Stronger California 2022 Kickoff Rallies Legislators, Advocates, & Worker Organizers
February 10. 2022
Update: The official Stronger California 2022 Legislative Agenda was announced on March 24, 2022. The agenda includes bills to help parents and family caregivers, fast food workers, domestic violence survivors, and more. Click here to check it out.
On Wednesday, January 19, the Stronger California Advocates Network held our virtual 2022 Back to Session Reception and Policy Convening featuring legislators, advocates, and worker organizers from across the state to recommitting to prioritizing women, families, and low-paid workers in 2022. Attendees celebrated our 2021 policy wins, honored the Legislative Champions who supported those policies, and began looking ahead to what California women and families need most this year.
Featuring speakers from the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and worker leaders, attendees discussed policies contributing to the Stronger California agenda’s four pillars: ensuring fair pay, job opportunities and workplace justice; expanding access to affordable, quality child care and education; building economic security by addressing poverty; and supporting family-friendly workplaces.
Event summary continued below video.
After opening remarks by Stronger California Co-Chairs, Equal Rights Advocates’ Executive Director Noreen Farrell and Policy Director Jessica Ramey Stender, we heard from Chair of of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia:
Assemblymember Garcia spoke about her successful 2021 bill AB 367, a Stronger California priority, which will provide free menstrual products in all California K-12 public school bathrooms and some public colleges:
“You shouldn’t have to be deterred by your biology whether it’s the prices or you’re not prepared. These products should be readily available.”
She also stressed the need to focus on helping women return to the workforce in 2022:
“We know that in the pandemic, women and women of color in particular, have left and have not returned to the workforce. So as we are looking forward, we are looking at how do we take our weight of the Caucus to elevate and push in that area, as well.”
Next, Senator Nancy Skinner, Vice Chair of the Women’s Caucus, spoke about her efforts to provide universal free school meals, another Stronger California 2021 win:
“And now, every K-12 child who goes to a public school in California gets two free school meals. School meals are an economic lifeline to women and their children.”
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks spoke to the importance of protecting caregivers and families across California:
“Often parents are overlooked for promotions and hiring because employers just say, ‘Oh, you have little kids and that’ll be a headache, we don’t want to deal with it.’ We want to put an end to that.”
Up next, we heard from Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, who emphasized the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women:
“We know that this pandemic has deeply impacted women and especially women of color. Women have experienced a higher unemployment rate: 25% compared to 20% for men.”
She pointed to the importance of affordable child care in an equitable pandemic recovery, emphasizing the need to eliminate child care family fees which put an onerous burden on low-income families and are addressed in current Stronger California priority bill, AB 92:
“I think if we want to help California women get back to the workforce, we need to increase access to child care. Access to child care will improve employment rates and the wage gap, especially for women of color.”
Kaitlyn Hudson, a parent advocate, next told her story about the need for affordable child care without burdensome fees:
“If I have to start paying my $374 family fee again, I will have to drop back to part-time care for my son, take my daughter out of gymnastics, and scramble to have enough to pay for the cost of staying in college for myself. I don’t want to lose the stability for my family.”
We also heard from Evelin Alfaro, a member of Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the California Domestic Workers Coalition. Evelin shared the workplace health and safety challenges that she experiences as a domestic worker, which were further exacerbated during the pandemic:
“It’s been almost two years of facing COVID and that frames the insecurity and inequality in our work industry because we don’t have the protective basic equipment and help.”
Evelin also celebrated the passage of SB 321 (Durazo), another 2021 Stronger California priority bill which advances health and safety protections for domestic workers:
“Having obtained SB 321 is one step towards what we deserve as domestic workers. That is to be valued, to be recognized for this domestic work.”
Teresa Garcia spoke next. Teresa has been a garment maker for 33 years. She shared her fight along with other worker leaders within the Garment Worker Center to combat rampant wage theft in the garment industry:
“We want equality and deserve to be paid the same as other industries are paid. It’s not enough to survive with what we are paid now.”
She emphasized the value of unity in securing the passage of SB 62 (Durazo), the Garment Worker Protection Act, another Stronger California priority bill:
“We won SB 62 because we fought united. We want to be listened to by the factories [and] commercial brands.”
Senator Connie Leyva celebrated passage of Stronger California priority SB 331, the Silenced No More Act, which ensures that workers cannot be prevented from speaking out about workplace harassment and discrimination. She highlighted our partnership with Ifeoma Ozoma, the founder of Earthseed, who spoke out about her own experiences of discrimination in the workplace:
“She has really helped us pave the way for less discrimination in the workplace going forward.”
Finally, Senator Monique Limón underscored the importance of expanding affordable child care options for California families:
“I still don’t get it. Why do you have to fill out so many forms if they all mean you qualify for the same subsidy? Why are we making it harder for families?”
She also highlighted the need to further strengthen our equal pay laws:
“There’s still a lot of work to do to close the wage gap. California women in 2020 lost $46 billion dollars due to the gender pay gap. And people of color in the state lost $61 billion due to the racial pay gap. A majority of that really is about wage discrimination.”
The Stronger California Advocates Network is proud to work in partnership with the Legislative Women’s Caucus to advance policies necessary to increase economic security for women, families, and workers throughout California.
To receive information about the 2022 legislative priorities of the Stronger California Advocates Network and updates about how to support these policies, sign up here.