expansions and grants proposed in the January budget. However, we oppose the Governor’s approach to address the current budget shortfall through cuts to critical safety net programs. This approach balances the budget on the backs of low-income Californians through over $3 billion in cuts. Instead of considering additional revenue solutions, the Governor proposes to cut In-Home Supportive Services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status, deeper CalWORKs cuts, and continued housing cuts. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature on a final budget that reflects our values and protects vulnerable Californians.

HEALTH CARE

Cuts In-Home Supportive Services for Undocumented Individuals — Despite historic investments in Medi-Cal expansions, the May Revision proposes treating people who were previously excluded due to their immigration status differently. Specifically, the May Revision cut IHSS services for those who were previously excluded at a reduction of $94.7 million. IHSS allows seniors and people with disabilities to safely stay in their home.

Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax — Sweeps $6.7 billion over multiple years from the Medi-Cal provider rate increases, Medi-Cal workforce funding, and equity payments planned for January 2025 and proposes amendment to include Medicare health plan revenue resulting in an additional $9.7 billion in total MCO Tax funds over multiple years. The related November ballot initiative raises uncertainty. If the measure passes, billions of dollars could be diverted, resulting in budget deficit that may result in future cuts to safety net programs.

Cuts Acupuncture as Medi-Cal Benefit — Eliminates acupuncture as a Medi-Cal benefit starting January 2025 at reduction of $5.4 million this budget year and $13 million ongoing.

Healthcare Workforce Reduction— Eliminates about $900 million various healthcare workforce initiatives including community health workers, nursing, social work, Song-Brown residencies, Health Professions Career Opportunity Program, and California Medicine Scholars Program as well as eliminates $189.4 million Mental Health Services Fund for programs proposed to be delayed to 2025-26 at Governor’s Budget.

Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative Reduction— Reduces $72.3 million onetime in 2023-24, $348.6 million in 2024-25, and $5 million in 2025-26 for school-linked health partnerships and grants, behavioral health services and supports platform, public education campaign, and youth suicide reporting and crisis response pilot.

Eliminates Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program and Reduces Bridge Housing Program— Eliminates $450.7 million from the last round of the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program and reduces funding for the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing Program.

Eliminates Public Health Funding—Eliminates $52.5 million in 2023-24 and $300 million ongoing for state and local public health.

2022 Health Trigger Investments not Included: • Share of Cost Reform so that seniors and people with disabilities can afford to access needed Medi-Cal services • Continuous Medi-Cal Coverage for Children Aged 0 through 4.

HOUSING

One of the highest priorities for California lawmakers and residents is the housing and homelessness crisis, which requires more investment in affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs. We are concerned about the proposed cuts to these crucial programs, especially as Californians are grappling with housing insecurity and the continued legal attacks on our unhoused neighbors.

The May Revision proposes a total $1.76 billion in continued cuts to the following program (with additional cuts to January Proposal noted):

• Adaptive Reuse Program – additional $127.5 million cut

• Foreclosure Intervention Housing Preservation Program – additional $236.5 million cut

• Multifamily Housing Program – additional $75 million cut

• Infill Infrastructure Grant Program – additional $35 million cut

• Homeless Housing Assistance Program (HHAP) – additional $260 million cut

• Veteran Housing and Homeless Prevention Program – additional $26.3 million cut

The May Revision will include funding of $500 million to the state LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credits) program.

PUBLIC BENEFITS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE CalWORKs

While the May Revision does not propose to cut CalWORKs grants, the proposal continues the deep cuts proposed in January, including:

• The elimination of the Family Stabilization Program (FSP), which provides housing assistance, mental health, substance use and domestic violence services. This is a core program within CalWORKs that keeps people housed, safe, and well.

• The elimination of the Subsidized Employment Program, which provides additional job opportunities to participants to provide job experience and a path to unsubsidized employment.

• The draining of the safety net reserve, which was created to protect human services programs against cuts. The use of these funds results in a double cut to the CalWORKs program.

Additional cuts to CalWORKs include:

• The reduction of $47.1 million for the CalWORKs home visiting program ongoing, which is a cut of 45%. This highly effective program, which pairs professionals with new parents, prepares families for new infant household members and provides early supports to ensure a successful transition to new and increased parenting responsibilities. This cut could result in new referrals to child welfare services.

• The permanent elimination of the CalWORKs Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services program which is a cut of $126.6 million. These are critical services that stabilize a family and can also prevent referrals to child welfare services.

