Lead Story West Edition

Black workers seeking more protection from discrimination

LOS ANGELES — Black workers here no longer want crumbs anywhere they can get them. They want their share of the economic pie.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Black Worker Center mobilized dozens of laborers and construction workers for a rally at Exposition Park Sept. 8 to demand economic justice for black and brown people.

“Today’s event was about sending a message that California has to hold the line on black workers, women, transgender, Muslim, immigrants, all people who are protected by civil rights, and that California has to hold the line and make sure that we make sure to expand employment discrimination protections in the state of California, particularly now as the national climate of racism and exclusion has already dismantled what was left of all civil rights enforcement,” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.

Introduced by state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Inglewood, Senate Bill 491, or the Employment Ant-Discrimination Act of 2017, closes any door that businesses in California may try to use to discriminate on any basis. That is the plea from Smallwood Cuevas and others attending the demonstration in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum are hoping for should California Gov. Jerry Brown sign SB 491 into law.

“If California does not pass SB 491 and expand employment discrimination protections, especially at the city level, many of our workers will not be able to access the opportunities that we need in the city,” Smallwood Cuevas said. “Today is about sending a message to Gov. Brown to hold the line on our civil rights, to sign SB 491.”

Herbert Young has been in the construction business for 10 years. He said he is currently unemployed because he spoke up about a particular incident that happened on his last job and says workplace discrimination is real for people like him.

“I came out here to support the movement,” Young said. “Since I spoke up about that incident, I haven’t got a call back to work. It’s funny, because they haven’t fired me, either.

“Discrimination causes unemployment. Unemployment causes poverty. Poverty causes destruction and destruction causes death. We’re all here, ready to stand up for our rights as workers and as human beings.

“After finding a noose in my locker, and after being fired from work for standing up after being called out a negligent name, we can go somewhere in our community or where we live and stand up to face these real-life issues,” Young added. “The LA Black Worker Center gave me the power I need to have as a black worker. Social change starts by making people aware, helping them to stand up.”