Credit: Illustration by Chris Allen, BVN

Last Updated on August 3, 2022 by BVN

Special Contributor to BVN

It may take a decade to address critical issues facing Southern California’s Black workers if the state does not intervene to solve the heightened unemployment, underemployment and unsafe conditions that exist in a workforce plagued by a long history of systemic racism, a new study has revealed.

The findings of the study, Essential Stories Report conducted by the UCLA’s Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work, documents the challenges faced by nearly 2,000 Black workers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Panelist Audrey Dudley is shown with her special needs son during an event organized by the Inland Empire Black Workers Center.

The harsh realities facing Black workers were revealed to more than 60 grantmaking representatives during a funder briefing event hosted by the Southern California Black Worker Hub for Regional Organizing held in June. 

Déjà Thomas, the program manager of CARE, told the funders heard there is an urgent need to support workers to ensure an equitable COVID-19 recovery that supports Black workers to secure quality jobs and resources. 

Andrea Dudley, a single mother of three children – including a son with special needs – told a panel discussing the report’s findings that the Inland Empire Black Worker Center and their water works program was a Godsend for her during the pandemic. “Support and resources during the pandemic were in such despair, it sent me into a state where I felt I had no one. I couldn’t work part-time because I had to make sure I was there taking care of him,” she said.

Brian McNeil, another worker, told the panel that Black worker protections must be supported. “We need funding and support toward prevention,” said McNeil. “Let’s put more systems in place for Black people treated unfairly in the workplace. Black worker justice is mandatory.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Jasmine Hill, an assistant Professor of Public Policy and Sociology for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. 

In hosting the event, the Southern California Black Worker Hub for Regional Organizing hoped to educate the philanthropic community about critical issues facing the region’s Black workers and how funders can make a real, sustainable impact on Black communities. The Hub advocates for the economic inclusion and opportunities for Black workers by supporting Black Worker Centers in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and San Diego.

“At this point, a Black worker getting a job isn’t enough. We need wellness and trauma informed services to address and heal the mental, emotional and physical damage from systemic racism, exclusion and retaliation,” said Yardenna Aaron, board chair of the Earthlodge Center for Transformation, a Hub allied and anchor healing justice organization. “How ‘good’ is a good job if the ‘isms you experience there end up traumatizing you?  We need both rights and wellness in the workplace.”

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