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News Redistricting

Will Politicians Use Redistricting for Their Own Re-Elections?

Will Orange County’s Top Politicians Use Redistricting to Protect Their Own Re-Elections?

The Orange County Board of Supervisors pose for a photo at a veterans cemetery media event on July 1, 2021. From left: Supervisor Andrew Do, Katrina Foley, Supervisor Doug Chaffee, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, and Supervisor Don Wagner. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

As Orange County’s powerful county supervisors gear up to redraw their own election districts, questions are mounting about whether they will protect their own re-elections by jettisoning parts of their district that didn’t vote for them, and adding in areas that are more favorable at the ballot box.

Areas getting particular attention among county insiders are whether supervisors will move the heavily Democratic communities of Santa Ana, UC Irvine and Laguna Beach out of Republican supervisors’ districts and into nearby districts represented by the board’s two Democratic supervisors.

Four of the five county supervisors didn’t return phone messages for comment on this story.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who did pick up the phone, said he wasn’t aware of any such plans, adding he doesn’t expect the districts to change much.

“I haven’t heard anything, and I’m not sure what I would give up to get. I have no idea what would make my district safer, for me,” Chaffee said.

“And I don’t know how anyone can figure it out at this point without the [new U.S. Census] data yet being released. I don’t really expect too much change,” he added.

Shirley Grindle, a longtime county government watchdog who has been observing supervisors since the 1950s, is skeptical.

In order for redistricting to help residents, as opposed to politicians, Grindle says an independent commission needs to do the work of redrawing election boundaries for offices – not the Board of Supervisors. 

“The only appropriate and ethical thing for the Board to do is to appoint an independent commission to come up with a redistricting map,’ ” said Grindle, who was a lead author on the county’s 1978 campaign finance limits law as well as the 2016 county Ethics Commission.

“The Board needs to stay completely divorced from this process in order to avoid accusations of ‘feathering their own nest.’ ”

Shirley Grindle, a longtime county government watchdog who has been observing supervisors since the 1950s

Case in point, she says, is the recent action by three supervisors to put a measure on the ballot that resets and extends their own term limits, using ballot language that was widely seen as deceptive and self-serving by observers from across the political spectrum.

The ballot language supported by Chaffee and supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Andrew Do simply called the measure a “lifetime ban after three terms.”

Conservative and liberal residents – who waited 7 hours to speak when the item was brought up at the end of the supervisor’s agenda – called the measure’s language “sneaky” and a misleading effort by supervisors to extend their own power.

The only public comments supporting the measure were from the three supervisors who voted to put it on the ballot.

A few days later, state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the measure when they approved a new state law banning local ballot measures from the upcoming governor recall election.

Supervisors can try again next year.

“If their term limit proposal had been written so as not to allow some of the current supervisors to serve [three] more terms, they would probably have had support from many of us because it was a lifetime ban,” Grindle said.

‘Buckle Up’

Jon Fleischman, an OC-based conservative activist who formerly served as executive director of the California Republican Party, noted that redistricting is inherently political.

“I think that everyone should have a realistic expectation that redistricting is a fundamentally political process,” said Fleischman, who publishes the Flash Report.

“This is the drawing of political boundaries, so in addition to having community groups of interest, you’re going to have political groups of interest all lobbying the Board of Supervisors,” he added.

“Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride.”

OC’s Lack of Outreach So Far Stands in Contrast With Other Governments

While other nearby local governments have been gathering public input for months on what their new district maps should look like, Orange County has not.

The state commission in charge of redrawing legislative and Congressional seats also has been conducting dozens of Zoom outreach meetings.

OC officials say they plan to start public outreach in the coming weeks, through a series of meetings required by state law.

Redistricting can have huge implications for democratic representation.

“In a democracy, voters are supposed to choose the representatives. The representatives are not supposed to choose the voters,” said Fred Smoller, a political science professor at Chapman University, recently told Voice of OC.

“[When] you have the public officials drawing the districts, they get the ability to ensure their own re-election. And that’s why we have to have a system for choosing public officials that is above reproach.”

What Happened Last Time

The last time OC supervisors redrew the boundaries, they handed off the process to their own political aides and focused on protecting their own seats.

“Continuity of representation” was the way supervisors put it in their goals for redistricting a decade ago.

During the 2011 redistricting, Latino and Vietnamese resident groups criticized the county for not doing much of its redistricting work in public.

Voice of OC reported at the time that at their few public meetings, committee members heard public concerns and then, with little discussion, voted for the maps already drawn by the supervisors’ offices.

The final map approved in 2011 split Orange County’s sizable Latino community into two districts.

And it redrew the supervisors’ district boundaries in a way that a local Republican Party leader said guaranteed GOP victories in all five seats.

The next few years did go on to yield solid wins for the GOP, with Republican candidates winning all county supervisor elections in the seven years after the maps were redrawn.

Can a Commission Truly be Independent?

Supervisor Chaffee, one of two Democrats on the board traditionally dominated by the GOP,  questioned how Grindle’s proposal of an “independent” redistricting commission – such as the one California voters put in place for state and federal districts – could actually be independent.

“How would that even be composed? Would it not be a political body in the first place?” Chaffee asked.

“Who’s choosing it, how does that happen? Do you select out of a hat, put all of the judge’s names…how would you get a truly independent body, that’s the first question. If it’s truly independent and they’re smart people, fine.”

When it comes to redrawing state and federal districts, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is required to have five Republicans, five Democrats, and four members who aren’t affiliated with either of the two major parties.

Much of the selection involves random drawing of names among applications who are deemed qualified by state auditors.

The state commission is prohibited from taking partisan considerations into account, and instead must prioritize keeping similar communities together when redrawing districts.

For reshaping the OC supervisor district lines, the incumbent supervisors will themselves be deciding how the maps will be redrawn – and which voters get moved from one district to another.

Will Politics Play a Role?

Carolyn Cavecche, a former mayor of Orange who now serves as president of the OC Taxpayers’ Association, said her group will be keeping a close eye.

“We’re going to be watching to see if it looks like any deals are being made amongst the supervisors…to move districts even more Republican or more Democrat,” she told Voice of OC.

“I think especially among District 1 and District 2, it will be interesting to see how those two specific districts’ [maps] end up in the next election cycle.”

Chaffee, who’s running for re-election next year, says he works hard to not take politics into account when he’s making decisions.

