Stronger CA 2021 Kickoff Convenes Legislators, Advocates & Community Members
January 21. 2021
On Tuesday, January 19, the Stronger California Advocates Network held their 2021 Reception and Policy Convening featuring legislators, advocates, and community members from across the state who are dedicated to helping working women and their families in 2021 by prioritizing the Stronger CA 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.
The reception kicked off with the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates and Co-Chair of the Stronger California Advocates Network, Noreen Farrell, centering the idea of hope. She reminded attendees that our work together has inspired similar progress in other states nationwide.
Next, Senator Connie Leyva recognized Stronger California for not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk.
Ari Vargas, Program Manager at Women’s Foundation California, then shared how Stronger California cherishes our partnership with the Legislative Women’s Caucus, introducing the new co-chair of the Caucus, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.
Assemblymember Garcia chimed in, sharing:
The Caucus has always had a strong relationship with Stronger California. We are stronger together, and we’ll continue to elevate women economically as we talk about recovery.
Next, Senator Nancy Skinner emphasized that as a Caucus, they put women and children first. She shared how the recent data has shown that the pandemic and economic crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women of color.
Micaela Mota spoke next, a mother of a 17-year-old and 2-year-old, essential worker, and Master’s student. She shared her story about accessing childcare, outlining how she came into the advocacy world because she was number 2,000 on a subsidized child care list when her son was born, and realized something must be done about the lack of affordable child care in California . She was able to get emergency child care and thanked the Stronger CA policy wins that made that possible. She expressed her gratitude for the efforts of the coalition and changes in the law, and especially uplifted the anti-poverty work of the Stronger California coalition. In her words,
My dreams are within reach because I had child care.
We also heard from Erika Chavez, domestic worker and member leader of La Colectiva SF and the California Domestic Workers Coalition. She shared:
Thank you to Stronger CA for supporting our Senate Bill 1257 last year. It is an honor to have your support to fight for health and safety rights for domestic workers. It is essential that domestic workers continue to have rights in the workplace, especially during COVID. This year we will continue to work with Stronger California to get health and safety rights for domestic workers. The fight for dignity continues.
We then heard from Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, the first Latina Assembly majority leader. She emphasized how:
COVID 19 has only heightened the need for child care for families of color... It is clear that communities of color are a significant part of California’s essential workforce.
Next, Senator Maria Elena Durazo shared,
As women, we have to fight ten times harder to get what we need. We’re just trying to get past wage theft among domestic workers and garment workers. We’re talking about not even making minimum wage. These are very essential bills. We’re going to continue to work hard on this, we’re not backing off.” She also lamented, “The poorer you are, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to get COVID, not get the treatment that you need, and not have insurance.
Next, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez spoke about how:
the pandemic has highlighted the disparities of those who can and those who can’t; those who can work from home and those who have to go in; those who are safe and those who are exposed every day. It has been a life-and-death disparity that never should have gone to this point.” She asked: “How do our families survive, take care of themselves, and take care of each other?
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks was up next, stating:
If there’s a blessing that came out of this pandemic, it’s that it has shined a bright spotlight on the inequities that exist in our society -- especially for women of color.” She also shared, “I get asked often, ‘When are we going to go back to normal?’ Well, normal wasn’t working for so many people to begin with. I do not want to go back to that normal. In 33 states in this country, it is cheaper to send your child to college than it is to pay for early childhood child care. It feels like things are broken. We have got to do better for our people, period.
Finally, we honored the legacy of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who was introduced by Noreen Farrell as the founding legislative mother of Stronger California. She wrote the strongest equal pay law in the entire country, which was then replicated by 42 states, as well as the strongest anti-harassment bills and paid family leave bills in the country.
Senator Jackson shared,
We’re changing the way the entire country sees ‘women’s work.’ We’re 55% of the workforce; 72% of consumers. The issues we were talking about in 2004 are the same issues we’re talking about now. If we don’t raise our voices, it’s not going to happen.
After the reception, we held a policy convening featuring critical advocates and partners in the Stronger California network. Advocates went over the four pillars of the network’s priorities:
Expand Access to Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Care & Education
Expert: Mary Ignatius, Statewide Organizer, Parent Voices CA
Build Economic Security by Addressing Poverty & Building Assets
Experts: Jessica Stender, Senior Counsel, Equal Rights Advocates & Co-Chair, Stronger CA Advocates Network; Jackie Wong, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, GRACE
Support Family-Friendly Workplaces
Experts: Jenna Gerry, Legal Aid at Work; Jenya Cassidy, California Work and Family Coalition
Ensure Fair Pay, Job Opportunities, & Workplace Justice
Experts: Jessica Stender, Senior Counsel, Equal Rights Advocates & Co-Chair, Stronger CA Advocates Network; Mariko Yoshihara, Legislative Counsel & Policy Director, CELA; Kimberly Alvarenga, Director, California Domestic Workers Coalition
To learn more about our past wins and hear about what’s next for the Network, watch the recording of the Reception & Policy Convening here.