Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.

The UCLA Asian American Studies Department, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), are very pleased to announce their conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of Asian American Studies at UCLA — “Power to the People”: 50 Years of Bridging Research with Community. 

We hope you can attend as diverse and inter-generational communities are brought together to appreciate the legacies, genealogies, and futures of Asian American studies and communities. We hope you connect with many people and organizations at the event.  With community engagement at the heart of the field, we strive to strengthen the connection between the university and community-based organizations. We encourage you to discover how to bridge research and theory with our communities, as well as how to find ways to engage with current movements and issues.

Also, be sure to check out “UCLA: Our Stories, Our Impact,” a multimedia traveling exhibit sharing the stories of Bruins who have advanced equity and equality in America, that will be shown in the lobby of the Tateuchi Democracy Forum as well as in UCLA Luskin Commons Room 3383. Learn more about the exhibit at “Our Stories, Our Impact.”

Let us continue to build the power of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and work towards our collective futures – rooted in our histories, furthered by our communal experiences and research, and strengthened by our visions of social justice.

For more information on the conference, including registration, please visit aasc.ucla.edu/aasc50/conf19/.  The event is free and open to the public.  Space is limited, so be sure to register before the conference is full.

Photo credit: bannosuke/Shutterstock

September 18, 2019

Diversity initiatives have become their own cottage industry in the entertainment industry.  But how much do we really know about what has been working and why?  This report considers some of the more significant past and present diversity initiatives in the industry in order to zero in on the essential practices that seem to differentiate the successful programs from those which are less successful.  Toward this end, we interviewed nearly two dozen industry leaders for this report who currently work on the frontline of efforts to make Hollywood a more diverse and inclusive creative space.  Their insights give rise to a M.E.A.N.S. model of essential practices already employed in isolated pockets of Hollywood that can be transferred throughout the entire industry.

Five key strategies comprise the M.E.A.N.S. model:  MODERNIZE your worldview to reflect changing U.S. demographics; EXPAND the net in routine talent searches; AMPLIFY the voices of women, especially women of color, within organizations; NORMALIZE compensation practices to reduce barriers to entry for marginalized groups; and STRUCTURE incentives for decision makers to prioritize diversity and inclusion.  Action items associated with each essential practice are outlined in this report.

Despite audience yearnings for change, the history of diversity efforts in Hollywood suggests that the industry’s diversity problem will not simply correct itself.  The path forward must be paved with intentions — by industry decision makers who actively embrace the means necessary for achieving the end of a more inclusive creative space.

M.E.A.N.S. Essential Practices

  1. MODERNIZE your worldview to reflect changing U.S. demographics
  2. EXPAND the net in routine talent searches
  3. AMPLIFY the voices of women, especially women of color, within organizations
  4. NORMALIZE compensation practices to reduce barriers to entry for marginalized groups
  5. STRUCTURE incentives for decision makers to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

DOWNLOAD “By All M.E.A.N.S. Necessary: Essential Practices for Transforming Hollywood Diversity and Inclusion” HERE.

For any media inquiries, please contact Jessica Wolf at jwolf@stratcomm.ucla.edu

For donor/sponsor inquiries, please contact Peter Evans at pevans@support.ucla.edu

To download our annual Hollywood Diversity Report series, click HERE.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA LPPI staff gather for a photo that commemorates the second year of their partnership which aims to increase access to pertinent data science on Latinos.

By Celina Avalos and Sonja Diaz

On May 20, 2019, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) hosted its second annual California Latino Legislative Policy Briefing in Sacramento. The policy briefing, co-hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA Government & Community Relations, featured research presentations by three LPPI faculty experts: Dean Gary Segura, Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante.

The policy briefing was attended by 50 guests who are policy advocates, legislative staff, and community leaders. The meeting convened at La Cosecha in Sacramento where the group learned more about LPPI’s latest research findings and discussed policy interventions that could improve the lives of California residents.

