Tiger Woods Extracted from Mangled Vehicle in Los Angeles

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Golfing superstar Tiger Woods is reportedly in critical condition in a Los Angeles area hospital after a single-car accident on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The website TMZ displayed pictures on the scene showing that authorities had to use the jaws of life to free Woods from his mangled vehicle. [Note: LAFD has clarified that jaws of life were not used to free Woods, instead, they used hand tools.]

“On Feb. 23, 2021, at approximately 7:12 AM, LASD responded to a single-vehicle roll-over traffic collision on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes,” Los Angeles County officials wrote in a statement first provided to the website.

“The vehicle was traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard, at Blackhorse Road, when it crashed. The vehicle sustained major damage. The driver and sole occupant was identified as PGA golfer Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

“Mr. Woods was extricated from the wreck with the ‘jaws of life’ by Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics, then transported to a local hospital by ambulance for his injuries.”

Authorities said alcohol wasn’t involved.

Woods, 45, previously has suffered previous problems with prescription drugs, but police did not indicate whether that played a factor in the one-car crash.

Mark Steinberg, Wood’s agent, reported that the golfing legend sustained multiple leg injuries and was taken immediately into surgery.

Redondo Beach Has Never Had a Black Member on the School Board. Will One of the Eight Candidates Running Change That?

Stephen Oduntan

This is where surf, sand and sun all shape its identity. This is Redondo Beach, the part of California where homebuyers looking for properties within walking distance of the ocean should expect to pay upwards of $1 million.

The coastal city that is home to some of the finest distinguished schools in the country has been represented by a string of four-year term elected board members for decades.

But none of them was Black.

Kimberlee Isaacs thinks she has a shot at changing that this year and increasing diversity in the Redondo Beach Unified School District is one of her most important issues.

“The reason why I am running is that there has not been a Black person on the Redondo Beach School Board, and so my goal is to represent the children of all races. Especially the children who don’t feel like they’re being heard or represented in the curriculum,” said Isaacs, who has one son at Redondo Union High.

Isaacs believes that expanding the school curriculum to include various perspectives allows educators to discuss views and ideas underrepresented and provide students with a more holistic understanding of the coursework.

The accountant and Durham, North Carolina native, moved to Westchester in 2002. Her family relocated to Redondo Beach to be in a better school district for the high school grades. She created a Diversity Committee at City Charter Middle School dedicated to educating students about different ethnicities and the LGBTQ community. She currently serves on the RBUSD Race and Equality Committee. She said it’s vital that the school board represents the district and that just having one person of color on the board could make a huge difference for students of color in the district where issues of race and gender can be appropriately examined.

“Kimberly is somebody who really wants to make a difference for positive changes on the Redondo Beach School Board. I know that, and I feel that because of the time that we have spent working together. Her heart is truly about the safety of the students and equity and anti-racism, which are the kind of values I support too,” said Trish Vasquez Valdez of the Southbay Equity Project.

But as Isaacs’s message may resonate with some voters and friends, she has also seen yard signs supporting her candidacy vandalized by those with opposing viewpoints.

Recently, a campaign sign outside her home was defaced.

The defaced sign of Kimberlee Isaacs

She became a target of criticism over her online activities regarding comments about the American flag on her Facebook profile.

In an email, an unidentified Redondo Beach resident sent an open letter to other residents informing the group that “there are a lot of concerned Redondo Beach voters who believe Mrs Isaacs views are abhorrent, and certainly have no place on the Redondo Beach School Board.”

Isaacs says her comments were taken out of context.

“I was having a conversation on social media with a Black female friend who understands the Black experience. Not everybody has the same feeling when they see the American flag,” Issacs explained.

She added that “on July 4th, 1776, my people were enslaved, and so not everyone in this country feels the same way about Independence Day. There are a lot of Black Americans who are more interested in celebrating Juneteenth – which is when everybody was free at that point.”

Isaacs said her perspective about the American flag is based on a deep understanding of racial inequities and the realities of being Black in America.

“This RBUSD election is a perfect example of being targeted, and it’s part of the trauma we as Black people experience every day. It’s violent and threatening when someone cuts out your face out off a lawn sign. It has me worried about my family,” Isaacs said.

Still, Issacs has soldiered on with determination.

