Yes on Proposition 16 Campaign Announces Campaign Leadership Team Reflective of California

Yes on Proposition 16, the November ballot initiative to expand equal opportunity for all Californians, today announced a historic campaign leadership team made up of some of the most high-profile strategists and notable civil rights advocates from across the state. 

The campaign co-chairs will be Eva Paterson, President and Co-Founder of Equal Justice Society, and Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, who served as co-chairs of the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5 (the legislation that became Proposition 16), alongside Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

Paterson has fought for civil rights as an advocate and attorney for over 45 years, as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the founder of the California Civil Rights Coalition, and since 2003, as the President and Co-Founder of Equal Justice Society.

Pan has been a leading voice of progress on racial justice issues — to expand HIV/AIDS treatment in China with The Clinton Foundation, as the board co-chair of the Center for Asian American Media, and now as the Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, advocating for justice on issues of language access, immigrant rights, and affirmative action. 

Saenz is one of the nation’s foremost civil rights champions for the Latino community and successfully challenged California’s unconstitutional Proposition 187 and led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights. 

The Proposition 16 Executive Committee also includes Quinn Delaney and Walter Wilson.  Quinn Delaney, Founder and Board Chair of Akonadi Foundation, is a noted philanthropist who has focused her giving on supporting the development of powerful social change movements to eliminate structural racism and create a racially just society. Walter Wilson is a long-time civil rights activist and business leader who has worked for over 50 years to increase representation and contracting opportunities for women and people of color, currently serving as the CEO of the Silicon Valley Minority Business Consortium. 

Wilson is also a co-founder of the California Racial Justice Coalition, the movement that created the national campaign against racial profiling, also known as DWB (Driving while Black and Brown).  Wilson is the former State Vice President of the California NAACP, where he led the NAACP fight against Prop 187 and Prop 209, and is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and NOW.  Wilson headed up the Silicon Valley resettlement of over 500 Katrina evacuees, serves as a project manager and Board member of the Silicon Valley African-American Cultural Center project, and is a former Board member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara County.

Nicole Derse, Principal and Co-Founder of 50+1 Strategies, and Courtni Pugh, Co-founder of Shatter, LLC and Partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, will serve as co-general consultants, leading the campaign team. 

Both Derse and Pugh are among the country’s top women political consultants. Derse is a recipient of the Association of American Political Consultants’ 2015 Ballot Measure of the Year Award and a veteran of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  In just eight years, Derse has built one of the state’s largest and most diverse firms in 50+1 Strategies, recently leading campaigns and programs with the ACLU, California Democratic Party, Reform LA Jails, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks and David Chiu, and more. 

For decades, Pugh has worked to pass some of the state’s most progressive measures and elect some of California’s most high profile electeds, including Kevin de León, Kamala Harris, and John Chiang. A trailblazer in her own right, Courtni has a long history working with organized labor and was the first Asian American woman to serve as political director of the LA county federation of labor and the Executive Director of the SEIU California State Council.

Addisu Demissie, Principal and Co-Founder of 50+1 Strategies, who is currently serving as a senior advisor to Joe Biden for President and recently served as campaign manager for Senator Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign, will serve as strategic advisor.  Demissie also managed Governor Newsom’s successful 2018 campaign. 

Sharon Paez Sharon Páez is a co-founding partner at Shatter LLC and Potomac Waves Media where she has advised and created some of the most cutting edge, multi -lingual paid media campaigns — helping to deliver the margin of victory for some of the nation’s highest office holders such as US Senator Tim Kaine, Jacky Rosen, and currently advising Mark Kelly for US Senate. She will also serve as a strategic advisor. 

The diverse staff teams at both 50+1 Strategies and Shatter will also play important roles in the campaign.

“There has never been a more critical moment to restore equal opportunity in California,” said Derse in a statement. “Women, especially women of color, are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. We need to act now to ensure all our communities are safe, and on a path to a more equitable future. In this historic moment, we can build a stronger California by rooting out racism and discrimination in all its forms, by rebuilding a system that believes Black lives matter, and by ensuring that everyone — regardless of what you look like or who you are — has the same opportunities in employment, education, and business.”