LPPI expert Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz introduce LPPI’s recent report on Latino homelessness to a packed house in La Cosecha.

Attendees heard from the LPPI faculty experts on a wide-range of domestic policy issues including voting, housing, and health. The issues discussed in the briefing are critical policy challenges that the California legislature is addressing through new lawmaking. Each issue has unique impacts on California’s plurality. Fortunately, LPPI’s legislative briefing provided a space for policy leaders to understand more clearly which policy solutions are better suited to address the disparities faced by Latinos.

Kicking off the policy briefing was Dean Segura, who presented his research on public opinion trends leading to the 2020 presidential election. In 2018, LPPI’s research documented a 77% increase in Latino votes cast. This increase was configured by looking at and comparing the midterm elections from 2014 to 2018. Dean Segura’s presentation expanded on trends identifying leading public opinion sentiments that influenced voters of color (Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinos) on issues involving immigration, #MeToo, access to affordable health care, and support for gun laws. Largely, the 2018 election illustrated the upward potential of Latino vote growth in and beyond California. The numbers showed voters of color embraced Democratic positions on guns, health care, and immigration at higher rates than their white peers.

Next, Dr. Chinchilla followed with her research on homelessness in Los Angeles County. In her policy presentation on Latino homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla cemented the lack of accurate data on Latinos facing housing insecurity and reiterated the fact that this demographic group remains undercounted.

LPPI Policy Fellow Celina Avalos met UFW leader and advocate Dolores Huerta during visits to the State Capital discussing LPPI’s work on housing and health.

Highlighting findings from her LPPI report, Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla shared that homelessness is not a one size fits all narrative. She stated, “Many factors contribute to the undercount of Latinos facing housing insecurity, like immigration status, economic vulnerability, and cultural and language barriers.”

Dr. Vargas Bustamante concluded the policy briefing with his work on the California Latino physician crisis, which addresses a key issue facing the state—the shortage of healthcare workers. Dr. Vargas Bustamante’s policy presentation integrated findings from his report, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Perspective. He shared, “As California’s plurality, Latinos will represent 44.5% of California’s population by 2050. However, currently only 4.7% of physicians in California are Latino.”

According to Dr. Vargas Bustamante, the contributing factors to the Latino physician shortage include: lack of financial support and opportunity, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation, and citizenship.

LPPI’s briefing provided a novel opportunity for leading policy stakeholders to engage in timely policy issues centered on the needs of the state’s plurality. This briefing builds upon LPPI’s legislative portfolio of engaging elected and appointed officials on critical policy issues with data and facts, breeding new research-practice partnerships and accelerating the capacity for evidence-based policy.

Policy Fellows pose for a photo before a jam-packed day at the Greenlining Economic Summit. (From left to right: Julio Mendez, Celina Avalos, Amado Castillo, Eduardo Solis, and Vianney Gomez)

By Vianney Gomez and Celina Avalos

As policy fellows with the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), we are afforded unique opportunities to engage in professional development training and experiences that enhance our skill set as student policy advocates.

On Friday, April 26th, five LPPI Policy Fellows attended the Greenlining Economic Summit in Oakland to participate in a convening of scholars, policymakers, and stakeholders across a variety of different policy sectors to discuss pressing issues. Opening remarks by community leaders, students, and policy advocates left us inspired to pursue and find solutions to issues that personally affect us and our communities—gender equity, immigration reform, climate change, and more.

At the summit, we had the opportunity to attend various panels that dealt with a broad scope of policy issues, including equitable community development, environmental justice, and community organizing. We were also at the Summit to support LPPI’s Founding Executive Director, Sonja Diaz, who was a featured panelist in the “Building Health, Wealth, and Power: Advancing Health Equity Through Community Development” panel. The panel was moderated by Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute’s Health Equity Director and featured remarks from the following experts: Pablo Bravo Vial, Vice-President of Community Health at Dignity Health; Aysha Pamukcu, Health Equity Lead at ChangeLab Solutions; and Tonya Love, District Director for Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel focused on how to identify and combat racial inequities through development, health access, and social policy. Through an intersectional lens, the panelists described the myriad of ways that underrepresented and underserved groups across the state are denied access to health care. This included shocking statistics and data on the Black-White infant mortality gap and the estimated five centuries it will take to address California’s Latino physician crisis.

LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz shares research findings on the Latino Physician Crisis at the “Building Health, Wealth, & Power” panel. (From left to right: Anthony Galace, Tonya Love, Pablo Bravo, Sonja Diaz, and Aysha Pamukcu)

The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel provided an important lens to address the social determinants of health and well-being. One of the greatest takeaways for us was seeing women of color leaders in action. As first-generation Latinas, it was refreshing to hear our voices reflected in a professional setting where, more often than not, women of color are left out. This is especially true in conversations around public policy and governance. With a majority women of color panel, we witnessed powerhouse leaders transform a seemingly dry conversation on healthcare to real-world exploration of racism, discrimination, and policy innovation. They helped humanize complex issues and structural dimensions of inequality. Moreover, they clearly articulated how high-level decisions impact the daily lives of our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and communities.

As students from underrepresented backgrounds, we felt included and seen in the conversation. We know first-hand how the lack of access to resources can pose a grave, life-threatening danger to the most vulnerable members of our communities. We are aware of how the slightest change in policy framing can positively improve the lives of marginalized communities. Panelists drew from similar personal experiences from our own lives to provide a human narrative, while unapologetically laying blame on implicit and explicit discriminatory policy frameworks that leave people of color worse off.

Our lives as low-income, first-generation Latinas deeply resonated with the work the panelists pursue every day as researchers, advocates, and political staffers. Data and policy analysis, centered on the needs of communities of color, is a tool to address the social and economic disparities facing communities like ours.

The Greenlining Economic Summit demonstrated the power that lies in coalition building and the importance of empowering policy advocates who are women of color. We feel grateful to have attended a conference like the Summit; a space that is receptive and welcoming to the ideas and concerns of students like us. Attending a panel, which featured strong women of color with new perspectives, enabled our motivation to pursue future avenues in public policy. It served as a reminder that policy advocacy is possible for us too!

LPPI Policy Fellows, Celina Avalos and Julio Mendez, networking with policy advocates, like Melina Duarte, at the Greenlining Economic Summit mixer. (From left to right: Celina Avalos, Julio Mendez, and Melina Duarte)

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Chinchilla, PhD, MCP, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) presented a critical look at the unique experience of Latino homelessness in Los Angeles County, the jurisdiction with the largest homeless population in the U.S. Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County, identifies the social, political, and policy challenges facing Latinos. This report draws on two-dozen interviews with a cross-sector cadre of housing stakeholders to dissect the systemic issues that contribute to Latino housing insecurity and identify evidence-based policy solutions to improve opportunity and mobility for Latino families.

LPPI’s report finds that service providers struggle to serve limited English proficient populations and the current racially charged political landscape further discourages those most in need. “The issues affecting Latino homelessness mirror the societal issues affecting all but also are distinct to Latinos,” says Marco Santana, director of engagement at L.A. Family Housing. “There is the barrier of being a proud Latino and wanting to figure it out on your own, and the few times they reach out to access these societal safety nets, they’re met with the barrier of our current government and the fear of deportation or potentially being discriminated against by law enforcement.”

Latinos make up 48 percent of Los Angeles County’s population and 35 percent of the homeless population. Research and literature around homelessness finds that Latinos are likely to be undercounted in homeless counts because they rely on social networks rather than homeless services, are more likely to live in unstable and overcrowded households, and when living on the streets will settle in remote areas that are hard for service workers to reach. “The Latino Homeless community is one of the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles that is often in the shadows and has not been a priority for many years,” says Raquel Román, program director at the Guadalupe Homeless Project of Dolores Mission in Los Angeles.

