These past few years have tested and taken from so many working people. In 2020, people talked about essential workers like teachers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and public employees as heroes. By the close of 2021 and in these first days of 2022, we have seen many of the same workers vilified for wanting decent wages, and forced to work without protective equipment and social distancing that could help them keep COVID-19 away from their loved ones.
While we have seen the worst of unbridled capitalism can bring, we have also seen the best of what can happen when people become engaged and organized. In the past few years, working people went on strike, resigned, and refused to return to workplaces that do not commit to shared prosperity, safety, and care for workers’ loved ones.
Over the past year, I’ve led a team at CPI that has continued to work hard to make lives better for working people in San Diego. We are grateful to our community for continuing to show up and lead the fight for justice in the form of fair wages, safe working conditions, police accountability, tenant protections, and a more inclusive democracy. We invite you to reflect on 2021 with us and celebrate the progress we have made together.
From all of us at CPI, we wish you safe and hope filled 2022. We look forward to continuing the fight, together.
Kyra R. Greene, PhD
We started the year determined to dream bigger, be bolder, and take bigger leaps towards creating a better and more equitable San Diego region where everyone thrives. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made this year helping to pass and implement policies that strengthen protections for workers, build a social safety net, and create more equitable systems in our region. Learn more about our key wins below.
This year, the City of San Diego took steps to center worker rights by creating an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) in the FY22 Adopted Budget. This office consolidated the Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Days Program, Prevailing Wage, Living Wage Program, and Labor Compliance Programs into one office dedicated to worker rights and labor violation enforcement. While the OLSE is currently comprised of only existing programs, it has the potential to expand to implement and enforce additional labor laws and move towards a proactive enforcement model for all types of labor violations.
For many years, language access has been a priority for our advocacy at the City of San Diego. Failing to provide language access meant the City of San Diego was excluding and discriminating against a large group of San Diegans. In September, the City Clerk announced expanded language access services and resources at the City of San Diego. Translation services are now available in over 200 languages and information on the City’s website and access to City Council Meetings are now available in 8 different languages. Learn more: https://www.sandiego.gov/city-clerk. This is a huge win but much more needs to be done to ensure people get the services they need and are able to have a voice in City government.
– Full funding for the Commission on Police Practices
– Funding for park development in environmental justice communities, including Boston Avenue Linear Park, Berardini Field, Emerald Hills Park, and Kelly Street Neighborhood Park
– Funding to enforce the City’s Truck Route Ordinance with street calming infrastructure
– Additional funding for the Small Business Relief Fund with specific funding set aside for BIPOC-owned businesses and street vendors
– Funding for the creation of the Office of Child and Youth Success
– Funding for the Youth Environmental/Recreation Corps Program
After years of advocacy, we won a County Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement (OLSE). This is a much needed first step in protecting workers’ rights. To protect workers, this office must be worker–centered, proactively investigate industries with high cases of wage theft, and use their power to receive back pay and settlements for workers. We will continue pushing for regional policies that protect workers and living wages.
CPI has been advocating for local direct cash aid for immigrants since the beginning of the pandemic, inspired by our statewide work with the Safety Net for All coalition. In June, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to approve $10 million in direct cash aid for low-income immigrants excluded from federal and state benefits due to their immigration status. Immigrant workers have been among the most impacted by the pandemic, representing about 1 in 4 Californians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Immigrant workers were simultaneously overrepresented among workers in frontline jobs. The workers who will benefit from this assistance do some of the most important work in our communities: preparing our food, maintaining our homes, and taking care of our loved ones. While direct cash aid has been approved, funds have not yet been distributed. We will continue to advocate for its implementation in 2022.
The County Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a taskforce to make recommendations to increase enrollment in Cal Fresh, CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, and other programs. Many individuals and households who are eligible for services are not receiving these benefits often due to limited outreach and complicated enrollment processes. This taskforce will develop recommendations to help increase access and enrollment to critical programs that support the health and wellbeing of San Diegans such as CalFresh, CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, and General Relief. The goal is that all individuals and households that are eligible for these services receive them for as long as they qualify.