Pugh continued, “As two women, we are enormously proud to serve as general consultants for this historic campaign. The team behind Yes on Proposition 16 is a distinguished group of experts and advocates from communities across California. This is the year for equal opportunity in California — and with this team behind it, we are confident that voters will vote yes on Proposition 16 in November.”

Andy Wong, Director of External Relations for The Education Trust–West, an education equity advocacy group, and former Engagement Director for Giffords — a national gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — will serve as Campaign Manager.

“As a woman of color who has worked in business for decades, I can tell you: it is far past time for equal opportunity in California,” said Schenae Rourk, President of Redwood Resources, an outreach and procurement firm based in Los Angeles and member of the Proposition 16 steering committee. “The status quo serves the old boy’s network, and no one else: California businesses owned by women and people of color are denied $1.1 billion per year as a result of lost government contracts. Women and people of color who want to create jobs and build a thriving business in California by accessing critical government and local agency contracts should have equal opportunity to do so. That’s why it’s so critical we pass Proposition 16 this November.”

“Racist rhetoric and paranoia surrounding COVID-19 has led to rampant bigotry, job loss, and violence for many Asian Americans who call California home,” said Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s absolutely clear now: we have a long way to go to root out structural racism, guarantee fair wages and hiring practices, and ensure educational and economic access.  Proposition 16 will deliver equal opportunity for AAPI Californians — putting millions, whether they have called California home for generations or are just starting out, on the road to a healthy, safe, stable life.” 

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, (MALDEF), which has endorsed Proposition 16, said, “Twenty-four years ago, Latino voters saw through the lie and had the highest proportion of votes against eliminating the critical equal opportunity programs that Prop. 16 would finally restore.  With Latinos now comprising a quarter of California voters and forming a critical component of the state’s economy today and in the future, Latinos will come forward to make an enduring contribution to our state’s equal-opportunity future by voting Yes on Prop. 16.” 

“We have fought for the issue of equal opportunity in California for decades,” said Eva Paterson, President of Equal Justice Society. “The death of Mr.  George Floyd forced the nation and world to acknowledge the vitality of toxic racism.  The shift in consciousness was critical to the passage of ACA 5 which resulted in putting Proposition 16 on the November ballot., When we started this journey in August 2019, Dr. Weber and our coalition were told that the reinstatement of affirmative action and the repeal of Proposition 209 was impossible. After much hard work on the part of the amazing members of the Opportunity for All Coalition ACA 5 was approved by both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support. Now voters across the state by voting Yes on Proposition 16 can make the California Dream a reality for all.”

The consultant team, which is more than 50% women and more than 70% people of color, also includes award-winning communications strategists Dan Newman, advisor to Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris, as well as 2012’s Yes on Proposition 36 campaign; Brian Brokaw, current outside advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom and campaign manager for Yes on Proposition 64, which legalized the adult use of marijuana in California. Amelia Matier, a long-time campaign operative who recently served on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential team and managed Buffy Wicks’ campaign for State Assembly will serve as Press Secretary. Media firms 76 Words, who developed creative for 2018’s Amendment 4 in Florida and Initiative 940 (on police de-escalation) in Washington State, along with lead creative development of television advertising, and Resonance Campaigns will help lead on direct mail and digital creative development.

The consultant team’s diversity is reflective of its dedication to reaching every California community as part of the Yes on Proposition 16 campaign. Cecilia Cabello, former California State Director for Pete Buttigeg’s presidential campaign and has been a long-time member of the political landscape in Los Angeles and Sarah Palacios, former political director for Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Léon, will lead Latino/a community outreach and political engagement. Ron Wong and Imprenta Communications Group, one of the leading AAPI-driven communications firms in California, will lead Asian American Pacific Islander engagement, small business outreach, and media; and Taisha Brown, Chair of the California Democratic Party’s African American Caucus, will help engage the Black community.  María Elena Jauregui, a news broadcasting expert specializing in Spanish Language Media will lead Latino Media Outreach.  Calvin Sung, who most recently served as the  California Organizing Director for Steyer 2020 will serve as the Analytics Director. 