“Holding true to its mission to inform and improve the economic, political, and social landscape for Latinos, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative’s new report – Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County – is sure to spark conversation, research, and coalition-building. In the face of a pressing affordable housing crisis and unprecedented federal hostility towards immigrants, this report provides a first look at an under-studied issue and offers targeted recommendations for future action and policy interventions in the field,” shares Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts in the field, LPPI recommends both short and long-term policy solutions to address the unique cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic needs of housing insecure Latinos. “There has been increasing recognition in recent years that in working to prevent and end homelessness, we must address the systems that perpetuate racial inequity,” stated Bill Pitkin, director of Domestic Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Pitkin adds, “This report provides an important contribution to those efforts by highlighting the particular causes of housing instability and homelessness among Latinos.”

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/housing

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

 

  • UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative study finds that Latino students pursuing a medical career in California must overcome significant barriers to successfully become physicians. The main barriers identified are: financial and opportunity cost, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation and citizenship.
  • Barriers to the medical profession further exasperate the Latino physician shortage in California. Policymakers, advocates and stakeholders must address the barriers encountered by Latinos in the medical profession to meet the health care needs of all residents.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, recently released its fourth installation of policy reports addressing California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Authored by LPPI Faculty Research Expert Dr. Arturo Vargas-Bustamante and Lucía Félix Beltrán, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Prospective discusses the main barriers and sources of support identified by a sample of Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students, and recently graduated Latino physicians.

This report finds that, “the medical profession is de facto not open to everyone.” Specifically, unequal backgrounds and opportunities, diverse career trajectories, and various barriers in the medical profession, such as underrepresentation of Latinos in the medical field or academic disadvantages, are creating major difficulties for Latino students seeking careers as physicians.

“This analysis by Bustamante and Beltran provides a critically needed and comprehensive examination of the pipeline from high school, through college, and into medical school faced by Latinx students.  Importantly, it examines the multiple causes of leaks from that pipeline using an innovative methodology incorporating the experiences of those students.  It is these leaks that impair California’s ability to generate the diverse physician workforce needed to care for the State’s increasingly diverse population.” says Dr. David Carlisle, President of Charles Drew University, a private, nonprofit University committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.

In 2015, Latinos became California’s plurality population with approximately 15.2 million Latinos residing in the state. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to represent 44.5% of the state’s population.[1] While the Latino population continues to grow, the supply of Latino physicians has not caught up.[2] The scarcity of Latino physicians in California has led to a deficit of 54,655 Latino physicians that are required to achieve parity with Non-Hispanic Whites.[3]

Pipeline programs and mentorship platforms partly address the barriers Latino students face to become physicians with support such as tutoring, mentorship, and exposure to the medical profession. However, these programs alone are unable to substantially change the low representation of Latinos in the medical profession.

Therefore, California must reduce the barriers faced by Latino physician hopefuls throughout the state. The report includes policy recommendations that directly address the barriers that unnecessarily complicate the navigation of medical education for Latinos. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include, increasing financial resources available to students who do not qualify for existing programs, such as those that require citizenship, or addressing academic disadvantages by coordinating and expanding pipeline programs that support students from middle school until medical school.

The need to address this deficit is increasingly pressing as the share of the Latino population increases in California, and as the demand for health care increases with population aging. Every year that California does not work to increase access of the medical education for Latino students, already inadequate access to high quality care worsens, ultimately impacting the overall healthcare outcomes of the state.

 

This research was made possible by a generous grant from AltaMed Health Services Corporation.

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/health

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

___________________________________________________________________

[1] DOF. Projections. 2018; http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Projections/.

[2] Sanchez G., Nevarez T., Schink W., Hayes-Bautista D. E. Latino Physicians in the United States, 1980-2010: A Thirty-Year Overview From the Censuses. 2015(1938-808X (Electronic)).

