Op Eds

Cheerleaders, Until They See Their N.F.L. Paychecks

AS the National Football League starts a new season, millions of Americans will settle in for the next five months to enjoy the thrill of pro football. Forty-five percent of those fans are female, and the league has spent millions of dollars in recent years trying to increase its appeal among women.
From Our Advertisers

And yet, one high-profile group of women in the multibillion-dollar N.F.L. is still waiting for fair treatment. Cheerleaders are often paid well below minimum wage and aren't given the most basic protections that every employee deserves.

Nail Salon Workplaces Need A Touch Up

Today I am convening an informational hearing in the Capitol as Chair of the Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, bringing together stakeholders to discuss the challenges faced in the industry and to hear personal testimony from nail salon workers. I’m encouraged to be joined by the Chairs of four other Assembly Committees and other legislators to begin the collaborative process we need to achieve the change these workers need.

Recent in-depth coverage in the New York Times revealed shocking, systematic abuse going on right under the noses of thousands of nail salon customers every day. The reports found employees living in squalor and isolation, underpaid or completely unpaid, and ravaged by health problems possibly connected to chemicals they handle on the job. It echoed and expanded upon reporting done recently in California, drawing new attention to deeply troubling working conditions in the nail salon industry across the country.

California diaper bill would help struggling families

When we think of California, visions of sandy beaches, Silicon Valley and snowcapped mountains above fertile golden valleys spring to mind. When thinking of widespread American poverty, however, it is easy to consider it someone else's problem.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, however, approximately 8.9 million Californians, roughly one quarter of the state's population, live in poverty. This is by far the highest rate in America. Unemployment is well above the national average, yet according to a recent study, five of the top 10 most expensive American cities are here in the Golden State. It is time we come to terms with the poverty epidemic in our own backyard.

Time to make cheerleading a sport

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the old wrestling gym at 5 a.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We practiced until 6:30 in the unheated, chalky old gym with no mats. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we ran a few miles in the afternoon before joining other athletes in the weight room. We had a two-hour run-through at the stadium on Friday, then on game day Saturdays we started performing for alumni tailgates two hours before kickoff, cheered a full game, then returned home around dusk. That was outside of competition season.

We were called many things: Cheerleaders, pom-pom girls, song leaders. Just not athletes.

Double pay on the holiday makes sense

This Thanksgiving, while many of us enjoyed a day off and a home-cooked meal with our families, millions of Americans were hard at work at major retailers, hotels, restaurants and movie theatres. Nationwide, that included nearly 1 million people who were required to work at Walmart stores alone.

In fairness, some workers volunteer to work on holidays. My daughter, stuck in New York, took the Thanksgiving shift at the coffee shop where she works so her co-workers could be home with their families. But as more retail establishments open on the holidays for longer hours, the demand for workers on those days also increases. As a result, we’ve heard example after example of workers threatened with firing if they did not come in.

Those ‘Frustrating’ Labor Rules Are Protecting California Workers

It's true. While the rest of the nation has been working hard to erode worker protections during an era of historic corporate profits, California has taken a more balanced approach.

Forty years ago, a vast majority of middle-class workers and nearly every member of the working class earned overtime pay. Today, that's just not the case.

AB 1024 Fulfills Promises to DREAMers to Fulfill their Own Potential

By Lorena Gonzalez

In 1996, Congress passed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,” which forbid a state to confer a benefit to an individual who was not here legally, unless the state acted to affirmatively to do so. In other words, Congress told individual states that they had to pass their own laws in order to allow unauthorized immigrants benefits, such as in-state college tuition, state-funded scholarship opportunities and the issuance of licenses of all sorts.

About a decade ago, California started to do just that. It started with AB 540, the landmark legislation where we first started to recognize that it is irrational and counterproductive to penalize young students who were often brought here as small children, who had worked hard, and simply wanted the opportunity to attend our public universities. We began to know these kids as “Dreamers,” brave, dedicated young people who simply wanted to normalize their existence in the only country they had ever known as home. Smartly, our state and federal government both began to confer additional opportunities to Dreamers, including the opportunity for financial aid, deferred action from deportation, work visas and drivers’ licenses.

Many Dreamers have absolutely thrived in the face of extreme challenges –they’ve graduated from high school, fought for our Country, attended college, even graduated law school and passed the bar. Then in early September, we learned by way of oral arguments in front of the California Supreme Court, that unless the state Legislature acted, those Dreamers would not have the opportunity to actually practice law. In the case of Sergio Garcia, we met a Dreamer who was brought here at 17 months old and had been approved for, but awaiting a green card for over 14 years. He worked his way through college and law school, passed the bar on the first attempt, and was found to be morally fit to practice law. He was actually sworn in as an attorney before the state realized it had to rescind the license a few weeks later.

Assembly Bill 1024 seeks to fix this problem by allowing the State of California the ability to grant these dreamers – who have graduated from law school, passed the moral character inspection and passed the bar exam – a license to practice law. The bill passed the Legislature in the final week of session with broad, bi-partisan support and now sits on the Governor’s desk.

Many of us would prefer Congress to act on Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a realistic path to citizenship for the 11 million-plus immigrants in this country. But that just doesn’t seem to be happening on the near horizon, and we have already been waiting too long for these hard working young people who just desperately want to pursue a career in their field of study so that they can earn a living and pay taxes.

For me, this is also personal. My father came to this country as a farmworker. But, for the grace of God, I was born in San Diego County, just a few dozen miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. As a result, when I graduated from UCLA School of Law and passed the bar, I never once had to consider that the state would deny me a license to practice law. I am not a better person and am no more deserving than Sergio Garcia and the other dreamers in his position.

Without the help of the federal government in fixing a terribly broken immigration system, there are things we can do in California to make life more equitable for folks who are caught in between. That’s why I hope you will join me in asking Governor Brown to sign AB 1024.

Gonzalez serves in the California State Assembly as the representative for the 80th District, which includes Chula Vista, San Diego and National City.