Over the weekend, Issacs and a small group of her supporters set out from the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center to knock on doors in the neighborhood. Each canvasser was armed with a stack of campaign flyers in hand encouraging registered voters to vote for Isaacs for the district school board.

Redondo Beach City Council for District 3, Christian Horvath, who has thrown his support behind Isaacs’s campaign, told LA Focus that her voice and experience is lacking at the Redondo Beach School Board.

Isaacs speaks to a potential voter while handing out pamphlets. (Photo by Stephen Oduntan)

“[Isaacs’s] lived experience, and her perspective is one that we need to have on local, state and federal levels of government for us to move beyond some of the issues we continue to see on a day to day basis around the country”, he said.

Asked how realistic Isaacs’s chances were of winning the election given some of the hostility she has faced by some Redondo Beach residents, Horvath said:
“Take out the fact that she is an African-American woman; if her message for what she wants to bring to the position is resonating with the residence, then I think she stands just as good as a chance as any of the other seven candidates.”

Election Day is on March 2nd, and Ballot Drop Boxes will be locked promptly at 8:00 p.m.

Life Expectancy of Black Males Drops by 2.3 Years Thanks to COVID-19 Pandemic


A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — through their National Center for Health Statistics — has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp drop in the country’s life expectancy.

For the first time since WII, when life expectancy fell by 2.9 years, the U.S life expectancy slumped by a full year.

In 2019, Americans could expect to live an average of 28.8 years. As the United States continues to surpass 500,000 deaths, Americans are expected to live 77.8 years. However, the pandemic’s full impact won’t be seen until later, as the CDC analyzed mortality data from just the first six months of 2020.

The NCHS also believes overdose deaths contributed to the drops, thanks to an ongoing drug addiction crisis across the country.

“If you’ll recall, in recent pre-pandemic years, there were slight drops in life expectancy due in part to the rise in overdose deaths,” explained NCHC spokesperson Jeff Lancashire according to NPR. “So they are likely contributing here as well but we don’t know to what degree. COVID-19 is responsible for an estimated 2/3 of all excess deaths in 2020, and excess deaths are driving the decline.”

Black males suffered the harshest decline with a drop of three years in life expectancy. Hispanic males similarly saw a decline of 2.4 years. Black females’ life expectancy fell 2.3 years. The disproportionate impact was also seen in the rates of COVID-19 deaths. According to one report, Black people are dying from coronavirus at 3.4 times the rate of white people.

“I knew it was going to be large, but when I saw those numbers, I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” said Elizabeth Arias, lead author of the CDC report, when she spoke to the New York Times about the racial disparity in life expectancy declines.

The drop will likely rebound quickly. The 1918 pandemic similarly caused a significant decline in life expectancy, dropping by 11.8 years from 1917 to 1918 as hundreds of thousands of Americans died from the flu. That number rebounded in 1919.

Three Remaining Youth Prisons in California Will Close by July 2023

Dianne Lugo

Youth prisons in California are closing.

For eighty years, California has used controversial facilities to incarcerate teenagers. Only three Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) prisons remain after longtime reform efforts were successful. Those three prisons will stop taking new prisoners in July as the dismantling of the DJJ moves forward. All three will fully close in July of 2023.

The closures come after a new state law passed in 2020 and after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a budget directive in January, explained the Los Angeles Times.

In 2019, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice released a report once again calling for the dismantling and closing of youth prisons criticizing the system for legitimizing institutional gangs, “[reinforcing] racial and ethnic conflicts,” and remaining an example of “repeated cycles of neglect, violence and abuse.”

“DJJ leaves youth traumatized, disconnected, and poorly prepared for life after release. Today, as it has for more than 100 years, the state system is failing youth, their families, and their communities and is neglecting its most basic obligation: to rehabilitate young people and keep them safe,” said the report.

In December of 2020, the same nonprofit group released another report that revealed DJJ’s inability to control COVID-19 in the state’s youth prisons. By December 15, 119 youth prisoners had tested positive for the virus amounting to 15% of the youth population.

The imminent closures coincide with the criminal justice reform movement to turn to rehabilitation, not confinement and punishment.

In Los Angeles, District Attorney George Gascon promised to stop trying juveniles as adults. It is part of his proposed policies to reform the youth justice system, outlined in July.

“A couple decades ago, I felt that if you committed an adult crime, you should pay adult consequences,” Gascón told The Imprint. “I don’t believe that anymore. I would hope that we would actually get to a point where we outlaw the practice entirely.”

