Net Neutrality is a critical part of our democracy.
A free and open internet is under threat from large tech monopolies and the politicians that they fund. At the federal level, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now under the control of former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai. One of the first things Mr. Pai did was to reverse protections put in place by the Obama administration.
Instead of requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all data as equal, the new FCC is allowing large companies to decide what you can access. Instead of allowing a democratic internet, companies like AT&T want to control what you read, watch, and learn. If we don’t give the people a voice, we will face a future of high costs, slower speeds, and restricted choice.
Network neutrality—the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services—is a principle that must be upheld to protect the future of our open Internet. – Electronic Frontier Foundation
Despite the exponential innovations that we have seen since the internet became publicly available, we have not seen the same growth in competition. Most neighborhoods have only one or two major providers to choose from. And despite being the home of the most successful technology companies in the world, California ranks 12th in internet connectedness.
This is a national problem too. Americans pay more for slower broadband speeds. We invented the internet, but we rank 10th in speed. And we are 114th in terms of cost, making the US the most expensive developed nation for internet service.
Without regulation large companies will continue to drive up costs and underdeliver service.
The democratizing power of information is being restrained by billion dollar companies, but California can fight back. As the most populous state we have an incredible amount of power that we can exercise.
Senate Bill 822 is “the gold standard” of state level net neutrality bills. It was finally passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. But its path to becoming law is a lesson in how big money continues to stand in the way of progress.
SB 822 was first proposed by California Senator Scott Wiener in 2018. Immediately it was praised as an effective way to push back on the Trump administration’s attack on net neutrality. It passed through the Senate and went to the Assembly.
It was in the Assembly where the trouble began. When the bill went before the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance the chair, Miguel Santiago, introduced midnight amendments. These amendments removed restrictions on ISPs ability to throttle or restrict certain websites. Santiago takes donations from the largest telecoms in the country, like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.
After weeks of negotiation the strong language was restored to the bill. It was then combined with Kevin de León’s SB 642 that would stop the state of California from doing business with companies that do not follow strong net neutrality rules.
In October of 2018 Governor Brown signed the restored bill. But the damage was already done. Major telecoms showed their power and the representatives who take their donations showed their willingness to cooperate. Ultimately, it took both major public outrage and political courage to win.
We know that AT&T and Comcast will spend huge money to fight consumer protections. They will buy ads to scare consumers. They will have their lobbyists flood the airwaves. They will push amendments through committees in the middle of the night.
Now that net neutrality is the law in California we need to protect it, from the Trump FCC and the large ISPs. But this is just the beginning, we need to push for more. Rural communities still have less internet access than they should. ISPs push rates higher while neglecting to upgrade their infrastructure. Companies like Google and Amazon collect private data to monetize with no oversight. The gig economy uses the internet to push down wages and exploit workers. California must lead the nation in an internet that builds communities, not one that erodes them.
Freedom of information is paramount in our fight for a better democracy. We know that it’s only a matter of time until Comcast calls in another favor. Without committed representatives in the Assembly, all this effort will be rolled back.
Rent gouging is putting families at risk and reshaping our communities.
Imagine waking up one day and finding that your rent is going to double. What would you do? Could you afford twice as much for rent with only 1 month to plan? For many families this nightmare is a reality.
Many buildings in Los Angeles are protected from this by our Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). Passed in 1978, the RSO caps yearly rent increases to about 3% a year and protects renters from no-cause evictions. These protections allowed many tenants to stay in their homes despite housing prices rising around them. But in 1996 the California legislature passed a law called Costa-Hawkins.
Costa-Hawkins was pushed through the Assembly and Senate by developers, and even then it barely won a majority. Costa-Hawkins stopped any city in California from passing new rent control laws. It also froze any existing rent control laws at the date it was first passed. That means that only apartment buildings built before 1978 in Los Angeles are protected. To make things even harder on working families, Costa-Hawkins outlawed rent control on any single family homes.
For 22 years this law went unchallenged. That is, until Proposition 10 was put on the ballot to repeal Costa-Hawkins. If passed it would have allowed cities to pass new renter protections and returned local control to the people most effected. Unfortunately, it did not win. Los Angeles and San Francisco both voted in favor of Prop 10, because tenants knew how much it would help.
Since then we have seen landlords across the city using massive rent increases to push out tenants they don’t want. There’s a land rush in LA and landlords want to clear out working families to make way for wealthier tenants.
