Sorry to be late posting news about yesterday’s awesome and deeply moving 12th Annual Giants of Justice breakfast — the biggest event yet with nearly 600 people in the room — put on by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). CLUE was celebrating: California Labor Commissioner Julie Su for her aggressive civil rights litigation; Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels from Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica for his strong personal commitment to dealing with interracial and interfaith relations and homelessness issues; justice “power couple” Laureen Lazarovici and Victor Narro (I am proud to have worked at the LA Weekly with Laureen in the days when the Weekly was also a crusader for justice!), extraordinary leaders in the progressive labor movement; and the “Crenshaw 3” — Patricia Allan, LeDaya Epps and Vanessa White. Let me tell you more:
Move LA is especially interested in the Crenshaw Three because they illustrate a key reason that building out LA County’s transit system is so important. These three women, all single mothers, have moved into construction careers with good union jobs that pay wages that can support a family. And they did so with the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center and LA Metro’s Project Labor Agreements and Construction Careers Policy.
LA Urban League CEO Nolan Rollins explained the transportation-jobs-shared prosperity connection so well at our 7th Annual Transportation Conversation at Union Station recently: “Mobility is measured in more than miles,” he said. “It’s also about the distance people can move up the economic ladder toward self-sufficiency. We have to be able to say that a vote for a new sales tax measure to fund an expansion of our transit system equals an opportunity to get a better paying job or to better position a local business to take advantage of the new LA we are building.
“We have to show the transit build-out will provide a thriving economy and shared prosperity. We will not be able to rebuild the economy of LA County unless we provide everyone with access to opportunity — or some people will continue to drain the system. We’ve got to be about putting money back into the community so that people see their tax dollars going to work for them and see that Measure R2 is about their own self-interest — and we should all be comfortable with that — if we want to ensure LA becomes the city it’s supposed to be.”
Again, hats off to:
- Patricia Allen, a proud and seasoned construction worker who is now a journey-level laborer on the Crenshaw/LAX line — before she got that job she sometimes had to rely on public assistance to support her family. She is an active member/volunteer at the Los Angeles Black Worker Center where she is leading by example — as a hard worker — and helping pave the way for others to enter good jobs in the construction industry.
- Vanessa White has been in the construction industry for 20 years, 10 years as a carpenter and now as a laborer with Local 300. (And she is the mother of Kevin, a UCLA graduate.) Only 1% of all construction workers are women and Vanessa’s career has been plagued by both gender and racial discrimination. She deeply appreciates the lessons she’s learned at the Black Worker Center, where she has been a leader.
- LeDaya Epps grew up in the foster care system and she struggled for a long time to find meaningful employment not to mention making ends meet as the single mother of three. But then she enrolled in an apprenticeship-readiness program sponsored by the LA/Orange County Building Trades Council and then a formal apprenticeship program with Laborers International Union of North America, which was the springboard into a career and a job on the Crenshaw/LAX line. She was deeply honored to have been invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to be a guest at the 2015 State of the Union address at the White House this year.
Congratulations Giants of Justice!