“For decades, criminal justice experts have known that Los Angeles’ approach to prosecuting youth has been mired in a “punish first” mindset, anchored in the failed prosecution policies of the 1990s. This antiquated approach has only served to make our communities less safe while simultaneously increasing racial disparities in the juvenile justice system,” he wrote on his website.

Attorney Ben Crump and Daughters of Malcolm X Reveal NYPD Officer’s ‘Death Bed’ Confession of NYPD/FBI Conspiracy

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Almost 56 years to the Feb. 21, 1965, assassination of Malcolm X, the slain leader’s daughters and a noted civil rights attorney are shining a light on those whom they believe are responsible for the heartless murder.

The group gathered on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the old Audubon Ballroom – since renamed The Shabazz Center – with lawyers Ray Hamlin and Paul Napoli and Reggie Wood, whose relative, NYPD Officer Ray Wood, allegedly confessed in a deathbed declaration letter.

The gathering occurred in the same venue as the assassination and just one day before the heinous crime’s anniversary.

The new allegations focus on Officer Wood and a conspiracy against organized civil rights groups that he said had been perpetrated by the New York City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Reggie Wood alleges that authorities conspired to assassinate Malcolm X in Harlem.

“Ray Wood, an undercover police officer at the time, confessed in a deathbed declaration letter that the NYPD and the FBI conspired to undermine the legitimacy of the civil rights movement and its leaders,” Crump stated.

“Without any training, Wood’s job was to infiltrate civil rights organizations and encourage leaders and members to commit felonious acts,” Crump noted in a news release before the gathering.

“He was also tasked with ensuring that Malcolm X’s security detail was arrested days prior to the assassination, guaranteeing Malcolm X didn’t have door security while at the Audubon Ballroom, where he was killed on Feb. 21, 1965.”

Wood’s purported deathbed letter was delivered to three of Malcolm’s daughters – Qubiliah, Ilyasah, and Gamilah.

Reggie Wood, the administrator of Ray Wood’s estate, read the letter to Malcolm’s daughters.

Ray Wood served as an undercover New York City police officer with the Bureau of Special Services and Investigation (BOSSI).

Reportedly, he earned a reputation for infiltrating the Bronx Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter under the name Ray Woodall in 1964.

According to a report in The Guardian, Wood posed as a 27-year-old graduate of Manhattan College studying law at Fordham University.

“He was soon named CORE’s housing chairman and oversaw a voter registration project,” The Guardian reported.

“Wood earned his activist bonafides by getting arrested with two others at city hall while attempting a citizen’s arrest of Mayor Wagner for allowing racial discrimination on a public construction project,” the U.K.-based newspaper published.

By 1965, Wood had been reassigned to infiltrate a group calling itself the Black Liberation Movement (BLM) and received credit for defusing a plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty.

Three men were convicted of Malcolm X’s 1965 murder.

Talmadge Hayer, who later changed his name to Mujahid Abdul Halim, was the only one to admit guilt in the assassination.

Norman Butler, who later changed his name to Muhammad Abdul Aziz, and Thomas Johnson, later named Khalil Islam, maintained their innocence.

Aziz won parole in 1985; Islam was released in 1987, and Halim was released in 2010.

Islam died in 2009.

A Netflix documentary, “Who Killed Malcolm X?,” was released last year and featured interviews conducted by Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, an activist and investigator who said he dedicated his life to solving Malcolm’s murder.

Following the documentary’s release, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced it would review the case and reopen it if they found new evidence.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., could not immediately be reached for comment.

LAUSD Teachers Demand Vaccines, Other Precautions Before Returning to Schools

The Los Angeles Unified School District will resume limited in-person services for students with special needs this week and it is preparing for a limited reopening of schools soon but teachers are saying not so fast.

LAUSD reached an agreement on Monday with SEIU Local 99, the union representing the district’s food workers, truck drivers and non-teacher workers. Still, it continues to work with United Teachers L.A. The teachers’ union has warned that teachers will refuse to return to campuses if mandatory in-person instruction comes before certain conditions are met.

The union’s 35,000 teachers and other employees will vote this week on whether to move forward with the refusal to report to work in person. 93 percent of the 900 chapter chairs voted in favor of organizing around a refusal announced President Cecily Myart-Cruz.

