August 20, 2020
By James Smith
Postmaster-Los Angeles (Ret.)
It is no secret that the current administration is working hard across the nation to water down or completely stop the effectiveness of absentee voting by Democrats and those opposed to Donald Trump’s presidency. It doesn’t seem to matter to the President that we are in the midst of a pandemic and that the safest way to vote is by mail. He and his hand-picked postmaster general, Louis DeJoy are pulling no punches in essentially attempting to dismantle the entire process of voting by mail.
While the new postmaster general has recently announced that he will not be making any budget cuts prior to the election; voters should still take the necessary precautions and very necessary steps to ensure that every vote is counted. Not only here in California, but also ensure that every family member and friend across the country also follows these steps.
As the former postmaster for the City, I want to assure everyone that you will receive your absentee ballot as long as you have requested one with all the proper and updated information on your registration. The men and women working at the USPS are some of the hardest working and highly committed professionals you would ever want to meet and they are committed, as they have always been, to ensuring everyone receives their mail as fast and as efficiently as possible.
The last day to register to vote by mail is Monday, October 19, 2020, but, I would encourage everyone considering voting by mail to do it NOW, rather than wait until the last minute. You can register at your local post office, on-line and at numerous locations throughout the county of Los Angeles, including at the Los Angeles Sentinel offices.
There has been a lot of misinformation about the postal service. Most of the misinformation is coming from Donald Trump, who often lies and insinuates that voting by mail is or will be fraudulent. The reality is that he see’s voting by mail as the most effective way to vote him out of office, and therefore, is a perceived threat to him getting a second term in office.
The truth is that there is no real evidence of any widespread voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice stated, “It is still more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud.”
With of this being said, here is what we must do to ensure that every vote is counted, not only here in California, but across this nation.
1. MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE: Visit Can I Vote and select “voter registration status.” Then, choose your state. You’ll be taken to a page on your state’s website where you can check to see if you’re registered.
Remember to check your registration information before your state’s deadline to register to vote. That could be up to 30 days before the election. This gives you time if you need to re-register or make changes.
2. IF YOU CHOOSE TO VOTE BY MAIL: Don’t wait until the last minute to send in your absentee ballot. Fill it out immediately and get it in the mail as soon as possible.
Make sure you place a stamp on your ballot and drop it off inside the post office (as hard as the USPS has tried to avoid and discourage mail box tampering … it happens. Trump supporters or not, some people do steal mail.
3. As Michelle Obama stated in her speech at the Democratic Convention on Monday, to make sure your family and friends, in and outside of California, also vote.
Bug them, pester them, but make sure that every single person you know votes in this upcoming election. Our lives and the future of our country depends on it.
4. IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO VOTE BY MAIL: Confirm your polling place and get there early and bring a friend. Make sure you wear your mask; we don’t want anyone turned away for not wearing a mask. Bring your identification and bring your patience.
Lines could be long. Remember, when we all stood in line patiently waiting to vote for President Barack Obama? So, be prepared to wait. But, in the end, voting Trump out of office should be just as gratifying.
Some people have already decided that they are not going to vote by mail, and that is their choice. The most important thing is to VOTE.
If you have decided to take on the potential health risk associated with voting in person, remember to take all the necessary precautions required and associated with voting in person. Yes, there is a health risk so, WEAR A MASK, REMAIN SOCIALLY DISTANCED. But most of all, remember that voting in “this election” is MORE important than any recent elections.
We are on a “mission“ - LET’S DO THIS!!!
August 06, 2020
LAWT News Service
Black women are many things. We are business executives, political strategists and elected officials, philanthropists, and activists. We are health and wellness practitioners. We are entertainers and faith leaders. We are wives, mothers, daughters, educators, and students. We set and shift culture. We build power and we are powerful.
We are the highest propensity voters in this nation. We are a coalition of Black women leaders, who, in this inflection point of the Black liberation movement, where people around the world are galvanized to action, know that the time for Black women in the United States is now.
Over the past few months in the media, we have witnessed many Black women put forth as potential Vice Presidential candidates including former Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senator Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Val Demings, and former US Ambassador Susan Rice, be publicly critiqued. We have also watched many of these highly-credentialed women be disrespected in the media over the last few weeks.
Regardless of your political affiliation, whether it's the media, members of the vice presidential vetting committee, a former Governor, a top political donor, or a small town mayor: We are not your Aunt Jemimas. The use of the racist myth of a happy, Black servant portrayed as a happy domestic worker loyal to her White employer is not lost on us. While some of the relentless attacks on Black women and our leadership abilities have been more suggestive than others, make no mistake--we are qualified and ambitious without remorse.