“I try to keep politics out of everything,” he said.

Yet Grindle says she’s seen a clear pattern over the decades she’s watched supervisors:

“Once they get a taste of that power and influence, it’s all about getting re-elected.”

Mike Moodian, a public policy researcher at Chapman University, said it’s typically in politicians’ nature to hold on to their influence.

“Generally,” he said, “elected officials do whatever they can do to maintain power.”

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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News Redistricting

“Help O.C.’s ethnic and beach communities boost political power”

Locals tell Redistricting Commission: Help O.C.’s ethnic and beach communities boost political power

The relatively small group of residents who spoke during the first California Citizens Redistricting Commission to be held in Orange County in nearly a decade offered a common suggestion:

Carve out political districts that strengthen the power of the county’s distinct ethnic communities, and then do the same for the county’s beach communities.

But not all of the more than 40 residents who made comments during the online meeting Thursday, July 8, agreed on how those communities should be represented. And their differences highlighted the complexity of the political dilemmas facing the citizen panel, which, over the next few months, will redraw state and federal legislative districts in ways that will shape power in Sacramento and Washington D.C. over the next decade.

“I don’t envy your decision-making in terms of where the lines are drawn on the edges of some of these cities,” Tammy Tran, 40, of Westminster told the commission as she requested more recognition for sprawling Little Saigon.

Once a decade, after the federal government publishes updated census information, California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission must, by law, redraw boundaries for state and federal political districts. Those boundaries will determine the specific voters who will send people to the U.S. House of Representatives, the California State Senate and Assembly, and the State Board of Equalization.

In addition to evenly distributing voters and following other guidelines, the citizen commission also must learn about so-called “communities of interest” across the state and, whenever possible, keep those communities together as they sketch out new districts.

But the definition of communities of interest, and the boundaries of those communities, is far from black and white. That’s where meetings — like the one held Thursday for Orange County, and about 35 similar meetings slated to be held statewide through September — come into play.

“We need the neighborhood and community of interest information from you,” Linda Akutagawa, a member of the state redistricting commission from Huntington Beach, told residents who tuned in to Thursday’s virtual meeting.

Roughly a third of the people who spoke during the meeting asked about political unification of Little Saigon, which is is now spread between three Congressional districts. The not-so-little community of about 200,000 — the largest concentrated Vietnamese population outside Vietnam — is centered in Westminster and Garden Grove but also includes portions of Fountain Valley, Stanton, Midway City and west Santa Ana.

“Instead of dividing those into three congressional districts, please do it as two so at least we have a stronger voice in Congress,” said Hang Hopper of Fountain Valley.

A similar request came from Caroline Nguyen, a program assistant with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. Her grassroots group participated in Thursday’s meeting as one of 15 partners in the People’s Redistricting Alliance, launched in February by the progressive Orange County Civic Engagement Table. Multiple members of the group spoke about requests to keep O.C.’s historically disadvantaged communities together, with some providing the commission with written testimony supporting 18 communities of interest, including Asian American, Latino and LGBTQ populations.

“I ask this commission to do a better job than the 2011 commission in how it treats the Hispanic community,” said Mario Rodriguez, a founding member of Hispanic 100, an organization that mentors Hispanic adults in Orange County.

Before the 2011 round of redistricting, for example, Rodriguez said Assembly District 69 included a solid Hispanic community. But Rodriguez and others said lines drawn that year divided the county’s Hispanic voice and diluted the group’s power by carving heavily Latino portions of Tustin and Orange.

Another speaker asked the commission to protect Latino voices by keeping Anaheim Hills in a separate district from other parts of Anaheim. Even though the communities reside in the same city, the demographics in the two communities are distinct, and want different things from lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington. One speaker recalled an era in the not-so-distant past when Anaheim’s City Council was dominated by people from the wealthier foothill area, even as most of the city’s population was less diverse, less advantaged and lived in the “flatlands.”

There was some disagreement over whether all of Orange County’s beach communities should be in a single Congressional district, or if they should remain split between two districts. For now, the northern coastal cities from Seal Beach to Laguna Niguel are in CA-48 and represented by Republican Michelle Steel. But the county’s southern coastal cities are combined with cities in north San Diego County in CA-49, and they are represented by Democrat Mike Levin.

Former Seal Beach Mayor Ellery Deaton asked the commission to put all of the coastal communities into a single district, arguing it will give them a stronger voice to tackle unifying issues such as beach erosion, flood control and tourism.

“If we don’t have a representative who is focused on protecting our beaches, but instead is split among many interests, the resulting dilution to the communities of interest — all of them, whether inland or at the beach — results in not being properly served,” Deaton said.

Peter “PT” Townend, a former world professional surfing champion who advocates for Huntington Beach tourism and wetlands, echoed that request. With the global surfing industry centered in multiple O.C. cities, Townend said it makes sense to him that they have a single representative fighting for their common causes.

“The more people who care about an issue, the greater likelihood that an elected official will respond in a timely manner,” said Jake Schwartzberg, a high school math teacher from San Clemente who also favors clustering the beach communities.

But Livia Beaudin, an environmental attorney based in Oceanside, asked the commission to keep southern Orange County’s beach communities grouped with northern San Diego County’s beach cities, as they now are in CA-49. Beaudin said the areas have distinct shared interests, such as bluff erosion, water quality, planned desalination plants and waste removal at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She urged that the communities remain in a single congressional district “despite the county border.”

Another resident who spoke in favor of keeping a Congressional district intact even though it crosses counties lines was Susan Pearlson of Brea. She lives in CA-39, which includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and is represented by Republican Young Kim. While the district’s boundaries might seem nonsensical to some, Pearlson said the areas are strongly united around concerns over the traffic bottleneck at the 57 and 60 freeways, as well as fire danger from the nearby hills, and a shared desire to preserve the open space between them.

The meeting, as was the case with the seven other redistricting hearings already held in other parts of the state, was conducted virtually. Commission spokesman Fredy Ceja said the group hopes to hold hybrid meetings — with people able to appear virtually or in person — as soon as next month.

Attendance at the meetings started out slow, with some leaders fearing burnout from the pandemic and political tension. But Ceja said the commission’s outreach effort around the state is boosting participation, with more people showing up at each meeting.