Even as parent pressure to reopen grows–frustrated parents organized a Zoom blackout protest Monday hoping to pressure LAUSED to resume in-person learning– United Teachers L.A is determined to hash out specific requirements.

“We all want our schools to reopen, but it must be done safely,” said Myart-Cruz.

On Saturday, educators and parents gathered in Downtown L.A, protesting in a car caravan to express their worries.

The union hopes LAUSD will wait until L.A County moves out of California’s purple “widespread” tier. They are also demanding that teachers receive the vaccine before returning to classrooms, even if the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevented indicated vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for schools to reopen in the guidance they released last week.

However, Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised that California will set aside 10 percent of its vaccine supply for school employees beginning March 1. Teachers and childcare workers will have access to 75,000 doses a week.

Los Angeles Times Report Reveals Zero Black Members in Hollywood Foreign Press Association


An investigation from the Los Angeles Times has revealed that the people behind the Golden Globes, a small group of 87 international journalists named the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, includes no Black members.

It represents a glaring issue in an organization that has been labeled outdated and unfair in the past. This year, the group received criticism (again) for once again passing over several celebrated TV shows and movies that featured Black stars and creators. For example, “Da 5 Bloods,” “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” all expected to receive Oscar best picture nominations, failed to receive Golden Globe nominations for top film.

“We do not control the individual votes of our members,” the association said in a statement. “We seek to build cultural understanding through film and TV and recognize how the power of creative storytelling can educate people around the world to issues of race, representation, and orientation.”

Shows that were also snubbed included “Lovecraft Country,” which boasts a predominantly Black cast. None of the actors were nominated, although the series did receive a drama series nomination. “I May Destroy You” from HBO was wholly omitted alongside Netflix’s hit show from Shonda Rhimes, “Bridgerton.”

“Reveals? As in, people are acting like this isn’t already widely known? For YEARS,” tweeted Ava DuVernay in response to the report.

California Bill Would Require State to Contract More With Black-Owned Businesses

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Last week, Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced the Economic Equity First Act of 2021, also known as Assembly Bill 915. The legislation is proposing measures to ensure fair opportunities for minority-owned small businesses in state contracting and procurement.

Under AB 915, all state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions would be mandated to achieve a minimum goal of 25% participation for minority businesses, which include Black-owned, women-owned and disabled veteran-owned firms in state procurement and contracts.

“Our small businesses, particularly minority-owned small businesses, have been hit especially hard by the pandemic,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “This bill uses the state’s enormous purchasing power to help uplift our small businesses when they need it most.”

The legislation is based on the recognition that small businesses makeup 99.8% of all California private sector companies, and they make a significant contribution to the economy, accounting for 7 million employees across the State. Black businesses in California hire nearly 82,000 employees.

The California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce (CalAsian Chamber) worked closely with the Assemblymember’s office to develop this legislation, which increases access to procurement opportunities for small, minority, women-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

The CalAsian Chamber is joined by the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the California African American Chamber of Commerce (CAACC) in co-sponsoring and supporting this landmark legislation.

Of California’s 4.1 million small businesses, 1.2 million (29%) are minority owned. The CalAsian Chamber alone represents the voice of over 600,000 Asian and Asian Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned businesses that generate more than $181 billion in annual revenue.

The Asian entities also employ over 910,135 Californians with an annual payroll of over $26 billion. AB 915, if it becomes law, could enhance African American businesses’ status in the state, supporters say.

According to a June 2020 report by ZIPPIA, titled the “Most Supportive States for Black Businesses,” California ranked No. 4.

ZIPPIA, an online career support company, reported that there are 10, 287 Black-owned businesses operating in the state. They employ 81, 530 employees. ZIPPIA also examined the number of Black-owned businesses per capita, using data from the United States Census’ Annual Business Survey.

The top three states in the country that support Black-owned businesses are Maryland, Georgia, and New York.

“It’s shocking that only 7% of the country’s businesses are Black-owned. Recent events have led to a nationwide push to support black-owned businesses. So, we wanted to find out what states support a thriving environment for Black-owned businesses,” ZIPPIA stated in the 2020 report.

AB 915 updates and seeks to enact Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 executive order (EO S-02-06), which required the same minimum goal of 25% minority participation in government contracting.

It also expands on AB 657, passed in 2017, which initiated steps to establish a “small business liaison-advocate” for each agency that regularly interacts with small businesses. This office would primarily be responsible for meeting the 25% goal.