Beyond its Executive Committee, the current Steering Committee is comprised of: California State Board of Equalization Member Malia M. Cohen; Paul Guerrero of La Raza Roundtable de California; University of California Student Association Government Relations Director Parshan Khosravi; University of California Student Association Statewide Organizing Director Salih Muhammad; Redwood Resources President Schenae Rourk; Los Angeles civil rights attorney Lisa Holder; The Education Trust – West  Executive Director Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga; AFSCME Local 3299 State Political Director Julie Diaz Waters; PICO California Director of Organizing Joey Williams.  Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber, who authored ACA 5 and shepherded Proposition 16 to the ballot, is an honorary member. 

The Proposition 16 campaign team will be expanding their Steering Committee in the coming weeks to include even stronger representation from across California. 

For more information on the Yes on Proposition 16 campaign, visit voteyesonprop16.org.

Opportunity for All Coalition Transitions to Historic Yes on Prop. 16 Campaign

The Opportunity for All Coalition is moving rapidly into campaign mode to support the passage of Proposition 16, which will ask California voters in November to allow equal opportunity policies to be used by state and local governments to promote good jobs, good wages, and quality schools for everyone.

After the passage by the California State Senate of ACA 5 in June, the Secretary of State qualified the ballot measure as Proposition 16 on July 1. The Assembly passed ACA 5 on a bipartisan 60-14 vote. The Senate passed the bill on a bipartisan 30-10 vote.

The Opportunity for All Coalition ballot measure committee is led by co-chair Eva Paterson, President of the Equal Justice Society; co-chair Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action; board member Quinn Delaney, philanthropist; board member Walter Wilson, Silicon Valley Minority Business Consortium; and interim campaign manager Andy Wong, Director of External Relations at The Education Trust-West. The coalition will also rely on a steering committee of diverse leaders from around California that was responsible for getting the initiative placed on the ballot.

The coalition website is at voteyesonprop16.org, on Twitter @YesProp16, on Facebook @YesOnProp16, and on Instagram @YesOnProp16.

Our shared values and our diverse communities are under attack in America today. White supremacists are on the march, Black people are being shot, Latino immigrants are demonized on a daily basis, COVID-19 is ravaging Native communities, hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise, and many of us fear for our safety because of who we are.

There is something we can do. By supporting Proposition 16, we can push back against Trump and the racism he promotes and build a better future in California. There has never been a more critical time to reinstate equal opportunity in California – as we chart a path forward to a stronger economic future for women and communities of color, and to a California where Black lives matter and our systems are just.

Visit voteyesonprop16.org/donate to contribute to the Opportunity for All Coalition ballot measure committee and be a part of history in California!

ACA 5, the legislation that authorized Proposition 16, was endorsed by over 500 organizations and leaders, including California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, U.S. Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, former California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. 

ACA 5 was also endorsed by MALDEF, SEIU California, ACLU of California, United Farm Workers (UFW), AFSCME Local 3299, San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Dolores Huerta Foundation, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Climate Change & Agriculture Network, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Teachers Association, League of Women Voters California, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was authored by Assemblymembers Weber, Gipson, and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. 

The bill was supported by leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLUs of California, and scores of other community advocates.

California Voters Will Have Their Say on Proposition 209 and Affirmative Action

With Successful Senate Vote, ACA 5 Clears California Legislature and Goes to November Ballot

The Opportunity For All Coalition today celebrated the full, historic passage of ACA 5 — allowing California voters to reinstate affirmative action — through the State Legislature. For the first time in a generation, Californians will have the opportunity to vote to repeal Proposition 209 and reinstate affirmative action statewide.