We are servant leaders -- motivated by a desire to uplift and advance our communities and nation. And we will not tolerate racist or sexist tropes consistently utilized in an effort to undermine our power. No matter who you are supporting for Vice President, you should be equally outraged by the blatant disrespect of Black women.
Black women have been and remain vital across sectors. We are indebted to women like Ella Baker, Septima Clarke, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, Ruby Doris Robinson, and Ida B. Wells just to name a few. These women have fought to move us forward and are collectively responsible for much of this country's progress. Black women have been leading, and we must honor, protect, support, and uplift them.
Cora Masters Barry
Julie A. Bayley
Jacqueline L. Bazan
Valeisha Butterfield Jones
Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole
Maya R. Cummings
The Reverend Leah D. Daughtry
Dr. Hazel N. Dukes
Jotaka L. Eaddy
Lenora Abraham Eaddy
Amy R. Goldson
Linda Mercado Greene
Ifeoma Ike, Esq.
Amy Elisa Jackson
Keisha Sutton James
Dr. Nicol Turner Lee
L. Toni Lewis, MD
Dr. Amira Ogunleye
Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver
Barbara A. Perkins
Karen Carter Peterson
Karen A. Robinson
Dana Vickers Shelley
Janine Sherman Barrois
V. Joy Simmons
Denise Young Smith
Sherri Killins Stewart Ed.D
Rev. Dr. Regena Thomas
Angela Bundrant Turner
L. Joy Williams
July 30, 2020
By Rev. James Lawson, Jr. and Kent Wong
The more than 700 overwhelmingly nonviolent protests throughout the country in response to the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black women and men have triggered a long overdue debate on the role of the police in our country.
What has also not been adequately addressed is another target of police repression: workers, especially those who stand up to demand livable wages and decent working conditions.
Thirty years ago, on June 15, 1990, members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) violently beat a peaceful group of Latina/o janitors in Century City who were marching for better wages and working conditions.
As a result, dozens of janitors were hospitalized, one woman suffered a miscarriage, and dozens more were arrested and jailed.
By numerous accounts, this was a “police riot.” The LAPD paid a multimillion-dollar settlement in response to the injured janitors’ lawsuit.
The police attack in Century City took place the year before a more famous LAPD abuse case involving motorist Rodney King. Millions saw the televised video of the police beating Rodney King as he lay on the ground.
When the police were acquitted by a mostly white jury, the verdict triggered the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest.
The LAPD beating of the janitors is not an isolated case of police repression of workers. In the agricultural fields of California, farm owners have called in law enforcement agents to attack and beat striking farmworkers. During the 1992 Drywall Strike that paralyzed the home construction industry in five Southern California counties, law enforcement agents harassed and arrested the striking workers. Many were jailed for unrelated issues, like unpaid parking tickets or their undocumented immigration status. During the 2007 May Day march, the LA police used rubber bullets and tear gas on peacefully protesting immigrant workers; among the injured were families with young children and journalists.
The role of police repression directed against workers has a long and sordid history. The first state police force was established in Pennsylvania at the demand of factory owners who wanted to suppress striking coal miners and steelworkers. And for decades, private security guards known as “Pinkertons” infiltrated unions and notoriously worked hand in hand with law enforcement to crush strikes and attack workers.
During the 1930s, hundreds of workers were killed by law enforcement agents and the national guard during labor disputes. In one publicized incident known as the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, police opened fire on striking steelworkers marching peacefully in Chicago. Dozens were shot, more than a hundred were beaten, and ten workers were killed by the police.
In the 1960s, law enforcement brutally suppressed peaceful protests during the freedom struggle in the South. Hundreds were beaten, many were killed, and thousands more were jailed. Congressman John Lewis nearly died after a savage beating by law enforcement on the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; fittingly, the bridge was named after a Confederate general. In 1968, police again violently attacked a march led by Dr. King in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. A few days later, he was assassinated while supporting the sanitation workers.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.” Today another twin-headed creature resides in the White House; Donald Trump has made clear his animosity toward both people of color and labor.
On June 1, 2020, Trump directed the police to attack a thousand peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House. The federal police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disburse the crowd so Trump could hold a staged press event in front of a church. Trump held a bible upside down in one hand while directing violence against people peacefully protesting with the other. The church is located on the same block as the national headquarters of the AFL-CIO. Donald Trump’s message was clear. He will not hesitate to mobilize law enforcement to attack communities of color and workers alike.