[3] Hsu P, Balderas-Medina Anaya Y, Hayes-Bautista D. E. 5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long it Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Los Angeles, CA: Latino Policy & Politic Initiative; October 2018 2018.

By Eli R. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico

In the winter of 2010, just months after graduating from Wesleyan University, I landed a job as a food runner at a much-hyped new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Training in this position meant mingling with bussers and food runners, all of whom were working-class, Latino men. For weeks, I did all I could to keep from bumping into my coworkers and diners, while my peers ran circles around me. A month after opening, it was clear the restaurant was not doing as well as expected, and management announced that they were going to have to let some people go. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I was promoted to a position behind the bar, a more prestigious role earning much larger tips. The reaction of my colleagues was nothing but positive, even though I’d been promoted above much more qualified (nonwhite) staff. These interactions stayed with me for years, propelling my graduate research into service dynamics within restaurant workplaces in large, global cities.

A full decade later, my research has revealed how the dynamics of service work reproduce social inequalities of race, class, immigration, and gender. While some restaurant workers are able to leverage workplace conditions to their advantage (in the form of flexible jobs and relatively lucrative pay), many others find themselves bound within socially stratified worlds of work that offer unpredictable and insecure jobs.

When most people think of tipping, they think only of the exchange between a customer and worker, ending with a tip being passed between them. In fact, there is an extended network of workers who labor in the shadow of tips but with unequal access to them. Servers and bartenders, who tend to be white and middle-class, enjoy the lion’s share of tips, whereas bussers, cooks, and dishwashers, who tend to be foreign-born Latino men, usually receive a relatively small cut of this money or none at all.

The unequal distribution of tips behind the scenes creates both interpersonal tensions and uneasy alliances between groups of workers who already have little in common. A server might slide a five-dollar bill to a cook in order to ensure speedy food preparation and perfectly cooked steaks. At the end of the same shift, the dishwashers staring down heaping piles of dirty plates may feel that the servers in the dining room work half as hard and make twice as much money. In a labor environment where service workers earn wages at or scarcely above minimum wage, tips—which can amount to hundreds of dollars a shift—represent economic power that only a privileged subset of workers can access. Long after the last customers depart, the gratuities they leave behind deepen employee divisions already stressed by race, class, and gender differences.

Tips have another dangerous byproduct: Because individual workers are focused on receiving more gratuities—often tensely negotiating these among themselves—it is difficult to build collective forms of labor solidarity among restaurant workers. The struggle for tips has half of all restaurant employees focused on individual strategies to extract gratuities from customers rather than on seeking common ground with other employees to advocate for higher wages, benefits, or better working conditions. Tip work, be it in restaurants, hotels, or high-end spas, exacerbates the labor conditions that keep groups of service workers divided and leaves marginal working conditions unchallenged.

 

A former research affiliate with the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), Eli R. Wilson is now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. While at the IRLE, he completed his article “Tip Work: Examining the Relational Dynamics of Tipping beyond the Service Counter,” recently published in Symbolic Interaction. Dr. Wilson’s research and teaching focus on how social inequalities of race, class, and gender are both reproduced and contested in urban labor markets. He is publishing his first book, Serving Across the Divide, which builds from six years of ethnographic research exploring labor and inequality in LA’s restaurant industry.

Maj. Steve Kwon receives his medal from Maj. Gen. John Evans

“…This was a collective effort. You know, this is not an individual effort. We stand before you not as heroes, but as equals…heroes are everywhere in this room.”

On February 27, these were the words spoken by Major Steve Kwon who was very grateful and humbled to be presented with the Soldier’s Medal, a high honor given to military members who have demonstrated heroism off the battlefield. Kwon is a professor of Military Science here at UCLA. He has dedicated his life to the service and expressed that he just did what he was trained to do.

Kwon along with other members of UCLA’s Army ROTC including Major Tyrone Vargas, assistant professor of Military Science; Romeo Miguel, recruiting operations officer; and Victoria Sanelli, department manager, were recognized for their quick thinking and brave actions.  Major Vargas received an Army Commendation Medal; Mr. Miguel received the Civilian Superior Service Award; and Ms. Sanelli received a letter of commendation.