Eva Paterson, President of the Equal Justice Society and Co-Chair of the Opportunity For All Coalition behind ACA 5, said, “I am thrilled by this historic vote. For the past generation, many of us have dreamed of the day when we could reinstate affirmative action in California by overturning Proposition 209. Strangely enough the twin disasters of Covid 1619—that is not a typo—and the televised murder of Mr. George Floyd led us to this moment. As Trevor Noah pointed out, Covid 1619 removed all the usual distractions and forced us to sit and watch the life drain out of Mr. Floyd’s body as he called for his mother. White America could not longer pretend that we live in a colorblind post-racial America.

She continued, “I am thankful for the grassroots coalition that has pushed for this legislation since August and I can’t wait for the next stage of this historic campaign. There are 132 days until November 3rd and 99 days until voting by mail is over.”

Vincent Pan, Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and Co-Chair of the Opportunity For All Coalition, said, “Today’s historic vote is a testament to the power of our coalition, and the power of the moment we find ourselves in as a state and a nation. Legislators and voters alike are looking to rebuild a better world: where Black lives matter, where no one is more vulnerable to a health or economic crisis than anyone else, and where all of us have equal opportunity to succeed no matter what we look like, or who we are.” He continued, “In this pivotal time, in an election where so many Californians are ready to demand change, we will be able to not just reverse the mistakes made in 1996, but once again plant California’s flag as a national leader for justice.”

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, said, “We can’t fix problems we refuse to look at, and it is past time to acknowledge that race and gender matter for California’s students. From pre-school through higher education, we give students of color unequal access to quality education and teachers who look like them; to advanced coursework and college opportunity and then we pretend to be shocked by gaps in educational attainment and economic opportunity. We steer young women away from science, technology, math, and engineering, even as we denounce the pay gap. Repealing Prop 209 is a critical first step toward confronting discrimination and structural inequality so we can build a California that truly provides opportunity for all.”

“Reinstating affirmative action in California will be an enormous victory for workers,” said Julie Walters, State Political Director of AFSCME Local 3299. For too long, we have been unable to ensure women and people of color have an equal shot at making a decent wage, at promotions, and at attaining leadership roles to move our state into the future. As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis and get people back to work, we have an opportunity to not just rebuild our economy, but also build one that is more equitable, and more sustainable.”

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 500 organizations and leaders, including California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, U.S. Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, former California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by SEIU California, ACLU of California, United Farm Workers (UFW), AFSCME Local 3299, San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Dolores Huerta Foundation, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Climate Change & Agriculture Network, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Teachers Association, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was authored by Assemblymembers Weber, Gipson and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. The bill was supported by leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLUs of California, and scores of other community advocates.For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5, and for updates on how the coalition will take further action for equal opportunity, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

ACA 5 Passes Senate Appropriations Committee, Heads to Senate Floor

The Opportunity for All Coalition today celebrated the California State Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval of ACA 5, which sends the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote. If the vote is successful on the Senate floor, California voters will officially have the opportunity to reinstate affirmative action statewide.

Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan, co-chairs of the Opportunity For All Coalition, lauded the committee’s vote, saying, “We are thrilled that our bill is headed to the Senate floor for a full vote. Every Senator deserves to have their say on this critical measure — just as every Californian deserves to have their say on equal opportunity programs. As our state envisions a more equitable future where Black Lives Matter and California’s women and communities of color are not left vulnerable to any public health or economic crises, we all deserve to have a voice.”

Finally, they said, “We are confident the State Senate will keep the voters of California in mind when they vote on the bill. This is a historic moment for California and for our country, and we believe California voters can meet this moment, by reinstating affirmative action.”

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 500 organizations and leaders, including California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, U.S. Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, former California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by SEIU California, ACLU of California, United Farm Workers (UFW), AFSCME Local 3299, San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Dolores Huerta Foundation, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Climate Change & Agriculture Network, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Teachers Association, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was authored by Assemblymembers Weber, Gipson and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. The bill was supported by the leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLUs of California and scores of other community advocates. 

For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5, and for updates on how the coalition will take further action for equal opportunity, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

U.S. Senators Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, and 22 U.S. Representatives Endorse ACA 5

The Opportunity for All Coalition today celebrated Rep. Karen Bass’ (CA-37) support letter for ACA 5, Asm. Dr. Shirley Weber’s (D – San Diego) bill allowing California voters to reinstate affirmative action programs. The letter written by Rep. Bass — an iconic civil rights leader in her own right — was cosigned by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, along with 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The entire letter and its signatories is copied below.

