The California Influencer Series

Did Jerry Brown make the right decisions on #metoo bills? California leaders are split

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The California Influencers Series

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills recently on the topic of sexual misconduct, including a ban on secret settlements in harassment cases. He vetoed others, including one that would have prohibited forced arbitration of harassment claims. California Influencers this week answered this question: Did you support or oppose his decisions?

Kim Yamasaki – Executive Director, Center for Asians United for Self-Empowerment

As a woman, this week has forced me re-remember a teenage experience I chose to forget. That moment was earth-shattering to me because I immediately wondered why I forgot; I was even mad at myself for it. The world is in awe at the courage of the thousands of people who have come forward to share their stories of sexual misconduct with the hopes that we end this cycle of abuse. We live in a world where forgetting is moving on, remembering is pain, and sharing is strength. But I don’t yet have the strength to share, and I know this is the case for thousands more too. Our power structures and social norms reward those in power and ensure victims remain voiceless. While several monumental bills have been passed in the Legislature that would bring the state to the forefront of preventing workplace harassment and protecting sexual assault victims, there is still much room for improvement. Vetoing forced arbitration makes that glaringly obvious. Culture shifts are gradual, but legislation doesn’t have to be. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back for a job half done.

Adama Iwu – Co-Founder, We Said Enough and Vice President for State Government Relations and Community Outreach, Visa

I strongly support the governor’s action on #metoo bills this year, 8 of the 14 bills We Said Enough worked on this session were signed. It’s a promising start, but there’s still work to be done. Since We Said Enough wrote the first #metoo politics letter signed by over 140 women working in CA politics, we have been committed to ensuring that the CA State Capitol, and every workplace, is free from harassment, bullying, discrimination and abuse. Progress has been made towards that goal but there is still much to be done if we are going to prevent workers from being sexually harassed, particularly those in low wage jobs such as the brave immigrant women leading the #YaBasta Justice For Janitors movement. California has some of the strongest workplace protections in the country, and we should continue to lead in this area. We look forward to working with our next governor to make sure this important work continues.

Monica Lozano – President and CEO, College Futures Foundation

Governor Brown and California’s legislature are again leading the nation by enacting laws that increase protections for women, and workers generally, in the face of systemic abuse and harassment. The bills were part of a package referred to as #TakeTheLead in response to the outpouring of sexual misconduct claims during the past year and aim to prevent workplace harassment and help victims of sexual misconduct seek justice. They increase workplace training, education and prevention activities and strengthen the ability of workers to bring forward claims.

Amanda Renteria – Board member, Emerge America & Former Chief of Operations, California Department of Justice

In a year when so many survivors have courageously shared their story, I expected more from our political system. In order to change the culture of sexual harassment and abuse, we must continue to hold bad actors accountable and ensure a process that protects survivors. As more women are elected in every legislative body across the country, I hope we will begin to see a change in culture where the powerful respect the responsibility of being a true public servant.

Angie Wei – Chief of Staff, California Labor Federation

Governor Brown failed to recognize and address the struggle of low wage, immigrant women in service industries who toil in the face of harassment, intimidation, retaliation every day.

Cesar Diaz – Political and Legislative Director, State Building and Construction Trades Council

Governor Brown has been responsible for tremendous gains for working people, particularly for men and women in the construction industry. It is unfortunate that so many laws passed to benefit workers, especially to protect women from sexual harassment and equal pay violations, have been undermined by forced arbitration.

Lara Bergthold – Principal Partner, RALLY Communications

Sunlight is the disinfectant that can help prosecute and prevent sexual harassment. I supported the ban on secret settlements and supported the end to forced arbitration of harassment claims. I understand there’s a balance to be struck with worker and corporate protection, but we have to start shifting the balance to protect victims, and these bills were a good start in that direction.

Dorothy Rothrock – President, California Manufactuters and Technology Association

Manufacturers are concerned about the health and safety of workers and want their facilities to be free from all types of harassment and discrimination. For that reason CMTA was very active in the robust debates to find the right approach to prevent problems and also quickly identify and resolve problems when they arise. We supported increased training in SB 1343 because it improves awareness of sexual misconduct and includes features to combat abuse and encourage communication. The governor got it wrong when he signed SB 1300, a bill that will make it harder for meritless claims to be quickly resolved short of litigation. Keeping frivolous litigation under control is a major concern for manufacturers.