“I am proud of this piece of legislation which will not only raise the priority of all small businesses seeking contracts with the State but elevate the importance of minority-owned businesses in the State’s procurement process,” Pat Fong Kushida, President and Chief Executive Officer of the CalAsian Chamber. “It is my hope that this bill will be the first of many which proactively offer real-life solutions for the millions of business owners across California.”

Also, more help is on the way for businesses suffering the most significant economic hardship from the COVID-19 recession.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins. (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced that they have reached an agreement on a package of immediate actions that will ramp up relief to individuals, families and businesses.

The compromise builds on the initiatives in the governor’s state budget proposal to provide cash relief to lower-income Californians, increase aid to small businesses, and provide license renewal fee waivers to businesses impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to these measures, the agreement provides tax relief for businesses, commits additional resources for critical childcare services, and funds emergency financial aid for community college students.

“As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I’m grateful for the Legislature’s partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it’s needed most,” Newsom said. “From child care, relief for small business owners, direct cash support to individuals, financial aid for community college students, and more, these actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit.”

Billions in New COVID Relief: From $600 Stimulus Checks to Black-Run Vaccine Sites

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

On Sunday, Gov. Newsom visited Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, a predominantly Black congregation that serves its local community with a number of outreach ministries. The church is hosting a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site.

“We’re not doing enough. We need to do significantly more programs like this,” said Gov. Newsom at the Faithful Central Bible Church. “We’ve got to get people back to work. We’ve got to get people back into church.” The California Department of Public Health also announced Sunday it has administered 7.3 million COVID-19 vaccines.

Last week, Gov. Newsom announced several steps the state is taking to provide much-needed financial relief to people in the state who are facing financial hardships due to the pandemic.

California residents from households with income below $30,000 will receive a one-time $600 stimulus check to reduce economic hardships related to the pandemic, the governor’s office says. According to Newsom, the state reached a federal deal worth $9.5 billion for COVID-19 relief funds. The money is expected to help individuals and families, college students, as well as local business owners. More than $2 billion will be allocated to small businesses impacted by the pandemic, including funding for the tax-deductible Paycheck Protection Plan.

The federal funds also include over $400 million for critical child care resources. The state allotted $100 million in emergency relief funds to support community colleges. An additional $6 million will support college supplemental food programs.

Gov. Newsom said support from lawmakers to provide relief funds is what Californians need after nearly a year of attempting to fight the pandemic and recover.

“These actions are critical for millions of Californians who embody the resilience of the California spirit,” he said.

Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), California Senate President pro Tempore, said the emergency relief funds echo the state’s long-term plans to promote equity for communities most affected by the pandemic.

“People are having a hard time making ends meet,” Atkins said. “People are hungry and hurting, and businesses our communities have loved for decades are at risk of closing their doors. We are at a critical moment, and I’m proud we were able to come together to get Californians some needed relief.”

Racial Equity, Vaccinations and Overcoming COVID-19

California and the Biden-Harris Administration opened two new community-based vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles, among the first in the nation, as part of a larger initiative to promote equity in areas across the country where Black and Brown people live.

Gov. Newsom speaks with Bishop Kenneth Ulmer

The pilot sites co-run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the state of California and the Department of Defense administered vaccinations to residents Tuesday morning at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and California State University Los Angeles.

Bob Fenton, acting FEMA Administrator said, “these sites demonstrate how we can provide more opportunities for vaccination to the hardest hit communities and ensure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.”

Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander of U.S. Northern Command, said military medical providers have supported various hospitals across California.

“Defense Secretary Austin has made clear we must move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus,” said VanHerck.

The governor’s office also partnered with more than 100 community organizations, “to safely, swiftly, and equitably vaccinate all Californians,” said state officials.

The state awarded an additional $17.3 million to various community-based organizations for outreach and efforts to alleviate racial disparities in the healthcare system.

The selected organizations offer a variety of critical services, resources, and information to help communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The community-based organizations cater to diverse populations, including African Americans and other minorities, LGBTQ individuals, as well as faith-based groups.

Gov. Newsom said systemic inequalities in the government and healthcare systems have put many Californians at a higher risk of COVID-19. The state plans to use the community-outreach model of
the census to help underserved communities.

