The Bottom LineThe Bottom Line

Economics in Brief: California Reparations Task Force Calls for Housing and Tuition Support

Also, Texas teacher unions protest against gun violence and Wells Fargo workers begin to organize in response to discrimination. 

(Photo by Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0)

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California’s Reparations Task Force Recommends Granting Tuition and Housing Grants for Descendants of Enslaved People

In its first report, California’s reparations task force recommended the state provide housing grants or zero-interest loans to residents who have lost homes to government seizures, construction or racist attacks, Cal Matters reports.

The report detailed centuries of institutional racism, from more explicit forms like slavery to California’s police department’s involvement with the KKK and the destruction of a Black business district in the 1950s, which destroyed nearly 5,000 homes and displaced approximately 20,000 people.

The coalition thus suggests the state help the descendants of residents who were harmed, but also support future generations of Black Californians. Part of this vision included offering free tuition for Black students pursuing a private education, and including a broader Black history in school curriculums.

From the report: “Without a remedy specifically targeted to heal the injuries that colonial and American governments have inflicted on 16 generations of Black Americans and dismantle the foundations of these systems, the ‘badges and incidents of slavery’ will continue to harm Black Americans in almost all aspects of American life.”

The task force has been working on this since 2020, and will host public listening sessions about the report’s findings over the summer. A second, more thorough report of recommendations will be published by July 2023.

Texas Teachers Union Protest Against Gun Violence

Dozens of teacher union officials and other advocates marched to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Austin office asking him to support reasonable gun regulation, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The protest comes a week after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school. Texas has notoriously weak gun laws, with one rule allowing gun owners over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without training or a permit, according to the New York Times. And while concerned community members are asking for change, Cruz remains adamant that stricter gun laws are not the answer.

“There are things that can be done … that have been proven nationally, in Indiana, as well as Florida,” says Ken Zarifs, president of the Austin school district’s employee union. “Red (flag) laws that have been enacted by far-right Republican legislators. They should be enacted here in Texas. We see nations that have had assault weapon bans that have been very successful. There are things that can be done.”

Wells Fargo Workers Organize Amid Growing Call for Unions Across Industries to Prioritize Racial Equity

Amid years of scandals and abuses, workers at Wells Fargo are seeking unionization, the Guardian reports.

Employees are working with the Committee for Better Banks 一 a coalition of bank workers that seeks to improve conditions and hold the bank industry accountable 一 which won a union contract at Beneficial Bank in 2021.

Recent allegations against Wells Fargo show discrimination in the workforce, with the New York Times reporting the company would conduct fake interviews with people of color to make Wells Fargo’s diversity record seem more favorable. And workers like Jessie McCool, a senior compliance officer at the bank and member of the organizing committee, says that she has faced unequal treatment in the workplace as a woman.

“A lot of bank workers don’t realize we have the right to unionize, but it’s time that the management committees of our bank heard our collective voices,” McCool says. “We have the ability to rise up collectively and address these policies and their uneven adherence.”

Workers in Portland are advocating for similar changes in their new contracts. The Portland Press Herald reports that younger unionized workers are asking the resource centers they work for to better address racial equity, citing that employees of color face unjust treatment at work. Others point to the pay disparity that exists among BIPOC workers when compared to their white counterparts.

“When we started organizing, we were trying to center all of our proposals behind trying to erode the way we allow white supremacy and bias and prejudice into the workings of the job,” says Erin Alvarez, a bargaining committee member. “Our organization does try to talk about issues of race and racism and white supremacy, but our employees who aren’t white are not feeling any benefits.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: californiaracial justicereparationshousing access

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