Victoria Sanelli, Maj. Steve Kwon, Romeo Miguel, and Maj. Tyrone Vargas

In April 2018, they were traveling back to UCLA’s campus via the 405 freeway when they noticed a semi-truck slam into the middle concrete barrier meant to separate traffic going the opposite direction. The impact sparked a fire. These four heroes leapt out of their vehicle to help. After assuring the safety of the truck driver, they noticed a burning vehicle trapped below the truck’s bed. Without hesitation, Major Kwon put his life at risk by pulling out the driver from this scorching car. Two lives were saved that day and their family and friends will forever by grateful.

This ceremony was made even more special because Major General John Evans, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, was in attendance to present the honors. He was touched by all their selfless acts of courage to help save the lives of strangers.

To view a part of the medal ceremony, click HERE.

By Betty Hung, Staff Director, and Kent Wong, Director, UCLA Labor Center

Thirty-four thousand Los Angeles teachers launched a six-day strike from January 14 to 22, 2019, impacting five hundred thousand students and their families. On February 22, the UCLA Labor Center hosted a public educational forum with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Secretary/Chief Negotiator Arlene Inouye to examine key lessons from the strike and the implications for the future of the labor movement and public education. Some of the critical takeaways include the importance of collective teacher organizing and action to build power; building long-term authentic partnerships with parents, students, and community organizations; and increasing the capacity of the union at every stage to utilize a strike as a powerful nonviolent tool for change.

UTLA approached negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from a framework focused on “bargaining for the common good,” which resulted in contract provisions that expand green space at schools, limit random searches of students that have a racially disparate impact, and support immigrant students and families. In addition, the teachers won a 6 percent wage increase, class size reduction, and increased staffing with more on-site nurses, librarians, and counselors.

Moreover, UTLA’s strategic organizing approach led to a thousand new union members—this, after the US Supreme Court Janus decision, which forces public employee unions to negotiate on behalf of all bargaining unit members but prohibits unions from collecting “fair-share” fees from those who do not choose to be union members. UTLA’s organizing victory highlights the potential of the labor movement to organize and build power even in a post-Janus world.

The focus of the first teachers’ strike in Los Angeles in thirty years was not on wages and benefits but on quality public education. Teachers were protesting the defunding of public schools, class sizes of forty to forty-five students per teacher, and the critical lack of essential school personnel, including nurses, librarians, and counselors. Forty years ago, California ranked number one in the nation in per pupil funding; today, California is forty-third in per pupil funding and forty-eighth in classroom size, even though the state has the fifth largest economy in the world. The decline in public schools has a disproportionate impact on people of color and the poor; ninety percent of LA public school students are racial minorities, and 72 percent qualify for reduced-cost lunch programs.

The defunding of our schools is no accident. Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited taxes on real estate, billions of dollars have been transferred from public coffers to the largest corporate landowners in California. In addition, billions have been siphoned away from public schools to the growing number of private charter schools. National corporations supporting the charter school movement invested millions to elect a pro-charter majority to the LAUSD board, who in turn hired Austin Beutner as LA superintendent, a hedge fund multimillionaire with no experience in public education.

The impact of UTLA’s successful strike continues to resonate. Inspired by Los Angeles, teachers in Oakland and Denver have since gone on strike. The LAUSD school board voted to support a moratorium on future charter schools. And next year, a ballot initiative scheduled for the November election that if passed would curtail the impact of Proposition 13 and restore funds to California public schools.

Betty Hung is the staff director for the UCLA Labor Center. She previously directed the employment law unit at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and, as the policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, cofounded the multiracial College for All Coalition. She is the co-chair of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and also serves on the boards of the Economic Roundtable and CLEAN Car Wash Worker Center.

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies. He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.