By Ed Diokno
We’re waiting, trying to be patient, but we can’t help that a little bit of doubt is starting to creep in.
California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has three bills on his desk, waiting for his signature. There are three that are special significance to the AAPI communities.
AB1066 – Overtime for farmworkers
Championed by Latino and Asian American legislators, this bill was authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. The legislation would give farmworkers the same protections as most of the American workforce. They would get overtime pay for working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Right now, farmworkers operate under antiquated laws that don’t pay overtime unless they work more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. If signed into law, it would be the first such law in the nation. While the number of Filipinos in the fields have dwindled, in recent years there has been an influx of Hmong and Sikh immigrants who were farmers in their home countries and familiar with the physical demands of agricultural demands of agricultural work. It is opposed by powerful agricultural interests that the governor has supported in recent years. Brown vetoed an earlier version of the bill in June so it is uncertain where he stands on this version.
AB1736 – Disaggregated data collection
The AAPI community is often looked at one monolithic block when in reality there are dozens of languages and scores of nationalities and cultures. There are wide disparities in education, wealth and physical well-being, access to health care. Unfortunately, there is little data that support the differences we know exist. The differences are masked by the model minority myth that is assigned to everyone who have Asian or Pacific Island heritages. This bill authored by Filipino American legislator, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, passed the Assembly and Senate with ease. The Accounting for Health and Education in Asian Pacific Islander Demographics Act is also known as the AHEAD Act. It is backed by AAPI civil rights and health organizations in the state. The bill would include more ethnicities in the Asian American label. According to the bill, the state would be required to collect data for Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Pakistani, Taiwanese, Thai and other ethnicities.
It has met some opposition from Chinese Americans, largely recent immigrants, who fear that the law would be a back door to dismantling California’s law forbidding the use of racially based affirmative action. To allay these fears and to hopefully ensure passage, Bonta has amended the bill to exclude the educational component. Brown vetoed a similar bill sponsored by Bonta last year.
AB2016 – Ethnic studies in high school
California has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the nation. Ethnic minorities account for over 71 percent of the student population, with more than 90 languages spoken in the state’s school districts. A model curriculum would be developed to act as a guide which local school districts can adapt for their particular population. It allows diverse student body to learn something about their own and other people’s culture in the context of California history. It gives local districts wide leeway to adapt the material to their students. The curricula could be taught in different fields of discipline, history, social sciences or the language arts.