Over the years, this country has witnessed a huge increase in police budgets. In Los Angeles, for example, prior to the proposed reduction, the LAPD had an annual budget of $1.8 billion, or 17% of the city budget. The U.S. has a higher incarceration rate than any other country in the world, with 2.3 million people in prison.
Blacks are five times more likely to be in prison than whites.
Violence against women is also a pervasive problem within our society. Rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence are all forms of violence against women. Sexual violence, racial violence, and violence against workers are all interconnected and are a reflection of a violent culture that perpetuates and defends the status quo.
We need a massive investment in communities where working families and people of color live. We need to fund public education, health care, housing, transportation, and mental health and substance abuse services. This is what will secure the long-term safety and security of our communities. The system of violence and repression promoted by Donald Trump and law enforcement will never ensure equality, liberty and justice for all, nor will it promote the “beloved community” embraced by Dr. King.
Rev. James Lawson, Jr., is a nationally known nonviolence teacher and philosopher. He was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center. The two have been teaching a course on Nonviolence at UCLA for the past eighteen years.
July 23, 2020
By Charlene Crowell
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc throughout the country, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently took an ill-advised and untimely action. On July 7, the agency gutted its own 2017 payday rule that required lenders to first determine whether a consumer could afford to repay the high-cost loan.
This regulatory reversal represents a financial favor to payday and car-title lenders, and certain harm to consumers who are just a few hundred dollars short for their monthly expenses. In very real and measurable ways, the agency created to protect consumers gave a green light to predatory lenders to continue to prey upon the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable consumers.
“There is never a good time to enable predatory loans carrying 400% interest rates,” noted Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), “but this is the worst possible time. The pain caused by the CFPB gutting the payday rule will be felt most by those who can least afford it, including communities of color who are disproportionately targeted by payday lenders.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized the ability of people to safely go to work, altered how students try to continue their studies, and imposed grim realities in meeting life’s most basic needs like food, shelter, and utilities.
Consumers affected by job layoffs should also mark their calendars for July 31. On that day, the additional $600 in monthly federal unemployment benefits through the CARES Act will expire. Additionally, renters who have managed to preserve their housing even when they could not pay, should also be mindful of whether eviction notices will come their way. Either of these circumstances carry the potential for America’s most cash-strapped consumers to seek and become financially trapped in unaffordable predatory loans.
The lure of ‘quick and easy’ cash entraps an estimated 12 million American consumers each year. Instead of a short-term financial fix, most loans last several months or longer to fully repay. CRL research finds that the typical payday loans are in strings of 10 or more. Further, the amount of interest paid on the loan often exceeds the dollars originally borrowed.
Even with decades of consumer advocacy, triple-digit interest on payday loans remains legal in 34 states. In these locales, the profusion of payday and car-title stores located in Black and other communities of color increases the likelihood of consumers becoming financial prey that ensures lenders of an annual $8 billion in fees alone. The growth in online lending increases access to these loans.
“By disproportionately locating storefronts in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods,” observed Rachel Gittelman, Financial Services Outreach Manager with the Consumer Federation of America, “predatory payday lenders systematically target communities of color, further exacerbating the racial wealth gap.”
Historically Blacks have been disproportionately affected by unemployment compared to other racial and ethnic groups. That trend continues to hold in the midst of the pandemic. As of early July, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.8 million people were unemployed. Black unemployment at 15.4%, was closely followed by that of Latinos at 14.5%. By comparison, only 10% of whites were unemployed. However, multiple news outlets report that the nation’s total unemployed since the spring onset of the pandemic is 30 million.
“The CFPB has no basis for gutting the heart of common-sense protections that merely required payday lenders to do what responsible lenders already do: ensure that the borrower has the ability to repay,” noted Lauren Sanders, the National Consumer Law Center’s Associate Director. “The evidence to support the debt trap of payday loans is overwhelming and the CFPB’s flimsy excuses for repealing protections do not stand up.”
Earlier this year, a poll conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by CRL found strong and bipartisan support for a 36% rate cap on payday and installment loans. With a 70% national majority, voters supported the double-digit rate cap. On a state-by-state basis, voter support for a rate cap had a range of 64-73%. Further 62% of polled voters had an unfavorable view of payday lenders.
With nearly half of American adults living in households that have experienced a loss of income, and more than 40% of adults delaying medical care due to financial concerns, there is no justification for abandoning consumer financial protections.
If a 36% rate cap is good enough for the nation’s military be protected from predatory lending – which is the law for service members under the federal Military Lending Act -- it is time to extend that same protection to the civilian population.