In 2018 the Burlington tenants went on the largest rent strike in LA history. The strike started when they were suddenly hit with increases that nearly doubled their rent. Working families and seniors on fixed incomes were faced with a sudden crisis. Fight the landlords to save their homes or try to find a new place to live immediately.
With the help of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and the Eviction Defense Network they formed Burlington Unidos. Even by pulling together as a community they weren’t able to save every home. Each unit had to go through a separate eviction proceeding, most of the tenants prevailed but some did not. After 6 months on rent strike the landlords canceled the rent increases and agreed to negotiate.
This rent increase was defeated, but not without cost. Months of worry and thousands of dollars were spent to fight this greed.
In Chinatown, families at the Hillside Villa apartments are looking at the end of their affordable housing covenant. These covenants last for 30 years, guaranteeing affordable rents and protections. In exchange for keeping rents low, the landlord is offered tax incentives. But even these incentives haven’t kept the landlord honest.
While the building continues to degrade, wealthier renters have been moved in at market rate, but the tax incentives are still claimed. Some of these families were displaced from downtown to make way for the Staples Center. Having survived one forced eviction, they are fearful of losing another home.
Pleas to the city for protection have gone unheeded, but by working with the Los Angeles Tenants Union they have won some legal victories. These wins are tenuous, the landlord doesn’t have to sign a new housing covenant. But these wins have only come through organizing and building community.
It’s amazing that these tenants and organizers have had the courage to organize. That when faced with displacement they fought for their homes and won. But it shouldn’t be this way.
California can stop this from ever happening again if the Assembly and Senate pass AB 1482. Authored by Assemblyman David, AB 1482 steps in where Proposition 10 couldn’t. It caps yearly rent increases to 5% plus the increase in cost of living. In most cases that would mean inflation.
This would mean that tenants could still see increases as high as 8%, based on current inflation. But that is far more manageable than 50% or 100% increases. Combined with other bills before the state legislature this year there is hope for tenants. Now we need to hold our Assembly Members and State Senators accountable.
You can take action now!
Call your representatives, tell them you support tenants, and that they must vote Yes on AB 1482.
Tenants work hard to pay the rent, but landlord greed threatens their homes. We have to stand with tenants and make housing a human right.
California tenants need the right to organize.
Our housing crisis is an eviction crisis. Tenants are not only facing steep costs to move into a new home. They are also facing threats from massive rent increases, Ellis act evictions, and short term rental schemes. In short, tenants are under siege by the forces of capital.
“You are putting humans out on the street with nowhere to go.” – Robert Evans, Expo Tenant
Tenants work hard to pay the rent, working two or even three jobs. But landlords can evict tenants for no reason at all, putting families on the street. A landlord with enough money to own an apartment building has enough money to afford a lawyer. Working tenants don’t have the money to afford an expensive trial.
Too often this is a lonely fight. Each tenant is trying to protect their home by themselves. It’s scary facing an uphill battle that may cost you your home.
These numbers don’t even count the people who choose to move because their stagnant wages make staying unaffordable. Families are moving out of LA in record numbers because they can’t raise their children in a city where costs rise while workers earn less.
Eviction and displacement stories are too common.
The Ellison is a rent controlled building in Venice. Since it first opened it has provided affordable housing for people from all walks of life: teachers, nurses, and artists. It was a quintessentially Venice place to live. That is until Lance Robbins bought the property.
Robbins is probably one of LA’s worst landlords. He’s been sued by the city many times for failing to maintain his buildings and has been called a slumlord by at least one judge.
“If you are wondering why the rental housing market in a place like Venice Beach is so tight, look no further than your nearest laptop. Fire it up and find dozens of websites advertising hotels and houses ‘just steps from the sand.'” – Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times
The demand for hotel rooms in Venice climbs every year. Robbins and his management company can charge hundreds of dollars a night, pocketing obscene profits. Instead of 57 units of affordable housing, The Ellison is now home to only a handful of residents. The rest of the units are now hotel rooms, the courtyard is a de facto lobby, and weekly public events bring party goers enticed with free wine tastings.
Most of the long term tenants chose to leave on their own. Why would you continue to pay rent to live in poor conditions? Years of neglect left the elevator broken, walkways unusable, and ceilings deteriorating. No matter how much they asked for repairs, building management did nothing. Faced with a dilapidated building and a hostile landlord it seemed like the only choice.
Others decided to stay and fight for their homes. But it has been a very long road. Despite years of complaints, lawsuits, and orders from the city to stop; Robbins has continued his quest to pocket as much money as possible at the expense of tenants’ health and wellbeing.
