Civil rights, religious and local community groups are being forced once again to the front lines to protect low income and poor families as another attempt has been launched to tax and ban plastic grocery bags in California. The African American community should oppose Senate Bill 405 (Padilla) and Assembly Bill 158 (Levine), legislation that would ban plastic bags statewide and cause a negative impact on the economy, the residents of California and the environment.
This is an hour of crisis for our country and particularly for the members of our community. In particular, California residents and businesses have experienced hard economic times since the 2007 recession. Millions of men and women are jobless. Homes are being foreclosed, and families in desperate need of help are finding bankrupt government agencies unable to offer the support they need. With all of the problems we are facing, we need Sacramento to refocus the Senate’s priorities on economic solutions for the residents of California.
Recently released reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that California has the highest unemployment rate–nearly 10 percent. Evidence exists that it may be twice as high in African American communities. People of color, many of whom live below the poverty line, have been hit particularly hard.
Approximately 2,000 Californians are employed by the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industries. SB 405 puts these California jobs at risk, weighing down an already weak economic situation.
SB 405 and AB158 will threaten thousands of jobs, raise grocery costs on shoppers when they can least afford it, disproportionately harm lower income families that can barely make ends meet, and actually hurt the environment. This legislation may be well-intentioned, but it is the wrong approach. If plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable, shouldn’t we look for solutions that improve recycling without jeopardizing jobs and burdening consumers?
Enough is enough. It’s time for smart legislation that protects the environment, creates jobs and doesn’t shift new taxes on to the poor.
Adrian Dove is chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality-California and organizing producer of the annual Los Angeles Kingdom Day Parade.
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