In addition to testimony heard at hearings, the commission will collect community of interest data into at least mid-September or whenever they finally get data from the Census Bureau. Regular deadlines have been delayed several times due to COVID-19. After that, the commission will actually start drawing new district lines and holding community input meetings on their proposals.

In the meantime, people who want to weigh in on redistricting still have opportunities to be heard. More meetings are scheduled in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Also, people can weigh in via email by using a new online tool — DrawMyCACommunity.org — which lets them sketch out their ideal political districts and make a case for why the state should follow their suggestion.

Residents also can submit testimony by phone, email or letter, with more information at wedrawthelinesca.org/public_comment.

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News Redistricting

Orange County gears up to redraw voting district lines

While Congressional redistricting has a much higher profile, local government agencies – including cities, school districts and Orange County – also are preparing to draw new boundaries this year that will serve them until the 2030 census.

It’s likely to be a bigger deal for the county (whose five supervisors each represent a geographic area) and for the many cities, school districts and special districts that have switched to district-based voting in the last several years where elected leaders now are chosen from their geographic sector of the community.

But by law, everyone has to go through redistricting every 10 years – when data from the decennial census comes out – to ensure residents are getting equitable representation.

Orange County is one of the first to kick off the process locally, with OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley offering “redistricting academy” sessions this month to help local officials through the process and the county planning public workshops in each supervisorial district in August. And residents in some cities are already seeing invitations to community workshops.

The pandemic has made the process a bit more challenging because it delayed census data collection, so state and local governments may not get the information they need until the end of September, several months later than normal.

Most cities and school districts don’t have seats on the ballot until November 2022, so they have a bit longer to redraw their district lines. But the county is still required to have its new maps ready by Dec. 15, so that crunches the schedule for community input, including public meetings and allowing people to draw and submit their own suggested maps, said Jessica Witt, the county’s government and community relations director.

What’s changed?

Although the official numbers aren’t in yet, up-to-date estimates from the state Department of Finance show Orange County’s population grew by just under 5% – adding about 143,000 residents – since 2010, said Deborah Diep, director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Demographic Research, which is working with the county on its redistricting effort.

Those state figures show Irvine grew the most of any OC city, by far, with nearly 60,000 more residents since the last full census. Five other cities and the county’s unincorporated area added more than 5,000 people each in that time, but Anaheim was the only one besides Irvine to break into five digits (with roughly 17,000 new residents).

The growth in nine cities can be counted in the hundreds, and six cities saw their populations shrink a bit since 2010, though none showed a dramatic loss.

What does that mean for the county and any cities or other agencies that use by-district representation? As they draw new lines, officials have to consider a number of factors, said Senior Assistant County Counsel Nicole Walsh:

  • Districts must be roughly equal in population (no more than 10% difference between the biggest and smallest)
  • As much as possible, local communities and neighborhoods should be kept together
  • Districts must be geographically connected (no islands cut off from the rest)
  • Officials must try to avoid splitting up “communities of interest,” which is broadly defined as sharing social or economic interests, but in practice could mean a lot of things.

The county created a comment form to ask residents about communities of interest in their area and has already started getting feedback, Walsh said.

Importantly, the maps aren’t supposed to factor in political considerations, so how many residents in a district are registered as Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter, and boundary changes could mean some sitting officials get drawn out of the area they now represent.

Influencing the process

Unlike Congressional and state legislative seats, which are strongly tied to party politics, elected positions with the county, cities and school boards are technically non-partisan. But political parties still get involved in local elections and take an interest in redistricting, which could help or hurt the chances of their members winning office.

At the local level, there’s nowhere near the “massive outside influence” that goes into ensuring safe districts for state and federal legislators, said Republican political pollster Adam Probolsky.

While he thinks the county’s redistricting after the 2010 census was done fairly, Probolsky said one difference this time may be a “hyper-aware” political environment in which more interest groups are fighting to get noticed.

“Elected officials who are trying to be highly responsible to the differences among us are going to have a lot of challenges in figuring that out, how are we going to be responsive to all those communities,” he said.

But Democratic consultant George Urch said Orange County’s Democratic and Republican parties, and some elected officials, are already focused on local level redistricting as a means of furthering their interests.

California uses an independent commission to redraw lines for state offices, but in most local agencies the elected officials (such as a city council) make the final decision.

“It can severely impact an elected official in terms of their reelection, so there’s high impact and anxiety – and if they can control the process they’re going to try hard to control the process,” Urch said.

Redistricting is supposed to be about fair and equal representation for the residents and communities that make up a city, school district or any other political subdivision, so public involvement is baked into the process.

It may sound bureaucratic and boring, but “redistricting and how we set up our communities, especially on a national level, determines how money is allocated,” Walsh said. “You should care because these are your elected representatives and you want to have a say in that, as much say as you can.”

Information on Orange County’s redistricting effort is at ocgov.com/redistricting. For cities, school boards and other local agencies, check the agency’s website

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News Redistricting

Community Organizations Want Focus on Community, Not Politics

Following a 2011 Orange County Board of Supervisors redistricting designed to ensure partisan control, community organizations and residents are organizing to ensure this decade’s process centers around community needs rather than party politics. A coalition of over 16 groups, the People’s Redistricting Alliance has come together to educate low-income communities of color about the once-a-decade process of redrawing legislative boundaries, mobilize them to participate in public hearings, and create a space through which they can identify “communities of interest” and draw maps that improve the responsiveness of government at all levels.

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News Redistricting

OC to vote on supervisor district map

Orange County will get a new map for its five districts, but the Board of Supervisors have done little public outreach for input on where those district lines should be drawn.
Photo by Shutterstock.
Orange County Supervisors will soon be voting on a new map for its five supervisor districts. This is called redistricting, and it typically happens every 10 years, after a Census, all across America. But there’s been hardly any attempts by the current five supervisors to hear from the public about what those county districts should look like. And that’s raised suspicions that those supervisors will draw that map to ensure they stay in office.

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News Redistricting

Will the Public Get a Say on Who Represents Them?

As OC’s top officials get ready to redraw district maps that affect political power and representation of local communities for the next decade, there are mounting questions about whether local residents will be brought into the process in a meaningful way. 

Other nearby local governments have already started outreach.

And the state commission in charge of redrawing legislative and Congressional seats already is conducting dozens of Zoom outreach meetings.

Orange County officials have done none of that.

So far, the county has not done any public outreach to bring the public into the conversation on redrawing the five supervisors’ districts.