“We must reach these disproportionately affected Californians through trusted messengers and community-based partners to minimize the spread of the virus, overcome vaccine hesitancy and save lives,” said Newsom.

The community partnerships also aim to provide workplace protection and public health guidance for people working in sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic as part of its outreach.

In California, the majority of low-wage essential workers are Black and Brown individuals. More than 80 % of low-wage essential workers perform their duties in close proximity to others reports the University of California Berkeley Labor Center.

In the report, co-authors and researchers Adriana Ramos-Yamamoto and Monica Davalos said it is time for California policymakers, “to declare racism a public health crisis,” emphasizing that the pandemic has hit Black and Brown people the hardest.

The coronavirus exposed that the damaging effects of racism in California are “not by accident, but by design,” the report stated, citing unequal access to health care, unemployment, housing and education.

“This devastation must be the catalyst for California policymakers to acknowledge that racism has caused lasting and negative impacts on communities of color,” the report pointed out.

Inglewood Mayor James Butts and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer

Calif’s AB 5 Contractor Law Could Soon Become National Standard

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media

The national equivalent of California’s controversial AB 5 labor law is making its way through the United States Congress. On Feb. 4, House and Senate Democrats re-introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act as HR 842.

The federal labor reform legislation calls for several provisions that would strengthen unions and protect workers and has built into it a number of similarities to AB 5, which reclassified millions of independent contractors in California as employees. In the Golden State, that legislation was significantly amended after passage with exemptions for particular classes of freelance workers.

“Democrats will always fight to defend the sacred promise to protect hard-working families while safeguarding the fundamental right to join a union. America’s middle class has a union label on it, and as the Democratic Congress works with the new Biden-Harris Administration to “Build Back Better,” we will do so in a way that tilts the playing field back to American workers and their families,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) in a statement after the bill was introduced earlier this month.

If passed, the PRO Act would implement the ABC test — the California Supreme Court standard for classifying a worker as a contractor – in all 50 states. The ABC test requires that an independent contractor’s work is free from the control and direction of the hiring company, and outside of the usual course of the hiring company’s business. Independent contractors who fail the ABC test would be reclassified as employees for the purposes of union organizing. The legislation would also weaken right-to-work laws, expand workers’ collective bargaining rights and authorize the National Labor Relations Board to fine companies up to $50,000 per labor law violation.

In California, AB 5 has been met with heavy opposition by the app-based gig companies it went after, including Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. After several months of court battles, Proposition 22 passed in November 2020, exempting app-based gig companies from AB 5. Prop 22 was the most expensive ballot initiative in California’s history; the Yes on 22 campaign was partly funded by Uber, DoorDash, Lyft, Instacart and Postmates, and it included highly persuasive television ads as well as ads in the apps themselves.

The majority of African Americans across California who supported the ballot initiative said they did so because they appreciate the independence, flexibility and work-life balance freelance jobs like driving for Uber and Lyft and other contracting positions offer. After the law took effect in 2020, many independent contractors working in fields from office support services to the performing arts said they experienced loss of work.

The PRO Act was first introduced in 2019 and passed the Democratic-held House in Feb. 2020. However, the bill died in committee, with the Republican-held senate opposing the legislation. With both the House and Senate now controlled by Democrats, the PRO Act is expected to meet less opposition. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as Congresswomen Karen Bass (CA-37) and Barbara Lee (CA-13), are supporting the bill.

Most of the emphasis for the PRO Act has been placed on union organizing, with multiple sponsors saying union organizing is the best way to bolster America’s shrinking middle class.

“After decades of wealthy corporations undermining our labor laws and four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers’ rights, the PRO Act will restore workers’ ability to join together to demand their fair share of the economic growth they drive. This legislation is critical to supporting workers during this pandemic and to building back an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the very top,” said Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Patty Murray.

However, the PRO Act is reportedly modeled after AB 5, which has been challenged by several industries made up of the independent contractors that it was designed to protect. After months of uproar and negotiations from members of creative fields who lost work due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the law itself, AB 5 was amended in Sept. 2020 to exempt multiple fields including freelance writers, photographers, translators, consultants and real estate appraisers.

Reports of independent contractors losing their clients and out-of-state companies refusing to hire California-based contractors spiked when AB 5 went into effect. It is unknown whether the passage of the PRO Act would have a similar effect.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 10.6 million independent contractors in the U.S. as of May 2017.

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