The letter states, “We have an historic opportunity to advance racial and gender equality in a time when women and communities of color are bearing dramatic disproportionate burdens of a global health pandemic, a national economic crisis, police brutality, and incarceration. California does not currently have the tools it needs to address these and other burdens in the short or long term,” It continues, “…as we work to fight the effects of COVID-19, federal relief efforts are a start at rebuilding our economy and our society, but we must do much more to ensure that California rebuilds stronger. Our efforts will be hobbled as long as Prop 209 is the law.” 

Finally, the letter says, “Too many Californians have been artificially and intentionally held back by unequal opportunities for far too long. We can work together, in this critical moment, to rebuild our nation and our communities in truly equitable ways, and put California and the nation on a path toward a stronger future.” 

Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan, Co-Chairs of the Opportunity for All Coalition, celebrated the new endorsements, saying, “It is an incredible honor to receive the support of so many incredible leaders from across California. These leaders know how critical it is to meet the moment we find ourselves in: both a national moment of reckoning on racial justice, and a crisis that is severely impacting women and communities of color. They know that repealing Proposition 209 and reinstating equal opportunity programs is exactly how we can build the more equitable, stronger California we all want to see. They know that ACA 5 is exactly how we can meet this moment.” 

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 500 organizations and leaders, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, former California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by SEIU California, ACLU of California, United Farm Workers (UFW), AFSCME Local 3299, San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, Cesar Chavez Foundation, Dolores Huerta Foundation, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Climate Change & Agriculture Network, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Teachers Association, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was authored by Assemblymembers Weber, Gipson and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. The bill was supported by the leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLUs of California and scores of other community advocates. 

For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5, and for updates on how the coalition will take further action for equal opportunity, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

____________

Below is the letter penned by U.S. Representative Karen Bass (CA-37).

June 22, 2020

The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom 1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable President Pro Tem Toni Atkins State Capitol, Room 205

Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Speaker Anthony Rendon State Capitol, Room 219

Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Repeal of Proposition 209

Dear Governor Newsom, President Pro Tem Atkins, and Speaker Rendon:

We have an historic opportunity to advance racial and gender equality in a time when women and communities of color are bearing dramatic disproportionate burdens of a global health pandemic, a national economic crisis, police brutality, and incarceration. California does not currently have the tools it needs to address these and other burdens in the short or long term. I invite you to consider endorsing Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber’s (D-San Diego) historic bill to restore affirmative action, the California Act for Economic Prosperity. This bill would give a new generation of Californians a chance to repeal Proposition 209, which bars affirmative action in public contracting, public employment, and public education.

Demonstrations across the state and across the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have sparked wider conversations about the historical and ongoing economic,

legal and policy structures that have prevented African Americans and other people of color from taking advantage of public resources to advance and protect themselves and their communities. Federal policies literally “redlined” people of color out of federally-subsidized mortgages for most of the 20th century, practices that still have effects today; studies and court cases have concluded that federal agencies have consistently denied federal loans to farms and businesses owned by people of color; and federal drug policies have notoriously had the effect of disproportionately incarcerating Black men and women. Attempts at the state and federal level which began in the 1970s in the name of taking “Affirmative Action” to combat these injustices faced a backlash as early as the 1980s. In California, that backlash culminated in Proposition 209.

Proposition 209, deceptively titled the California Civil Rights Initiative, passed by referendum in 1996 amidst an orchestrated campaign of dog-whistle politics attacking all attempts to level the playing field for women and people of color. Before Prop 209, those efforts at advancing equity had made real progress. But the Wall Street-backed authors of the initiative saw a threat to their economic stranglehold from an increasingly diverse and highly educated population in California; a population better situated to compete in jobs, education, government contracts and other areas of the state’s economy. In passing Prop 209, those groups limited competition in their industries and benefited their own businesses by erecting new institutional barriers burdening the ability of California’s women and people of color achieve positions of economic and business leadership.