Bonnie Castillo – Executive Director, California Nurses Association

Nurses witness and heal the trauma in victims of sexual harassment; and as a female dominated profession nurses are themselves often victims of harassment. As union nurses, our ability to fight harassment collectively via collective bargaining provides deep protection for nurses at work. And the right to that collective action is a precious right under our constitutional right to associate. Gov. Brown based his veto on The Federal Arbitration Act. His veto certainly was a disappointment, but the real iniquity here is the FAA itself. And the underlying issue is the right to collective action. Arbitration circumvents class actions, which are people associating for the purpose of collective action against a more powerful adversary. Collective action, such as the movements for abolition, suffrage, and civil rights, is historically the way that we have advanced our democracy, through people acting together to correct societal wrong. The FAA permits mandatory arbitration, undermining not only women’s rights but everyone’s. It dangerously and insidiously erodes the right to association – to act collectively. And as such it is a slippery slope to the type of authoritarianism hinted at and aimed for by our current administration.

Kristin Olsen – Stanislaus County Supervisor, Former California Assembly Republican Leader

Assembly Bill 3080 reached far beyond sexual harassment claims and would have banned settlement agreements for any claim under FEHA or the Labor Code, harming both employers and employees. Governor Brown wisely vetoed it, citing federal pre-emption.

Aziza Hasan – Executive Director, New Ground Muslim-Jewish Partnership

It’s time for us to face the music. Whenever we sweep important conversations under the rug and try to silence our opponents, tidal waves like #MeToo will come up. Emotions, when suppressed, have a way of resurging with greater force and can be uncontrollable when they do surface. In light of this truth, we see emerging across all sectors of our society, Governor Brown’s decision to sign these bills is very wise. It will help us, as a society, confront and begin to heal the heartache and eventually save funds in the future by beginning a shift in our behavior in how we handle these issues. However, the critical piece here is that this is a start, and not a be-all end-all solution.

Daniel Zingale – Senior Vice President, California Endowment

America’s #metoo movement is finally shining a spotlight on the pervasive assault on women and girls in virtually all corners of society. Nowhere has the glare of that light been more disturbing than in the male dominated power centers of Hollywood and Washington DC. By enacting tough new laws to prevent the attacks, intimidation and exclusion of women at work and on corporate boards, Hollywood’s home state is matching the #metoo movement with action. Now the question is if and when that other power center in the nation’s capitol will get the #metoo memo.

Chet Hewitt – President and CEO, Sierra Health Foundation

I support the governor’s position on the bills he signed and would have supported him on several others. Assuming the new statutes survive the legal challenges they will inevitably face, California will once again take the lead in addressing an issue, sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond, that for far too long has lingered in the shadows.

Kim Belshé – Executive Director, First 5 LA

Parents tell us that they have adult-level discussions with their preschoolers on what is appropriate touching by their classmates and the adults they may interact with, what to do in an active shooter situation, and how to talk about race. These aren’t easy conversations to have with grown-ups, so imagine having to answer a toddler asking about the national news playing on the radio on the way to drop off. I support addressing this issue head-on today by thinking about our collective tomorrow. We need leaders and lawmakers, not just the Governor, to consider the perspective of parents raising children – who will inherit the California we make – when making decisions on policies, practices and laws on this issue, and frankly, every issue.

Catherine Lew – Principal and Co-Founder, Lew Edwards Group

I strongly support any effort to include women at all levels of leadership and decision-making, including the ground-breaking legislation the governor signed to include women on corporate boards. While I am disappointed that not all of the gender disparity and harassment legislation was signed, incremental progress is still significant progress towards our goal of ending harassment and creating safe environments for women to report abuse and receive justice. #timesup

Steve Westly – Former California State Controller & Founder of the Westly Group

I support the governor’s ban on secret settlements in harassment cases. I generally oppose forced arbitration for harassment claims

Karen Skelton – Founder and President, Skelton Strategies


Mike Madrid – Principal, Grassroots Lab

I think we’re making progress on addressing sexual misconduct and harassment claims. While we have a long way to go, I believe progress is being made.