The tenants that stayed have only been able to because they organized, and even then it has taken an incredible amount of courage. They still pay the rent on time every month. They help each other navigate the broken building to deliver groceries and make doctor’s appointments. It looks like the city might finally bring them some relief, but it has taken far too long.
They are not alone, demand for new expensive housing makes tenants across the city targets.
Along the Expo Line corridor rent prices have spiked and longtime residents have been forced out. 7 buildings adjacent to the University of Southern California were sold to Chung Suk Kim and Hae Jung Kim in 2018. Instead of meeting their tenants, they immediately posted eviction notices.
“They are, in short, a developer’s dream come true: the perfect land grab in the never-ending game of speculative development.” – Jacob Woocher, KNOCK.LA
It didn’t matter that these tenants were up to date on the rent or had raised their families there, it only mattered that that landlords wanted to turn the biggest profit they could. LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance didn’t cover the buildings, so the tenants had no legal protections from eviction.
They organized and fought, but in the end they lost. 80 people lost their homes without protection under the law. Now those units rent for $3,000 a month.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Senator Elena Durazo has introduced Senate Bill 529 (SB 529) that will give tenants the right to organize tenant associations, withhold rent for poor conditions, and protect them from retaliation. This is a complex crisis and it requires a complete solution.
Right now, SB 529 is being debated in the California Senate and it is target number 1 for landlords and developers. The forces of capital are fighting as hard as their money can to stop tenants from organizing and gaining legal protections.
Housing is seen as a way for landlords to earn income, not as a place for people to live. We need to change this, we need to make housing a human right.
We’re committed to seeing these protections enshrined in law. You can make sure that happens.
Imagine universal healthcare in California.
What if you never had to pay to see a doctor? What if your medications were free at the point of sale? What if hospital bills were a thing of the past? That’s the promise of the Healthy California Act (SB 562), and that’s our promise too.
SB 562 is a groundbreaking idea. Everyone in California would be covered. Health conditions and immigration status would not be barriers to care. Families would save an average of $1,000 a month. Diabetics would no longer have to worry about getting insulin.
“Californians want a single payer system that puts patients’ health and wellbeing at the center not insurance industry profits.”
– Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United
So what happened?
The Healthy California Act was introduced to the California Senate in February 2017 by Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. California was not the first state to consider covering everyone under a state plan. Hawaii and Vermont both have laws that are effectively single payer healthcare. 17 other states are also considering single payer plans.
SB 562 would put an end to some of the most costly parts of our privatized system. It would end healthcare premiums, saving individuals and families thousands of dollars a year. It would end deductibles that force patients to chose between paying for care or paying the rent. It would guarantee access to medications that save lives.
Maternity and neonatal care would be available to every parent in the state, not just those wealthy enough to afford it. Patients would no longer need to wait for a crisis before seeking treatment. Preventative care and wellness would be guaranteed. Mental healthcare services would be open to everyone.
And by everyone we mean everyone: every person who lives in California would be covered regardless of health conditions or immigration status. Something that even the Affordable Care Act does not guarantee.
People were excited about the possibility of finally bringing relief to 40 million patients. Unions and advocacy groups immediately voiced their support for the idea. The California Nurses Association held rallies across the state and hit the road to spread the word that we would finally see a sane healthcare system. Politicians took to the airwaves to talk about how revolutionary this would be. Patients and caregivers hoped that they would no longer be burdened by high costs that ration care and shorten lives. It looked like we would witness history, as California would become the biggest state to take a stand against the insurance industry.
On June 1st, 2017 the California Senate voted 27 to 14 in favor of SB 562. This meant that the last hurdle the bill needed to clear was the Assembly.
“Which is to say that we will keep pressure on the coward Rendon until his office guarantees that 562 gets a real hearing next year, and barring that we will build the coalition necessary to get every Californian covered as soon as possible.” – KNOCK.LA
All that momentum was brought to a halt by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Rather than allowing our representatives to boldly voice their support for universal healthcare, he chose to shelve the bill. Rendon put the interests of insurance companies above the people of California. Insurance industry allies in Sacramento created excuse after excuse for this failure of leadership.
But that has not stopped the dream of universal healthcare. Doctors, nurses, and patients are still fighting for a system that puts people over profit, not just in California but across the country.
Right now hope is stalled in the state house. Nurses, patients, and caregivers are pushing for change, but our representatives aren’t hearing them. Twice California has failed to move the Healthy California Act towards a full vote, even though 70% of the country supports a single payer system.
Universal healthcare is in reach for California.