Proposition 209 has had immediate, on-going, and long-lasting deleterious effects for California’s women and people of color:

  • One study estimates that women and people of color lose out on $1.1 billion each year in public contracting dollars — lost opportunities to invest in women- and people of color- owned businesses, help all Californians build professional skills, and share prosperity, rather than concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few.
  • The striking shortage of physicians of color (especially Latino and African-American physicians) has worsened since the Prop 209 ban on equal opportunity policies and programs, as the pipeline of Latino and African-American medical students and residents in the estimable UC system has dwindled severely. This restricts access to cultural-competence and geographic equity in healthcare for vulnerable communities, threatening everyone’s health.

Now, 24 years later, as we work to fight the effects of COVID-19, federal relief efforts are a start at rebuilding our economy and our society, but we must do much more to ensure that California rebuilds stronger. Our efforts will be hobbled as long as Prop 209 is the law. Prop 209 prevents California’s leaders from addressing structural economic and educational barriers to advancement and equality.

For historical and social reasons women and people of color make up the majority of the critical workforce on the frontlines of the COVID-19 virus. Before the novel virus, we did not fully appreciate the vital work women and people of color do to enable all Americans to live our lives. The critical work they do has been historically under-paid and under-valued, and the women and people of color who provide that labor are more vulnerable to the economic and health effects of the pandemic. Building a stronger nation after COVID-19, a nation in which we endeavor to prevent and prepare for the next pandemic, requires expanding economic opportunity in California by providing equal access to higher education and good jobs, and contributes to health and security.

California leads the nation in forming public policy. With a state population that is 40 million strong, and demographic diversity that current trends indicate the nation is soon to mirror, California is critical to the future of the nation. Thus, the California Congressional delegation has a direct interest in repealing Prop 209. The effects of decisions made to rebuild California post- COVID-19 will ripple across House and Senate legislative committees, where California Members hold key leadership positions.

California has the opportunity to lead the nation in making equitable investments in infrastructure, public employment, and public education. The lessons from these investments will contribute to calculations and analyses that California Members will use on the Committees on Transportation & Infrastructure and Education & Labor, among others, as Congress works to help our nation recover. A recent report on infrastructure policy indicates that persistent lack of investment has left millions of people in the nation’s urban and rural communities without safe drinking water, sidewalks, parks, or other critical infrastructure. Congressional action in the wake of the novel coronavirus presents an opportunity to create jobs, educate our workforce, and expand business opportunities. Repealing Prop 209 will help ensure these economic benefits in California are accessible to a broad cross section of residents, including individuals with barriers to employment, and will ensure that our federal investments contribute to a future of shared prosperity.

Achieving national prosperity and resilience will require that California lead the way, as it has so often, in removing barriers to implementing equity strategies like affirmative action as one of the many tools available to decision-makers. This bill will remove barriers to women and people of color advancing in the workforce and to public investment in woman- and minority-owned small businesses that generate good jobs; jobs we will need to rebuild our economies.

Momentum is growing for this critical legislation after a strong bipartisan showing in its first committee vote in the State Assembly. We urge you to consider endorsing this legislation.

Too many Californians have been artificially and intentionally held back by unequal opportunities for far too long. We can work together, in this critical moment, to rebuild our nation and our communities in truly equitable ways, and put California and the nation on a path toward a stronger future.

Sincerely,

Karen Bass

Member of Congress

Sent on behalf of the following signatories:

Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Senator

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. Senator

Katie Porter Member of Congress

Alan Lowenthal Member of Congress

Julia Brownley Member of Congress

Lucille Roybal-Allard Member of Congress

Mark Takano Member of Congress

Ami Bera, M.D. Member of Congress

Doris Matsui Member of Congress

Ro Khanna Member of Congress

Jackie Speier Member of Congress

Mark DeSaulnier Member of Congress

Jimmy Gomez Member of Congress

Raul Ruiz Member of Congress

Brad Sherman Member of Congress

Linda T. Sánchez Member of Congress

Barbara Lee Member of Congress

Ted W. Lieu Member of Congress

Jared Huffman Member of Congress

Jerry McNerney Member of Congress

Grace Napolitano Member of Congress

TJ Cox Member of Congress

Juan Vargas Member of Congress

Nanette Diaz Barragán Member of Congress

Eric Swalwell Member of Congress

Anna G. Eshoo Member of Congress

###

Opportunity for All Coalition Applauds API Legislative Caucus Endorsement of ACA 5