Linda Ackerman – President, Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series

Governor Brown has signed 8 and vetoed 5 bills on the subject of harassment. I think most of us can agree that many of these bills were brought to the forefront due to the the emotionally charged #MeToo movement. While it appears that some of these bills may certainly have merit, there are also unintended consequences. I don’t agree with his decision on banning secret settlements. This takes away a tool from both the accuser and the employer to resolve a sensitive issue in a manner acceptable to both parties. Gov. Brown sited an arbitration ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court as his reason for veto of this bill. He believes that states must follow the Federal Arbitration Act. This is a bill that I believe would have unintended consequences that could add additional exposure to litigation.

Jim Boren – Executive Director, Fresno State’s Institute for Media and Public Trust

In general, the governor’s decisions were thoughtful, although it is easy to find some measures that you don’t support when the list runs more than a thousand bills long. Some of the criminal justice measures will have to be judged over time, and only then will we see whether these changes are wise for the people of California. Clearly, the sexual misconduct bills, including a ban on secret settlements in harassment cases, are badly needed. We have too much secrecy in government proceedings, and that issue was helped in bill signing. But one important question remains: Why do we need 1,016 new laws this year?

Tavae Samuelu – Executive Director, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities

Misconduct strikes me as a gross euphemism for sexual assault and harassment. Governor Brown is making decisions about legislation without the expertise of issue-area experts who are on the ground doing the work and part of the most impacted communities. I’m anxiously awaiting recommendations from his committee, however it shows that he is more concerned about state liability than actually ending sexual harassment and assault.

Abby Porth – Executive Director, San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council

Bringing sexual assault perpetrators to justice is a matter of public safety. The state must have the necessary resources to investigate, collect evidence, support victims so they will testify, and then prosecute to the fullest extent under the law. Politicians cannot credibly demand that victims are responsible for reporting in order to protect public safety, but simultaneously refuse to legislate and fund evidence collection and processing. Governor Brown took a tiny baby step this week, signing into law a bill that mandates a state audit of unprocessed rape kits. However, his vetoing a bill that would have mandated that rape kits get processed within 120 days represents a failure to remedy our state’s unconscionable record on rape kits. Governor Brown’s reason was that the audit should be completed before California law enforces more efficient processing of rape kits. We don’t need an audit to reaffirm what we already know: California has a documented, disgraceful backlog of rape kits, preventing the state from bringing cases against sexual assault perpetrators and protecting future victims. We need not wait for this latest audit to fix the problem. This backlog will only get worse as we continue to wait for public safety to be taken seriously. Hats off to the legislators who worked hard to pass, unanimously, this important legislation. Californians deserved for this legislation to be signed by the Governor.

Jim Wunderman – President and CEO, Bay Area Council

When it comes to promoting gender equity and family-friendly workplaces, employers are leaving a lot of money on the table. According to data included in a 2018 Bay Area Council Economic Institute report – Workplace Connections: Gender Equity, Family-Friendly Practices and Early Childhood Care and Education – companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. Study after study after study come to similar conclusions. The Economic Institute report also found that efforts to improve gender equity in the workforce, the c-suite and the board room too often occur in isolation, limiting the effectiveness of each. This is unfortunate and misses the crucial insight that gender equity, family-friendly policies, and early childhood care and education are intertwined. You cannot have the first one without the other two. Embracing and integrating these practices in the workplace can also be highly effective in creating and promoting a culture that both discourages sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct and empowers women to take action when incidents arise.

David Townsend – Founder, TCT Public Affairs

Lacking a deep understanding of the bills on the governor’s desk, I cannot respond to whether I support his actions. However, harassment of any type is not appropriate in the workplace or any other place. Strong laws that deter bad behavior and protect victims when they come forward are essential in our society. It has taken far too long.

Dan Schnur, a veteran analyst and longtime participant in California politics, is director of the California Influencers series for The Sacramento Bee and McClatchy.

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