Redistricting can have huge implications for democratic representation.

“In a democracy, voters are supposed to choose the representatives. The representatives are not supposed to choose the voters,” said Fred Smoller, a political science professor at Chapman University.

“[When] you have the public officials drawing the districts, they get the ability to ensure their own re-election. And that’s why we have to have a system for choosing public officials that is above reproach.”

“Now more than ever we should be doing the type of [public] engagement that isn’t being done,” he added.

Voice of OC called and texted all five county supervisors and the county’s chief executive to ask when and how the public will be brought into the redistricting process. Most of the supervisors didn’t respond.

County CEO Frank Kim didn’t have specifics about when the public would be invited into the process, but did say supervisors will probably have a discussion about the redistricting plan next month at one of their regular meetings.

“The public will have sufficient time to engage and be a part of that process,” Kim told Voice of OC.

The only supervisor who responded to questions about redistricting was Katrina Foley, who took office a few weeks ago and said she’s getting up to speed on how redistricting works.

“For sure we should involve the public, absolutely. I think it’s not only good practice but it’s a requirement of law,” Foley said in an interview last week.

“So having transparency and outreach, making sure we have materials translated so everyone in our community can participate, making sure that we have advanced notice of all the different meetings and outreach opportunities, making sure that the maps that are discussed are available for people in a way that’s easy to access, getting input from the community is important,” as well as “making sure we understand where we might be unintentionally displacing cultural groups,” she added.

Foley provided the redistricting timeline officials are considering – something no other county officials would disclose.

County officials are considering doing one outreach meeting in each supervisor’s district in the coming months, for a total of five meetings.

That’s fewer outreach meetings in Orange County than are planned by the state redistricting commission, which has completed or planned at least eight in OC.

The outreach plan is expected to come before supervisors in June for approval, Foley said.

The last time OC supervisors redrew the boundaries, they handed off the process to their own political aides and focused on protecting their own seats.

“Continuity of representation” was the way supervisors put it in their goals for redistricting a decade ago.

During the 2011 redistricting, Latino and Vietnamese resident groups criticized the county for not doing much of its redistricting work in public.

Voice of OC reported at the time that at their few public meetings, committee members heard public concerns and then, with little discussion, voted for the maps already drawn by the supervisors’ offices.

The final map approved in 2011 split Orange County’s sizable Latino community into two districts.

And it redrew the supervisors’ district boundaries in a way that a local Republican Party leader said guaranteed GOP victories in all five seats.

The next few years saw solid wins for the GOP, with Republican candidates winning all county supervisor elections in the seven years after the maps were redrawn.

Some local residents are now calling on supervisors to start publicly discussing redistricting this month – and looking at appointing a citizens commission to oversee the process.

“Redistricting impacts how responsive elected officials are to communities,” Brea resident Jonathan Paik told county supervisors at their latest meeting in late April.

“Given the vital support county services provide to the most vulnerable here in Orange County, it is critical that community needs rather than party politics guide how Orange County Board of [Supervisors] district lines are drawn.”

There was no response from county supervisors at the meeting.

Residents also have called for the supervisors to not pick the lines, and instead have an independent commission draw them – like the process California voters approved in 2008 for state and Congressional districts.

Now, there’s questions about the very structure of the Board of Supervisors – including whether expanding the number of board members would bring representatives closer to the people.

When Orange County was formed in 1889, its five supervisors each represented about 2,700 residents. Today, they each represent about 640,000 people.

Smoller is among those who question why cities like Garden Grove City Council has seven members, while the county Board of Supervisors – which is supposed to represent far more people – has five.

“The board of supervisors is an artifact of the previous century – in fact the century previous to that. It was constructed when there were more cows than people” in Orange County, he said.

“Those are the larger structural questions that do need to be looked at. Because we’ve got 3.1 million people.”

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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News

White Pride and Prejudice in Huntington Beach

Hatred looms on the horizon in Huntington Beach.

Ku Klux Klan propaganda sealed in plastic bags first arrived on the doorsteps of homes in Newport Beach before making similar Easter morning appearances in HB. The littering came amid a planned “White Lives Matter” rally at the pier slated to take place today.

It’s not a new tactic.

In recent years, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK have left flyers in Fullerton, Santa Ana, Orange and Anaheim. Only, back then those baggies came with a rock and a Tootsie Roll. Will Quigg, an infamous OC klukker, must’ve exhausted his Halloween candy stash this time around, if, indeed, he’s the man behind the hate mail. In 2016, Quigg’s Klan held a rally-turned-melee at Pearson Park in Anaheim where the Invisible Empire once gathered 20,000 strong in 1924.

Huntington Beach is no historical stranger to the Klan, either.

On Labor Day weekend that same year, HB expected to receive as many as 20,000 klukkers for festivities that included Klan marching bands, an aerial circus and a fireworks show. Carl Goetz, who helped organize the event, announced that 5,000 Klansmen alone would participate in the Labor Day morning parade as well as a 75-piece Klan band. And, in a show of force, they’d be parading with hoods off.

“If our friends want to find out who Klansmen are,” said Goetz, “they will have the opportunity to look hundreds of them in the face if they attend the celebration.”

J.A. Armitage, secretary of the HB Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Hooded Order to town by assuring ample parking and other accommodations would greet the masses.

A full-page ad in the Aug. 28, 1924 edition of the Santa Ana Register promoted the weekend events without mentioning the Klan. Former Register staff writer Tom Lewis was set to deliver a keynote speech on Labor Day entitled “100% Americans” as the Grand Exalted Cyclops of the LA Klan. But the day after the announcement, a civil war brewed within the ranks of LA klukkers, culminating in Lewis’ firing. He splintered off and created an “independent” Klan.

Tiffs aside, the Labor Day parade carried on and seemed to be a success. A framed panoramic photo from the event housed at the Anaheim Heritage Center shows Klansmen and their families in white robes with their hoods off. Visiting Klan marching band members from Santa Monica proudly posed by their instruments.

The wife of Charles McClure, Brea’s first police chief and a documented member of the Klan, spent Labor Day in HB as reported in a social column that appeared in the Register.

(Quick aside: she must’ve been working on her Klan tan at the beach!).