Today the Opportunity for All Coalition applauded the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus’ announcement of support for ACA 5. ACA 5 would put a measure on the November ballot to allow California voters to decide on restoring affirmative action in the state.

The co-chairs of the Opportunity for All campaign to repeal Prop 209 issued the following statement. The co-chairs of the campaign are Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Eva Paterson, President of the Equal Justice Society. 

We applaud the API Legislative Caucus’ endorsement of ACA 5, and are grateful for their support. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, too many Californians were being denied the opportunity to get ahead. Communities of color, including AAPI communities, have also been the most impacted by COVID-19 — in health outcomes, in racist attacks, and in economic impact. But because of Prop 209, our state leaders can’t provide remedies to AAPI, Black, or Latino people to help in recovery from the pandemic. 

The vast majority of AAPI voters support affirmative action, and that support is growing. Over 200 AAPI organizations, elected officials, and other leaders support ACA 5. Despite some persistent myths, AAPI communities across the state stand to benefit from restoring affirmative action. 

California is one of only eight states that bans affirmative action. As one of the most racially diverse states in the country, it’s long past time to allow race and gender to be considered among other factors for public employment, government contracts and education. 

In a time of national reckoning on this country’s history of racism, this is the year to work together to restore equal opportunity in California.

Additional information 

ACA 5 Passes First Senate Committee Vote

The Opportunity for All Coalition today celebrated the California State Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee’s approval of ACA 5, the first of three key votes the legislation faces in the Senate this month.

Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan, co-chairs of the Opportunity For All Coalition, lauded the committee’s vote, saying, “This is a historic moment both for our coalition, and for California. With this vote, ACA 5 is the first legislation to reinstate affirmative action in California to receive successful votes in both houses of the Legislature.”

They continued, “California voters deserve to have their say on affirmative action — in a national outcry for justice for Black Americans, and in a national public health and economic crisis, which is hitting communities of color and women especially hard. The time is now for California to not just reverse the mistakes of the past, but build a stronger future where Black Californians are treated fairly, and all women and communities of color have equal opportunity to succeed in business, employment, and higher education.”

Finally, they said, “This is now four yes votes in a row for equal opportunity — all by wide margins. We look forward to ACA 5 passing out of the State Senate, and the entire Legislature, finally giving California voters their chance to have their say on affirmative action, for the first time in a generation.”

ACA 5 received a bipartisan 60-9 vote on the floor of the State Assembly on June 10, coming after two successful committee votes in the Assembly where it also received bipartisan support.

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 450 organizations and leaders, including U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Karen Bass (CA-37), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Maxine Waters (CA-43), and Katie Porter (CA-45), California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by SEIU California, ACLU of California, AFSCME Local 3299, San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Federation of Teachers, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was authored by Assemblymembers Weber, Gipson and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. The bill was supported by the leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLUs of California and scores of other community advocates.

For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA 5, and for updates on how the coalition will take further action for equal opportunity, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

ACA 5 Passes Assembly Floor Vote; Bill Moves to State Senate

The Opportunity For All Coalition today celebrated the bipartisan passage of ACA 5 off the State Assembly Floor. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D – San Diego), would allow California voters to have their say on equal opportunity programs like affirmative action, for the first time in a generation — as they were banned by Proposition 209 in 1996.  If the State Senate approves ACA 5 later this month, the measure would be placed on the November 2020 ballot. 

Opportunity for All Coalition co-chairs Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan said, “We are in the midst of a national conversation about systemic racism and the urgency with which we must root out bigotry — because lives depend on it. Today’s historic victory for ACA 5, to give California voters the chance to have their say on affirmative action for the first time in 24 years, is part of that national fight.” 