In October, the SANDAG Board voted to approve the Regional Plan Early Action Transit Pilot, allocating $6 million to fund free transit fares for youth 18 and under. This is a huge win for transit-dependent communities. The pilot program will include improvements on high-demand routes, increases in bus frequency and access to night services on certain lines. All of these changes are part of the 10 Transit Lifelines, a transportation-justice framework created by CPI and our partners in the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group.
In April, the Board of Supervisors approved establishing a Budget Equity Assessment Tool. In collaboration with County Supervisor Nora Vargas, CPI helped draft and develop the Budget Equity Assessment policy to embed equity into the County’s budget development process. While more change is needed, a reform of the county budget process is underway because of our campaign. Specifically, the letter calls for the establishment of a Budget Equity Assessment Tool, which all County departments will use in the development of their first budget drafts. The letter also requires the inclusion of an Equity Impact Evaluation in all future board letter proposals, as well as equity driven performance measures and strategic goals for all County departments.
People incarcerated in county jails will now be able to call their families for FREE. This was possible through years of organizing and close collaboration with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Pillars of the Community with support from Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. Thank you to everyone who either signed our letter, submitted an e-comment, or registered to speak in support of ending “for-profit” phone calls for incarcerated individuals and their families.
In April, the County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate Project 100 (P100) which means that CalWORKs applicants will no longer experience invasive home visits by law enforcement to receive benefits. Implemented in 1997, P100 required that everyone who applied for CalWORKs assistance submit to an invasive, unannounced home investigation conducted by law enforcement officers. Because CalWORKs applicants in San Diego County are disproportionately people of color and women, P100 had a discriminatory impact on these populations and presents unnecessary barriers to families seeking assistance.
The County Board of Supervisors approved the expansion of MCRT countywide. Mental health clinicians will respond to mental health emergency calls countywide 24 hours a day and for youth 14 and older. MCRT are an alternative option for community members who need assistance with mental health crises without law-enforcement getting involved. This is important because police are 16 times more likely to kill people with mental disabilities. MCRT are clinical teams made up of licensed mental health clinicians, case managers and peer support specialists.
– $15 million to provide no-cost education, counseling, and legal services for tenants facing economic hardship.
– $36 million for hazard pay for County employees who have been on the frontlines of the COVID response.
– $5 million for an immigrant legal defense fund to provide free legal representation to people seeking asylum or facing deportation.
– $400,000 for a Doula Care Access pilot program to provide assistance through the prenatal, birthing, and postpartum process for low-income families.
– $1 million to provide opportunities for youth to access green jobs in the County.
After taking a pause in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we brought back our Students for Economic Justice (SEJ) program, a fellowship program that trains the next generation of young leaders and organizers who push forward social change and economic justice in San Diego. Over the course of 6 weeks, SEJ fellows spent 8 training days with CPI deepening their knowledge about economic justice and labor, honed in on their organizing skills with trainings on topics from power mapping to campaign planning, spent 3-4 days a week at their site getting first-hand experience working on an organizing campaign, and learned from many labor and community organizers. We are so proud of the 2021 cohort!
CPI plays a leadership role in the newly formed statewide coalition, the California Coalition for Worker Power (CCWP). CCWP is a group of worker centers, worker advocates, labor policy experts and labor unions dedicated to ensuring that every worker in California has the power to come together and improve their work conditions and their communities. We believe that all work is valuable and that all working people must have a voice for California to succeed in creating a more just and equitable society.
Catch up on our 2021 webinar about the state of Black workers in San Diego County.
On December 14, 2021, the San Diego County Independent Redistricting Commission voted to approve the final map that will be used to establish electoral districts for the County Board of Supervisors for the next ten years. Since March, CPI convened groups to discuss and strategize about County level redistricting and advocated for the fairest, most equitable map possible. Our primary goal was to keep communities of color together and give them a stronger and fairer voice in the election process. The approved map is not a perfect map, but it represents most of what we wanted.
Nothing we do is done alone. We’re grateful to our coalition partners, ally organizations, foundation funders, individual donors, and community members who make our work possible. We are humbled and honored to serve the San Diego region.
At the Center on Policy Initiatives, we fight every day to reduce inequality and build a community where working families thrive. Your support helps carry on CPI’s work for economic justice throughout the San Diego region.