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Racial capitalism is on the ballot

October 28, 2020

This election, a generation-defining set of propositions is on the ballot in California. We will decide whether multi-billion dollar corporations can buy our democracy, or if we will center the lives, voices, and needs of Black, indigenous, people of color, and women in our politics and our economy.

California voters will choose between the agenda of those who seek to perpetuate systemic racism and sexim in our policymaking — through ballot measures that will invest more in the carceral state, restrict voting rights, and cement the gig economy’s caste system to benefit corporations and the wealthy — or to fight back against the legacy of racism.

In short, this election is a referendum on our existing model of racial capitalism, and we must decide where we stand.

For decades, corporations have consolidated their control of the economy and our democracy. As they have captured an ever-larger share of the wealth generated by our society, their agenda has pushed millions of working class people of color in our state to the brink — trapped by stagnant wages, unstable work, destabilizing inequality, and deep economic and occupational segregation.

But thanks to years of powerful organizing, our diverse communities across the state are uniting together to fight back. California has emerged as the epicenter of a national resistance movement and a key battleground to re-write the rules that allow racial capitalism to exploit Black and Brown lives for profit. Together, we are laying the foundation for an alternative vision for our democracy: one built on the principles of collective prosperity, racial and gender justice, the interconnectedness of our communities, and the freedom of all people.

Here are some of the key initiatives that will shape this foundation:

Yeson Prop 15: Schools and Communities First

Since 1979, a handful of giant corporations have exploited property tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes. By closing those loopholes, Prop 15 will reclaim up to $12 billion a year for our schools, community colleges, public health, and other local community services. The measure fully protects homeowners, renters, and small businesses. This funding — more than $100 billion over a decade — would be transformative, reversing decades of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities.

Yeson Prop 16: Opportunity for All

California remains one of only nine states that bans equal opportunity policies. This ban was enacted in 1996 as part of a racist, anti-immigrant agenda. By repealing this ban we can repudiate that legacy, and remove a major structural barrier to race conscious policy-making in the fifth largest economy in the world.

Yeson Props 17 & 18: Voting Rights

California voters have the opportunity to show the country that now is the time to expand democracy, not take it away. Proposition 17 would restore the rights of people on parole to vote, and Proposition 18 would expand the right to vote in primary and special elections to 17 year olds who will turn 18 by the general election.

Noon Prop 20: Protect Criminal Justice Reforms

Law enforcement organizations and interests are seeking to roll back progressive gains made when California voters passed Propositions 47 and 57, which changed low-level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. By spending less money locking up (disproportionately Black and Brown) people, those measures redirected funds toward drug and mental health treatment programs and victim services. Defending these wins is critical.

Yeson Prop 21: Keep Families in their Homes

Across California, corporate landlords have hiked up rents again and again, often taking more than half a family’s income. Rent hikes disproportionately hurt people of color, seniors, and families with children, and push far too many out of their communities or onto the street. Prop 21 would allow local communities to enact or expand rent control policies that limit how much rental prices can increase each year. It does not require any city or county to adopt rent control, but it gives them the choice to do so. Prop 21 would provide stability so families can stay in the neighborhoods they know, kids can keep their same teachers, and we can maintain the diverse communities that make us strong.

Noon Prop 22: Protect Gig Workers – Fight the Gig Sham

Last year, gig workers fought for and won historic new protections with the passage of AB5. Under AB 5, people working in the gig economy (like Uber and Lyft drivers, Instacart delivery workers, etc) are considered employees, with protections like minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers' compensation benefits. Instead of abiding by the law, Uber, Lyft, and Doordash are spending over $200 million on a ballot measure to repeal those protections. They are trying to use their wealth to overrule the legislative process, blatantly violate the law, and continue to profit from the labor of hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers and workers of color.

This election marks the opportunity to set a new course for California. A path affirming that corporations and the wealthy cannot buy our democracy, that people come before profits, and that Black Lives Matter.

At the same time, we are seeing gig companies, real estate giants, and other massive corporations spending unprecedented amounts of money against us. They see the power we have built within our communities — not in any single institution, but in a dynamic, resilient network of organizations and coalitions across our state. They’re running scared, and spending millions on deceptive ads seeking to divide us against each other so they can keep their wealth and privilege.

Those millions mean these initiatives are tough fights, and polling suggest many will come down to the wire. So with just 6 days left in what feels like the longest election season of our lifetimes, our teams are all in.

We are having phone conversations with hundreds of voters every night, reaching thousands more through social media, and using new tech tools to facilitate powerful conversations between our volunteers and voters in their personal networks. We’re in this fight 1,000%, and we know you are too.

Here are some of the keys ways we need you involved in the final days:

We likely won’t know all the results on election night, but what we do in the next six days will shape the trajectory of our democracy for years to come. And no matter the outcomes, we will carry forward these fights for justice, and the collective power of our growing movement. We plan on leaving it all on the field — every ounce of energy, fight, and hope.

In solidarity & health,

Derecka Mehrens
Executive Director

Maria Noel Fernandez
Deputy Executive Director