They continued, “The coalition behind this critical bill, just like the legislators who voted yes today — represents the broad diversity and vibrancy of California.  We are all united in our love for our communities, as well as our belief that to build a stronger future for our state — one that protects all communities from health and economic crises, one that believes that Black Lives Matter — we must make California first in opportunity for all.” 

With its passage off the Assembly Floor, ACA 5 became the first bill providing a path to a full restoration of affirmative action to pass out of one chamber of the California State Legislature.  It will face a floor vote in the Senate later this month, before the June 25th deadline. 

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 250 organizations and leaders, including U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Karen Bass (CA-37) and Ro Khanna (CA-17), California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California State Controller Betty Yee, Insurance Commissioner of California Ricardo Lara, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by SEIU California, ACLU of California, AFSCME Local 3299, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Federation of Teachers, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 was also introduced by Assemblymembers Gipson and Santiago, and co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, Kalra, McCarty, Stone, Wicks, and Senators Bradford, Mitchell, Hueso, and Skinner. ACA 5 is supported by the leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLU of California and scores of other community advocates. 

For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA5, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

ACA 5 Passes Appropriations Committee, Next Vote in Full Assembly

Today the Opportunity for All Coalition celebrated the Assembly Appropriations Committee passage of ACA 5, historic legislation that would allow California voters their first opportunity in a generation to voice their opinion on equal opportunity programs like affirmative action. ACA 5 is authored by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D – San Diego).

The Appropriations Committee victory marks the second major win for ACA 5, coming after a successful 6-1 bipartisan vote on the bill in the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee on May 5.

“We believe that restoring equal opportunity programs in California is the only way we can build a stronger California as we recover from this health and economic crisis. By passing ACA 5, we will ensure that as we rebuild, the state will be able to focus on addressing the needs of California’s women, people of color, and other communities who were the most impacted,” said Opportunity For All Coalition Co-Chairs Eva Paterson and Vincent Pan.

“It’s incredibly exciting that so many California legislators from across the state believe that, too. We all must work together to not just recover from COVID-19, but envision a stronger, more united California that finally delivers equal opportunity in hiring, education, and contracting — all critical pieces of a better future for everyone who calls the Golden State home.” 

They continued, “We look forward to ACA 5’s vote on the Assembly Floor later this month. We’re confident that Assemblymembers from across California understand the critical nature of equal opportunity programs — and understand that voters deserve their chance to have their say on the issue, for the first time in a generation.” 

ACA 5 has been endorsed by over 250 organizations and leaders, including U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37) and Ro Khanna (CA-17), San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, California State Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. It is also endorsed by ACLU of California, AFSCME Local 3299, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Federation of Teachers, California National Organization for Women, California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society, The Education Trust – West, and the University of California Student Association.

ACA 5 is co-authored by Assemblymembers Burke, Cooper, Gonzalez, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kamlager, McCarty, and Mark Stone, and Senators Bradford and Mitchell. ACA 5 is supported by the leading civil rights organizations, labor groups and business leaders across California including Equal Justice Society, the California Black Chamber of Commerce, Chinese for Affirmative Action, ACLU of California and scores of other community advocates. 

For more information about the Opportunity for All Coalition behind ACA5, visit https://opportunity4all.org.

Justice for George Floyd

We stand with George Floyd’s family and all those demanding justice and accountability for the Black lives taken by police violence.  It is incumbent upon all of us to call out and attack the deep-seated prejudice, discrimination, and structural racism that has long plagued our country.

As a coalition founded to reinstate affirmative action in California, we know the myriad ways in which structural racism and systemic discimination has harmed and limited the potential of Black lives.  Now is the time for positive change through collective action, and we will be undeterred by the efforts of those who will try to distract and divide us.  

Now more than ever, we at Opportunity for All are united in our struggle to create a more fair, just, and equitable California.  Our struggle at its core is about our shared humanity and the right of all communities to live with the dignity and respect that they deserve.