Labor Day “Klanorama” photo in Huntington Beach (1924) / Courtesy Anaheim Public Library

But the following month, the Klan encountered controversy when it planned to return to HB for another parade, this time marking Armistice Day. The Anaheim and Fullerton Kiwanis clubs threatened to pull their floats from the festivities following an announcement of the Hooded Order’s participation.

Two days later, the Klan bowed out under pressure.

“In the interests of peace and harmony, we will refrain from participation,” read a statement from Dr. Roy S. Horton, a Klansman and Santa Ana school board trustee. “We wish to state, however, that many Klansmen will be present and as individuals will give themselves whole-heartedly to the end that the observation of Armistice Day may be a success.”

Indeed, as the Klan noted, the Hooded Order had been invited in the first place. Lewis Blodget, HB’s city attorney, sought to meet with the Kiwanis clubs to smooth things out as he was the chairman of the parade committee.

“In admitting that he would seek to bring about an accord on the matter Blodget said that the Huntington Beach parade committee had not been cognizant of the intense bitterness existing in the two north Orange county towns when plans for the parade were made,” reported the Register, “and regretted that the exception had been taken to the invitation issued to county klans to participate.”

The year before, Blodget hadn’t been so inviting when signing off on a Lion’s Club resolution demanding that socialist Eugene Debs, who opposed U.S. intervention in World War I and spent years in prison for it, not be allowed to speak in Huntington Beach following its Labor Day celebration.

As Anaheim was on the cusp of ousting four Klan city councilmen in a February 1925 recall election, the tide began turning against the Invisible Empire in HB. In January, the city’s Lion’s Club ousted three prominent members, including city councilman Charles Boster, for attending a luncheon in town with Reverend Leon Myers, the Anaheim-based Exalted Cyclops of the OC Klan. The club accused the men of snitching on locals in the battle over bootlegging.

HB city council followed that same month by denying the use of a public auditorium for a speech by Reverend E.J. Bulgin, a traveling preacher and suspected Klan agitator.

The stage was set for a recall effort amid the acrimony. Councilmen Richard Drew and James Macklin were targeted by a circulating petition. One of the reasons cited was the blocking of Bulgin by the councilmen, a move that deprived residents of the chance to hear his speech.

By April, the Chamber of Commerce had stern words for the Hooded Order it allowed to parade on its streets just months prior and now blamed for the recall, believing the Klan wanted to replace the targeted councilmen with its own members.

“The Ku Klux Klan would take away the rights of American citizenship, and substitute secret political plots and methods by dictating to their members what they shall do,” said Sam Bowen, president of the chamber. “We should set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred, and intolerance.”

Lofty words, but hardly without hypocrisy.

The quote came on the heels of Bowen’s chamber, itself, spearheading public opposition to the Pacific Beach Club, a planned African American resort that unknown arsonists later burned to the ground on the morning of January 21, 1926 just a few weeks shy of its opening, a story for another Slingshot.

Undeterred by Bowen’s anti-Klan declaration, but not on account of its hypocrisy, residents continued pushing for the recall and claimed the Klan served as a convenient scapegoat against it.

The effort carried on for months. Blodget, as city attorney, advised city councilmembers to take no action on the recall on the grounds that the petition presented was inadequate. William Taylor Newland, a ranch owner and “Bishop of Huntington Beach,” took the matter to Superior Court in hopes of compelling the council to order a recall election, but a judge sided with Blodget in July.

Another fatal blow came when one of the leaders of the recall effort left HB for Long Beach later that month.

Almost a century later, the remnants of the Klan have planned a return to Huntington Beach. But it’s not just the refashioned black uniformed klukkers causing trouble. Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys have teamed up over Telegram for the nationwide “White Lives Matter” rallies. An image from a non-Klan flyer shows the same artwork used by Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that morphed into the fascist Patriot Front.

Unlike the Klan at Labor Day, the flyer encourages rally goers to wear masks for the sake of anonymity.

With kounter-protests planned and intense media attention on HB, whoever is truly organizing the rally is now claiming the location won’t be revealed until today. Will extreme prejudice come to the pier again? Did it ever really leave?

The uncomfortable truth for Huntington Beach and Orange County alike is that apparitions of the Klan, past and present, are hardly the only harbingers of hate.

– Gabriel San Román

This independent newsletter in OC depends on readers like YOU! To keep the Slingshot! flinging the truth Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2. PayPal: @gabrielsanroman2

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

Abigail Disney is a class traitor–and damn proud of it. The granddaughter of Roy O. Disney continues to speak out against income inequality. The heiress backed Senator Bernie Sanders, a prominent Disney critic, in his effort to raise taxes on inherited wealth, like her own fortune. “My grandfather paid a much higher effective tax rate than we do now, and yet still managed, after paying off the Estate Tax, to leave significant wealth behind to benefit not only his son, but his four grandchildren and even his 16 great-grandchildren,” said Disney before a Senate Budget Committee hearing last month. “What did we ever do to earn the first dollar and what gives us the right to think that any dollar given to the government is a dollar stolen from us?”

With an attention-grabbing last name, she remains outspoken as a member of the Patriotic Millionaires. The group is the subject of a recent profile in the Guardian with Disney being the lead. In it, the filmmaker and activist declined to disclose her net worth, but mentioned that she’s given $72 million away to various causes focused on women experiencing hardships like incarceration or domestic violence.

But Disney knows that charity is no substitute for justice and favors progressive taxation policies that aim to redistribute wealth.

In championing such, she also revealed some intimate details how the Disney dynasty changed. Michael Eisner, as CEO, turned the company her grandfather co-founded with Walt Disney into a modern corporate empire in the 1980s. Pushing back on the “greed is good” ethos of the era, the explosion of dividends following animated blockbusters like Beauty and the Beast drove a wedge between her and Roy E. Disney, her father.

He bought a private Boeing 737; she refused to step foot in it and started parting with her fortune from there on.

When income inequality became a fault-line at the Disneyland Resort, Disney met with workers fighting for a living wage through a ballot initiative and contract campaigns in 2018 and 2019.

“It kills me,” Disney told the Guardian, “because as a child I went there with my grandfather. Now, I may have rose-tinted glasses when looking back, but there was an almost reverence for him, and he had such a rapport with the people who worked there. He would be horrified.”

Dear Abby: can we interest you in starting up a muckraking newspaper in Disneyland’s backyard?