SSI/SSP

The Governor’s proposed budget did not propose a cut to SSI/SSP grants, but additional investments are still needed for this program which provides grants to seniors and people living with disabilities. The grant for individuals is currently 94% of the 2024 Federal Poverty Level (FPL). We hope to work with the administration in future budget years to strengthen these programs to bring the individual grant to at least 100% of the poverty line and to reinstate the annual cost of living increase. We would also request a revival of the special circumstances program to assist SSI recipients with unexpected expenses.

Child Support

Despite 2022 budget trigger language, the May Revision did not include a provision to fund full pass-through of child support payments to currently assisted CalWORKs families. Based upon current revenue, this trigger was not pulled and there is a need to renew this language in the 2024-25 budget.

Child Care Slots

The May Revision pauses the promised expansion of child care slots and keeps them at the current level. By pausing this expansion, the state will reduce support for California’s working families by $489 million in 2024-25 and $951 million in 2025-26.

In-Home Supportive Services for Undocumented Individuals

As previously mentioned, the May Revision cut IHSS services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status at a reduction of $94.7 million. IHSS allows seniors and people with disabilities to safely stay in their home.

California Food Assistance Program Expansion

• The May Revision delays the promised expansion of the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for two years, pushing benefits back to the 2027-28 budget year. CFAP is the state-funded CalFresh counterpart that serves some immigrants who are excluded from CalFresh due to their immigration status.

• This delay prevents California from fulfilling the promise to expand food benefits to undocumented older adults, therefore perpetuating poverty, food insecurity, and again inflicting harm specifically on California’s low-income immigrant communities.

Download the full analysis here: WCLP Analysis of 2024-25 May Revision

DICK’S WRITING TIPS: Brief Writing with Western Center’s Director of Litigation – Part 1

Richard Rothschild (aka Dick) has practiced public interest law for over four decades, and he’s picked up quite a bit of knowledge along the way. Here are some tips Dick shared with attorneys in our network, now available for public consumption. This week is part one, check back next week for part two!

 

1. Write a Compelling Brief Introduction

What are the goals of an introduction and why should we care? Starting with the second question, think about the many news articles, blogs, posts, etc. that appear on your screen every day. If you are like most people, you read the ones that capture your attention and promise to tell you something you don’t know or that will at least entertain you. If the first few sentences don’t accomplish that, you move on.

Judges presumably are no different. While they are supposed to read everything we submit, the opening paragraph can dictate their state of mind as they go through the rest of the brief. First impressions matter.

A good introduction should accomplish two main goals: 
(1) make the court want to rule in your favor, and

(2) make the judge think that the law and facts require that result.

So how do you begin to convince a judge to rule in your favor and conclude that there is little choice but to do so?

Here are three tips for drafting better introductions:

  • Don’t start the introduction until you have written the rest of the brief. At that point, you will have a better idea of what facts and law are most important, and the first thing you want the judge to read.
  • Try beginning with a few sentences that (1) describe the plight of your client as relevant to the main legal issue; (2) something bad that the opposing party has done; or (3) both. Do so by stating facts, propositions of law, or both that (a) advance your argument and (b) cannot reasonably be disputed.
  • Then carefully edit to keep the paragraph as short as possible. The more unnecessary words you omit, the more powerful your message can be.

Here is an example: 
Angie Christensen’s family was denied public assistance because the Department of
Social Services counted the family as having money it never will receive: her husband’s
wages and unemployment garnished to pay child support owed to another family. The
result for the Christensens and similar families throughout California thwarts the
legislative purpose behind both CalWORKs and child support: to secure adequate
financial support to all California children.

That opening paragraph, while far from perfect, describes in two sentences the plight of a sympathetic client and something bad the opposing party did, using indisputable facts and law. While more would need to be written in both the introduction and body of the brief to win the appeal, at least the reader is left with the impression that “what was done to the Christensens seems like an injustice and legal error.”

If you can give your judge that impression, you are well on your way to winning for your client.

 

2. Avoid Overuse of Acronyms and Parentheticals

When I first started writing briefs and began using lots of acronyms and “hereinafter” parentheticals to explain every possible later reference to an entity, I felt like I was becoming a real lawyer. Years later, when I had drastically reduced the use of those devices, I realized I was becoming a better lawyer.

Overuse of acronyms and parentheticals is the enemy of persuasive writing. A good brief makes the reader want to keep on reading. But when, for example, in a brief on a health law issue I see ESPDT, TAR, HCBS, CFCO, and SPA in the same paragraph, I suddenly remember that long delayed need to reorganize my sock drawer. And if I see an unfamiliar acronym on page 14 of a brief, I have to stop and either flip pages back or do a word search to find the acronym’s origin on page 2, thereby interrupting whatever flow the brief may have had.