Nowhere else in the developed world does anyone pay so much for such poor results. Every day our neighbors suffer and die from curable and preventable illness simply because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of treatment. We need a single-payer system, and we need it now.
“Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James Baldwin
Healthcare should not be contingent on your income. Healthcare should not be contingent on your job. Healthcare should not be contingent on the whims of an insurance adjuster. Healthcare is a human right.
Healthcare must be free at the point of care. And healthcare must be universal.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, granted access to health insurance to millions of Americans. But the legislation was written by the medical insurance industry to protect themselves, not to help us.
Leaving health insurance in the domain of the “free market” is a deeply flawed solution. As long as the profit motive remains in healthcare, insurers will be motivated to skimp on care, deny coverage and drive up premiums and deductibles — hurting their patients at every stage. We must value people over profit. Always.
“…the uninsured rate in California dropped by nearly half, from 16% in 2013 to an all-time low of 9% in 2016. However, 2.9 million Californians remained uninsured.” – California Healthcare Foundation, 2018
The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to millions of people, but it has done nothing to bring down prices. Year after year the state of California allows premiums to increase by double digits. In 2018 the average increase across the state was 12.5%, in 2019 it is estimated to be 9.7%.
Now, people are paying an average of $500 a month or $6,000 a year, just for coverage. Families are paying more than $1,000 a month. That doesn’t include deductibles or the cost of care. 10% of income is going into the pockets of health insurance bureaucracies.
“Over the past five years, the average annual deductible among all covered workers has increased 53%.” – Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018
High deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of treatment are also climbing, nearly doubling costs for anyone who has insurance.
This is impacting lives. If families are spending nearly $20,000 a year in premiums and deductibles, then they have no money left over to save for retirement or emergency expenses. Average workers are left with a dire choice: health or savings.
Many people are choosing to go without coverage altogether, leaving them with few options if they get sick. Instead of preventative care overseen by their primary doctor, they are forced to seek help in emergency rooms where bills easily reach thousands of dollars for one visit. Long term health suffers because people wait until they are in crisis. These costs continue to add up for patients and the state.
Meanwhile health insurance CEO’s are paid millions of dollars a year to oversee a system that is bankrupting families. And those profits are then used to protect their monopoly on our health by funding politicians to block a fair system. As long as our healthcare is privatized patients will suffer physically and financially.
“Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money… Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.” – US Federal Reserve, 2018
Many life saving drugs are also kept out of reach of patients, pharmaceutical companies hide behind patents to protect profits and insurance companies deny life saving medications because of the price.
The cost of insulin, a critical part of managing diabetes, nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. There is absolutely no reason that any drug that has been in use since 1921 should ever double in cost, let alone doubling in just four years.
Image from the Health Care Cost Institute, 2019
We can choose to continue to tinker and tweak the system as it stands now, hoping for a future that is slightly better. Or we can choose the solution that has worked over and over in countries across the world: provide single-payer, universal healthcare for everyone.
With a single-payer system:
- We save an incredible amount of money
- Life-saving medication won’t be out of reach for those who need it
- Workers aren’t tied to jobs they don’t like by insurance they cannot afford to lose
- Families don’t go bankrupt because of serious illness — right now 42% of cancer patients exhaust their life savings within 2 years
- Small employers don’t have to worry about picking an insurance plan for their employees, or renegotiating those terms every couple of years
In truth, our country needs a federal Medicare For All plan like what Bernie has been championing for years. But we cannot afford to wait for Congress to solve this for us. California is the world’s fifth most powerful economy — we can afford to make the Healthy California Act a reality. We can show the rest of the country that a healthy future is possible.
Better and more preventative treatment reduces the risk of minor injuries turning into catastrophic woes. It’s time we joined the rest of the world in treating health as a public good, not a commodity to be traded for profit.
The costs of healthcare has a direct impact on issues like housing as Californians are squeezed by increasing costs on all sides.
For vulnerable urban communities, displaced wildfire survivors, and many other residents of California, climate change isn’t something that we can put off worrying about for a few years — it is their reality, today. Changing how we approach housing construction, urban infrastructure, and utility management are going to all be key to addressing climate change here in California.
“The latest research projects the Los Angeles region to be 3°F to 4°F warmer by mid-century, creating more frequent and intense heat waves that pose particular risk to Los Angeles’s most vulnerable communities.”
– Union of Concerned Scientists, Preparing for Climate Change Impacts in Los Angeles
In the summer of 2018 we had some of the most intense heat that Los Angeles has ever experienced. And extreme heat kills more people annually across our country than hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, combined.