Categories
News

CA to reopen the economy

California is aiming to fully reopen its economy June 15 — the clearest end date eyed for restrictions that have besieged businesses and upended daily life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The date isn’t set in stone. And officials emphasize that getting to the point where California can widely reopen for the first time in more than a year will hinge on two factors: a sufficient vaccine supply to inoculate all those who are eligible and stable and low numbers of people hospitalized with the disease.

June 15 also won’t bring a full return to pre-pandemic life. Notably, California’s mask mandate will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

But officials expressed confidence that the state, through continued improvement in its coronavirus metrics and the steady rollout of vaccines, is now positioned to begin actively planning for what comes after COVID-19.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 05: Statues tower over guests working out at John Reed Fitness on Monday, April 5, 2021 in downtown Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Scenes of a reemerging California: Los Angeles and Orange County enter orange tier

April 2, 2021

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Tuesday. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here — wearing masks and getting vaccinated — but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

Should all go as planned, June 15 will see the official end of California’s current reopening roadmap, which sorts counties into one of four color-coded tiers based on three metrics: coronavirus case rates, adjusted based on the number of tests performed; the rate of positive test results; and a health-equity metric intended to ensure that the positive test rate in poorer communities is not significantly higher than the county’s overall figure.

“The entire state will move into this phase as a whole. This will not be county-by-county,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, said in a briefing call with reporters.

In a statement, officials said those sectors included in the state’s reopening blueprint will be allowed to “return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.”

Ghaly emphasized that, “if we see any concerning rise in our hospitalizations, we will take the necessary precautions. But right now, we are hopeful in what we’re seeing as we continue to build on the 20 million vaccines already administered.”

SANTA MONICA, CA - APRIL 05: Visitors stroll along the Santa Monica Pier on Monday, April 5, 2021 as Los Angeles County entered the less strict orange tier allowing more places to open and inviting more people to venture outdoors. Photographed in Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Vaccinated and eager for normal life, Californians are venturing out. Is it too much too soon?

April 6, 2021

A successful statewide reopening in June poses a major political upside for the governor, who faces a likely recall election in the fall.

Newsom’s chances of surviving a recall could be higher if Californians have resumed some form of pre-COVID-19 life when they cast their ballots. Mass vaccinations and the return of in-person education are critical to that sense of normalcy.

Newsom was the first governor in the nation to issue a stay-at-home order in the early days of the pandemic last year, an action widely cast as the right call to protect California’s fragile healthcare system.

The governor hasn’t received the same praise for his handling of reopenings.

Health experts have said Newsom lifted restrictions too quickly and didn’t reinstate them fast enough when case numbers grew, adding to COVID-19 surges in the summer and winter. Health and Human Services Secretary Ghaly, one of the state’s top health officials, has said he would have slowed the pace of change last summer if he could do it all again.

Rescinding restrictions and launching a sweeping reopening create news risks for Newsom. If the virus surges again or unexpected problems arise, the whiplash of the governor’s constantly changing rules could be fresher in the minds of voters, who may blame him at the polls.

Political experts say the more Californians think of the pandemic in the past tense, the more likely Newsom is to keep his seat.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary, California Health and Human Services, left, inoculates California Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles Thursday, April 1, 2021. Newsom was vaccinated with the new one-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

CALIFORNIA

Facing recall, Newsom’s political future is tied to California vaccine effort

April 1, 2021

The announcement of the targeted reopening date came the same day that California hit its goal of administering 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in its most vulnerable communities — a milestone not only in the ongoing struggle to more equitably give out the precious shots, but in the push to further reopen the state’s economy even ahead of June 15.

Hitting the target means the state will redraft the reopening roadmap to implement new criteria that will allow counties to more quickly relax some of the restrictions on businesses and public spaces.

The changes will, in effect, apply an orange coat to the Golden State.

The tiers outlined in California’s current reopening strategy go from purple, in which coronavirus transmission is considered widespread, and indoor operations are severely limited or suspended across a wide array of business sectors; to red, with fewer restrictions; to orange, with even fewer; and finally, yellow, in which most businesses can open indoors with modifications.

Before Tuesday, counties had to record fewer than 4.0 new cases per day per 100,000 people to move into the orange tier. With the 4-million dose target now achieved, the requirement has been loosened to under 6.0.

Bell, CA, Monday, April 5, 2021 - Covid-19 vaccinations are offered at the Bell Community Center the day it is announced that 4 million shots have been provided to underserved communities. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

How much longer can California buck spring COVID-19 surge? There are concerns

April 6, 2021

Moving into the orange tier has significant economic implications.

Counties can allow bars to reopen outdoors with some modifications, and bars also are no longer required to serve food.

Amusement parks can reopen at up to 25% capacity, and fan attendance is allowed at 33% capacity for outdoor sports and live performances.

Capacity restrictions can also be lifted in stores, although social distancing and other safety modifications still apply; houses of worship, museums, zoos and aquariums can raise their indoor capacity to 50% from 25%; restaurants and movie theaters can raise indoor capacity to 50% capacity or 200 people from 25% or 100 people (whichever is fewer); and indoor gyms and yoga studios can increase capacity to 25% from 10%.

Bowling alleys can reopen with modifications at 25% capacity. Card rooms and satellite wagering sites can also reopen indoors at 25% capacity.

Offices in nonessential industries can reopen, though the state says workers should still be encouraged to work remotely.

Los Angeles, CA - January 15: Dr. Richard Dang, right, Assistant professor USC School of Pharmacy administers COVID-19 vaccine to Ashley Van Dyke as mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

WORLD & NATION

Biden to move up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for all adults to April 19

April 6, 2021

The state-set goal of administering first 2 million, then 4 million doses in targeted communities — namely, those in the lowest quartile of a socioeconomic measurement tool called the California Healthy Places Index — was only one aspect of a wider effort aimed at ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

California has for the last month earmarked 40% of its COVID-19 vaccine supply for residents in those disadvantaged areas, an allocation state officials said would not only help address inequities in the inoculation rollout, but make sure the shots are available to those most at risk from the pandemic.

To date, providers throughout California have doled out 20.3 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 34.2% of residents have received at least one shot, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Roughly 18.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated at this point, meaning they’ve either received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both required doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Nationwide, 32.4% of Americans have received at least one dose and 18.8% are fully vaccinated, CDC data show.

During the early phases of the vaccine rollout, California restricted access to the shots to those considered at highest risk of coronavirus infection, either because of their age, occupation or underlying health conditions.