Make your reader feel smart vs. alphabet soup
One of the reasons some attorneys use acronyms—either consciously or unconsciously—is to demonstrate their superior knowledge of a subject; the author is a member of a select club of experts from which others are excluded. But that is precisely a reason to avoid overuse. Good writing makes the reader feel smart, while acronyms do the opposite, engendering readers’ resentment.

RIP hereinafter parenthetical
First cousin to the acronym is what I call the “hereinafter” parenthetical. Many attorneys believe that if you plan to use a shortened name of an entity in a brief, the first time you identify that entity you must always write (hereinafter “[shortened version]”). But leaving aside for the moment that you don’t need to say “hereinafter” or use quotation marks, how often do you really need the parenthetical at all?

Consider the following opening sentences in a brief: “The County of San Diego denies necessary health care to uninsured indigent residents whose monthly incomes are $1,079 or more. The County requires residents with annual income of $13,000 to pay for their own care.” Beginning the brief instead with “The County of San Diego (hereinafter “the County”) . . .” would slow the reader down for no good reason. The reader will know that “the County” means San Diego County without the author saying so.

This does not mean that all acronyms and parentheticals are bad. Some acronyms are so familiar that there is no need for the longer version of their referent. Thus, a public benefits brief can and should say “CalWORKs” without explaining that it’s short for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids.

The problem is not the use of acronyms and parentheticals; it’s overuse. Western Center’s Style Manual advises attorneys to limit their briefs to three acronyms, and to be similarly skimpy with parentheticals.

Questions you should ask yourself and some tips for answering them:
The best way to do that, as with any persuasive writing, is to put yourself in the place of the reader.  How much will the use or non-use of an acronym or parenthetical slow down the reader?  Is the acronym or parenthetical necessary for the reader’s understanding? Here are some concrete ways to answer those questions:

  • If you are only going to refer to the entity one more time in your brief, you don’t need an acronym, and you especially don’t need it for a single reference;
  • If the second citation to the entity will not take place for many pages, don’t use an acronym, as the reader will not remember it;
  • If the second reference to an entity very quickly follows the initial identification, you may not need a parenthetical. Thus, if your first sentence in a paragraph identifies the United States Department of Agriculture, you do not need a parenthetical before writing USDA in the second sentence;
  • Where possible, refer to entities with whole words. If you first identify the Association of Amalgamated Widget Servicers, sometimes the second reference can be to the Association rather than AAWS. This particularly works better for possessives (e.g., the Association’s rather than AAWS’s).  But sometimes a familiar acronym works best, as in USDA above;
  • Sometimes you will need a parenthetical, but you never need to introduce it with “hereinafter,” which you can safely eliminate from your vocabulary altogether. And while many attorneys still use quotation marks (e.g., Orange County (“the County”), in my opinion they slow down the reader for no corresponding benefit. Orange County (the County) works better.

The impact of some acronyms
Finally, consider that the use of certain acronyms may have a psychological effect. For example, many people who advocate for and represent survivors of domestic violence use the acronym DV. Whatever the value of that acronym for internal use, it should never be used in a persuasive document such as a brief. The phrase “DV” seems innocuous, while “domestic violence” conveys at least some of the horror of what it reports. Similarly, a brief on behalf of a sympathetic group such as Seniors and Persons with Disabilities should not shorten that group to SPD.

But psychology can work in favor of some acronyms. If you are suing the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Internal Revenue Service, why would you ever refer to those opponents as anything other than DMV and IRS? Conversely, should you ever find yourself working for the federal government in a tax case, consider referring to your client as “the Service” if you can do so with a straight face.

Making conscious choices
Reasonable readers may disagree with some of the choices suggested in this Tip. If so, that’s a good thing. Persuasive writing is all about making conscious choices. The more we intentionally ask ourselves whether use of an acronym or parenthetical is necessary for the reader’s understanding or instead will slow down or antagonize that reader, the better we can represent our clients.

Sue Himmelrich selected to serve two year term as Mayor

Himmelrich told the Daily Press she would only accept a two year term as she believes the job requires continuity in leadership and because she needs a longer term to justify cutting back from her important work at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

https://www.smdp.com/sue-himmelrich-selected-to-serve-two-year-term-as-mayor/199742

Robert Newman Receives Loren Miller Legal Services Award From the California Lawyers Association

Western Center’s Robert Newman was named a 2020 Loren Miller Legal Services Award recipient by the California Lawyers Association. The award “Honors an attorney who has personally engaged in significant work extending legal services to the poor.”

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