Last year’s heat wave wasn’t an aberration — it’s the new normal:
“The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014.”
– Rebecca Lindsey and LuAnn Dahlman, Climate Change: Global Temperature
And it is our most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of these impacts.
In 2017, California was the 4th largest producer of crude oil in the United States. We must take immediate steps to end this damaging extractive process. Not only does this industry contribute to global climate change, it has immediate impacts on local communities who have had to live with pumping stations in their backyard for decades.
AD53 is home to multiple oil and gas drill sites, including 28 active wells located at 1328 S Hill St, just 2 blocks from the Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. The ongoing impact of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak demonstrates how the petroleum industry continues to threaten the health and safety of our community.
California is the largest economy in the United States — larger than all but 4 nations. Our state has been at the vanguard of environmental protection and technological innovation for decades. Our vehicle emission standards set the bar for cars sold all across this country. We must continue to lead the country in combating the effects of climate change.
We cannot continue to conduct business as usual. Addressing the needs of every Californian as we move forward is key to providing true environmental justice, and absolutely fundamental in not simply surviving but thriving as we wrestle with a changing climate.
Our incumbent has taken thousands of dollars from private utilities and fossil fuel companies. There companies have endangered lives, caused massive wildfires, and poured tons of toxic chemicals into our air. Ending urban oil drilling is the goal, we support mandatory setbacks for drilling, revoking leases on state owned land, and robust clean up efforts to restore our environment. Los Angeles needs more than platitudes, we need to transform our economy and that starts by rejecting money from oil and gas companies.
We’re committed to ending the fossil fuel industry’s toxic influence on our politics, that’s why we’re committed to the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. California is on the front line of the climate crisis and we need bold leadership to protect our homes, water, and air.
To learn more about the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, and see who else has signed, please visit: http://nofossilfuelmoney.org/
January 1st and April 1st are both holidays, but no one died for them. May 1st is for us workers.
But we had to fight like hell for it. Originally created to memorialize those killed in the Haymarket strikes it’s an international day of solidarity. We stand together with those who died in Chicago to organize their workplaces, for sustainable wages to support their families, for basic human dignity.
The battle isn’t over. On May Day 2007, LAPD’s Metro Division unleashed havoc on non-violent demonstrators, injuring several with the indiscriminate use of force. 146 projectiles were fired by officers against an unarmed crowd, causing dozens of injuries. We think of this as something that happens in other countries. And it does. That’s why May Day is international workers day.
Larry Itliong lead the first major strikes of farmworkers here in California. The Filipino community organized to demand and win better wages, building bridges to the Mexican farmworkers that also worked the fields. One of the fathers of the west coast labor movement, his legacy is celebrated in Los Angeles and beyond.
Our history is a history of fighting for things that we take for granted: 8 hour work days, 40 hour work weeks, health insurance, workplace safety, minimum wage, and non-discrimination protections. None of these things were given. They were won by the workers and communities that organized in their own defense. And that struggle continues right here in District 53.
Recently Lyft launched its IPO raising $20 billion in one day…and slashed wages for drivers. Thousands of gig economy workers staged a digital strike to protest working conditions, but executives have ignored them. Lyft and Uber demand long hours for low wages and no benefits, lobbying tooth and nail to keep their “contractors” unable to escape the debt trap. They even finance cars at usurious rates, so the less-than-broke can be exploited.
The battleground has changed but the tactics are the same: wealthy bosses exploit workers. They keep them divided and use confusing rhetoric of “opportunity” to disguise their plan. But on May Day we remember. The rideshare union and Larry Itliong both saw injustice and knew whose fault it was. Today we share his mission to build bridges and show the strength of our communities.
Whether they win is up to us. Representatives like Miguel Santiago aren’t seen on the picket line. They might gladhand with bosses or hide in Sacramento. Chris Roth marched with Fight for $15, teachers, and tenants rights organizations. He and thousands of others demanded their rights. He saw the power of solidarity, the message that rings as true as it did in Chicago more than a century ago. Divided we beg, united we win.
Team Chris can’t do this without you. We need you to get involved and spread the word about what we can achieve when we unite:
Today I want to invite you to my campaign, to join my team as we push for the strongest protections for workers and families. Together we will ensure living wages for everyone, healthcare for everyone, and clean power for everyone. Los Angeles is the future, and together we will make it the brightest future possible.
We’ll be at MacArthur Park to celebrate and build solidarity with working Angelenos and we hope to see you out there. Today is the day we celebrate each other to create the world we deserve.
Let’s be bold.