That will change starting April 15, when anyone age 16 and over will be able to book appointments.

The state had widened vaccine eligibility last week to include everyone 50 and older.

President Biden had initially said states should make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by May 1. But he is expected to announce a more aggressive timeline Tuesday — setting a new deadline of April 19.

Categories
News Redistricting

New Delay for Census Numbers

By Michael Wines and Emily Bazelon

  • Feb. 11, 2021

WASHINGTON — The delivery date for the 2020 census data used in redistricting, delayed first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by the Trump administration’s interference, now is so late that it threatens to scramble the 2022 elections, including races for Congress.

The Census Bureau announced on Friday that it has pushed back its deadline for releasing the population figures needed for drawing new districts for state legislatures and the House of Representatives until Sept. 30. That is six months beyond the usual March 31 deadline and two months beyond the July 31 date that the agency announced last month.

The holdup, which is already cause for consternation in some states, could influence the future of key districts. And with Democrats holding a slim 10-seat House majority, it even has the potential to change the balance of power in the House and some state legislatures, according to Michael Li, the senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. States need the figures this year to redraw district lines for the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and for thousands of seats in state legislatures.New GuidelinesThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on Friday for how to operate schools safely during the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know.

The delay means there will be less time for the public hearings and outside comment required in many states, and less time once maps are drawn to contest new district lines in court, as often happens after redistricting.

“The concern in some of those states is that the legislators will simply use a special session to secretly pass maps with zero public scrutiny, and then count on a tight timetable to eke out at least one election cycle” before a court could require new maps to be drawn, said Kathay Feng, the redistricting and representation director at Common Cause.

The challenges extend beyond just drawing up districts. State and local election officials need time after new political maps are approved to redraw voting precincts and overhaul voter rolls to ensure that everyone is directed to the proper place to vote. And prospective candidates generally cannot file for office until they know whether they live within the new boundaries of the districts they are seeking to represent.

“States are literally sitting on their hands, asking, ‘When will the data come?’” said Jeffrey M. Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School and a longtime expert on census and redistricting law.

The Census Bureau’s delay stems mostly from problems the pandemic caused in last year’s counts of certain places, including college dorms and housing for agricultural workers. College students, for example, should be counted in dormitories and apartments near their schools, but the pandemic sent most students home last spring just as the census was starting. Now experts must find and locate them properly — and also ensure they are not double-counted as living with their parents.

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Such problems can be fixed, Census Bureau officials say, but doing so takes time. The location of millions of people is in play, and allotting or placing seats during reapportionment and redistricting can turn on the location of hundreds.

It remains unclear how serious the political repercussions of the delay will be, but early indications are that Democrats have more reason to worry.

By Mr. Li’s calculation in a report issued on Thursday, Republicans will most likely draw the maps for 181 House seats and Democrats for 49 seats, possibly rising to 74 if the New York Legislature (which is controlled by Democrats) chooses to override the state’s new independent redistricting commission.

The map for the rest of the seats in the House will be drawn either in states where power is split between the parties or in states with nonpartisan redistricting commissions, which have mostly proliferated in blue states like California and Virginia and purple states like Michigan.

That means Republicans, who have already shown an appetite for extreme gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could benefit disproportionately if too little time exists to contest maps drawn by legislatures for 2022 and the rest of the decade.

The biggest targets for increasing one party’s share of Congress are the fast-growing Southern states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, where Republicans oversee the drawing of maps through control of both houses of the legislature.

In Texas, Mr. Li expects Republicans to draw maps that would ensure Republican control of three new House seats that the state is expected to add because of population growth, and two existing seats now held by Democrats. The delay in receiving census data “could be used in some states to game the redistricting process, by leaving less time for legal challenge,” Mr. Li said.

“It used to be, for example, that Texas finished redistricting in June, which gave affected parties six months to litigate,” he said. “Now a map might not be approved until November, which gives you less time to gather evidence and expert testimony.”

Students outside a coronavirus testing site at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month. The pandemic complicated census counts on campuses across the country.
Students outside a coronavirus testing site at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month. The pandemic complicated census counts on campuses across the country.Credit…Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Suits that challenge redistricting often involve complicated fact-finding about whether a state has engaged in racial gerrymandering (either packing Black and Latino voters into a small number of districts to limit the scope of their political power, or spreading them thinly so they cannot easily elect a candidate).

Democrats could try to squeeze out a few more seats in states they control through gerrymandering. But outside of New York, where the Democratic-controlled Legislature has the power to reject maps drawn by an independent commission, the party has slimmer pickings, Mr. Li said.

Some Democrats are more sanguine. Population shifts in fast-growing states like Texas are concentrated in Democratic-leaning cities and suburbs, making it harder to draw districts that dilute the party’s power, said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the party’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

In North Carolina and Pennsylvania — which both have elected Democratic governors — state supreme courts have ruled that the Republican gerrymanders of the last redistricting cycle violate state constitutions, raising a barrier to future distorted maps.

And in other big states that Republicans controlled and gerrymandered a decade ago — Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio among them — either Democratic governors or nonpartisan redistricting commissions place limits on overly skewed legislative maps.

For other reasons, the delay in census totals has the potential to upend map drawing in Illinois and Ohio.

Democrats control 13 of the 18 House seats in Illinois, in part because of gerrymandering. (The state’s total number could drop to 17 after the House is reapportioned this year.) But if final maps cannot be approved by Sept. 1, the Illinois Constitution shifts mapmaking power from the Democratic-controlled Legislature to a panel of four Democrats, four Republicans and one person randomly chosen from the two parties. Giving Republicans a say in map drawing would probably increase the share of seats they are likely to win.

The same could be true in the State Senate, where Democrats now control 70 percent of the chamber’s seats, and in the State House, where they hold 60 percent of them. The Legislature is aware of the Constitution’s redistricting provision, and Democrats could try to address the issue, although how is unclear.

“Illinois is an example of where the Legislature is talking about using old data to produce maps that are largely the same as they currently have — and letting people sue,” Ms. Feng, of Common Cause, said.

The reverse applies in Ohio, where a 2018 referendum amended the State Constitution to hand congressional and state legislative map duties to a bipartisan commission. The same amendment returns redistricting duties to the Republican-dominated Legislature if the commission fails to approve political maps by Oct. 31, barely a month after the Census Bureau’s current estimate for finishing population calculations.

Some experts said legal challenges to redistricting based on the Census Bureau’s delay seemed likely, from voters or candidates who would want to extend the period for drawing maps.

“If the necessary data aren’t available at the time the law says the state redistricting must be done, then a court could relax the deadline,” said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor and co-director of the Stanford-M.I.T. Healthy Elections Project. In some states, courts granted similar pandemic-related extensions for deadlines related to balloting procedures in the November election, like voting by mail.

The rationale is that “given extraordinary circumstances, we’re doing something different this time,” Mr. Persily said.

The delay in receiving the census data could also cause the completion of map drawing to bump up against candidates’ filing deadlines in states like Virginia and New Jersey, which will hold elections for the State Legislature in November, as well as states with early 2022 filing deadlines for later primary elections.

In Virginia, officials said, the delay raises the prospect of holding state legislative elections three years in a row — using old maps this year if the new ones are not finished, using new maps in 2022 and conducting scheduled legislative elections in 2023.

“Whenever this crazy process ends, election administrators have to deal with all these lines,” said Kimball W. Brace, a Washington-based redistricting consultant who usually works with Democratic politicians. “Precincts, voter registration systems — all of that is now in a shorter timetable.”

Come Election Day, he said, “Either you’re ready, or you’re not.”Correction: Feb. 12, 2021

An earlier version of this article misstated the years in which census delays raised the prospect of Virginia holding state legislative elections three years in a row. They are 2021, 2022 and 2023, not 2022, 2023 and 2024.

Michael Wines writes about voting and other election-related issues. Since joining The Times in 1988, he has covered the Justice Department, the White House, Congress, Russia, southern Africa, China and various other topics.  @miwineA version of this article appears in print on Feb. 12, 2021, Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Delay in Census Data Could Affect Elections For Congress in 2022. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Categories
News

Vons, Pavilions to Replace Drivers with Contractors

When Dylan’s grocery delivery arrived a few days before New Years, it came with some bad news. The delivery driver who brought his groceries from Vons mentioned that drivers across the state are getting fired by Vons, Pavilions, and other California stores owned by Albertsons Companies in late February. Stores will instead turn to a third-party delivery service using independent contractors.

“I was disturbed and disappointed that Vons would eliminate these jobs. I felt like they were the only remaining company that treated delivery drivers ethically but no longer,” said Dylan.

After publication, an Albertsons representative sent the following statement: “We will transition that portion of our eCommerce operations to third-party logistics providers.” She added “While we know that this move will help us create a more efficient operation, it wasn’t a decision we made lightly or without a great deal of consideration.”

Drivers under the Albertsons Companies umbrella are employees, while Ralphs delivery is operated by Instacart and Target uses Shipt, a similar app. At Bay Area stores, drivers are unionized, and will not be affected by the layoffs. For southern California shoppers, this move leaves them without a grocery delivery option that treats drivers as employees.

Unions are vowing to fight the change, says Jim Araby, Director of Strategic Campaigns at UCFW5. “The only drivers that kept their jobs were the unionized drivers in the Bay Area. All the other drivers in California were laid off because they were non-union. We represent those drivers and they will keep their job.”

These layoffs are unsurprising after the passage of Proposition 22, which gutted worker protections while making it easier for companies to shift financial burdens onto newly-designated “independent contractors.” In a piece for KNOCK last year, Keith F. Eberl predicted this exact outcome in the opening paragraph:

“Contrary to the companies’ deceptive ad campaign and intimidating messages to their workers, Prop 22 does not preserve driver flexibility or save drivers from politicians. What Prop 22 does do is change current law so the companies can shift their costs to the driver and diminish or remove drivers’ rights, protections, and benefits. Prop 22 will also block drivers’ ability to organize so they can’t collectively bargain a contract. In addition, this proposition will block local governments from writing or enforcing protections for drivers.”

The only surprise is the speed at which Albertsons reversed course on its commitments to workers. This move comes after nearly a year of celebrating grocery store workers for feeding communities. Earlier this year, Albertsons Companies President & CEO Vivek Sankaran said the company was “taking care of our team.” Albertsons Companies “are working… to ensure that every member of our team who faces a crisis can have peace of mind that we will help them get through it.”

Albertsons was happy to reap public goodwill during the pandemic. But once Prop 22 gave the company the option of replacing workers with lower-paid contractors, they jumped at the opportunity. Employees received notice during the holidays that their employment would end one month into the new year.

Early in the pandemic, union members demanded hazard pay, additional medical leave, and employee protections during the pandemic. In March, Safeway and Northern California grocery workers reached an agreement providing these additional benefits.

Labor and management were able to cooperate in April, requesting that grocery workers be designated as first responders. In an April joint statement, Sankaran and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Marc Perrone wrote:

“This joint action is an example of how all Americans must work together to protect everyone working on the frontlines. This includes… associates at our nation’s grocery stores who are providing communities with the essential food and supplies needed to weather this public health crisis.”

Negotiations in October turned contentious, as members of the Teamsters issued a notice of potential strike due to rising healthcare costs. Lou Villavazo, who chairs the bargaining effort, told the Orange County Register that “employers have been bargaining in bad faith. We’ve had over 18 bargaining sessions with them and we provided our economic proposal … but no response.”

Organized labor made the difference for drivers in the Bay Area, who will remain as employees for now. But without the power of a union, southern California drivers lack an organizational structure through which to fight back.

Many, myself included, turned to Vons and Albertsons stores for their groceries, knowing that drivers were employed with benefits. Unionized drivers offered a clear alternative to the hellscape of gig-economy apps like Instacart.

In a March 2020 statement, Sankaran said “these times are unprecedented in the grocery industry… [a] simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like quite enough.” He was right. Delivery drivers deserve healthcare, job protections, and fair wages. Workers won those fights this year because they fought as a union. With DoorDash taking over in February, that united front will be gone.

You can contact Albertsons Companies and let them know what you think of this move:

Vons Retail Store/Corporate Phone Number: 877–723–3929

Albertsons Retail Store/Corporate Phone Number: 877–723–3929

EDITOR’S NOTE: After publication, Albertson’s responded to KNOCK’s request for comment. This piece has since been edited to clarify that union drivers will not be laid off and that workers facing layoffs in Southern California are non-union, as well as to include statements from both Albertsons and UCFW5. The scheduled date of the layoffs was also corrected.