Will Domestic Workers Rights Bill bring change?

Rocio washes dishes as part of her job. | Andrea Martinez

Rocio washes dishes as part of her job. | Andrea Martinez

California passed a Domestic Workers Rights Bill back in January that extends overtime hours for domestic workers and assures minimum wage protections. However, some workers still experience injustice such as wage theft in such an unregulated industry. We spent a day with Rocio, who cares for kids at a house in Santa Monica, to learn about the daily life of a domestic worker.

Click play to hear from Rocio in a story for Annenberg Radio News: [Read more…]

Local businesses desire better job training

901 Bar & GrillWith the race for the Ninth District City Council seat underway and elections next month, the spotlight is on the district’s economy.

Both candidates, State Senator Curren Price and Los Angeles City Council aide Ana Cubas, are highlighting job creation in their campaigns. But with about 15 percent of registered voters in the district participating in the March primary, local businesspeople and residents alike do not seem to be holding their breath for any quick changes. [Read more…]

Fewer customers hurting Leimert Park businesses

imageBy Theresa Pablos

The economic downturn has been devastating for Obine Ador. He’s now in the process of closing his shop in Leimert Park Village. “It’s because the business here isn’t like it used to be,” he explains.

Ador opened the African art store, called African Heritage and Antique Collection, in Leimert Park about five years ago. He remembers when business was better.

“People were looking for African medallions, masks, clothes… It was a trend,” says Ador, who believes his loss might have been preventable if the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association (LPVMA) was in better shape. LPVMA was started in 1933 to help stores in Leimert Park Village.

“I can’t say it’s helpful. They haven’t achieved anything,” he says. “Everybody has their opinion on how the thing should be, and nothing has come up as a result.”

The current president of the LPVMA is Jackie Ryan, co-owner of Zambezi Bazaar. She declined to comment about her work as association president, but she has recently made promotional efforts, such as creating fliers, banners and a website that publicize Leimert Park Village.

imageHowever, some storeowners think her marketing campaign has not drawn in enough new customers to keep stores open and flourishing.

“The leadership should be promoting here – promoting Leimert Park,” Ador says. “Laura used to be president and everybody liked her.”

He refers to Laura Hendrix, the former president of the LPVMA, who has owned Gallery Plus, an art store in Leimert Park Village, for 21 years. She agrees with Ador.

“The leadership hasn’t been as strong,” says Hendrix, who is no longer a member of the LPVMA. “We used to have at least 35 stores in the association.” Now, only about 20 stores comprise the LPVMA.

For Hendrix, her biggest success has been keeping her art store open for so many years. “It’s been rewarding to be here, to work with other merchants,” Hendrix says.

All of the storeowners in Leimert Park Village work closely together to promote business on the street. The collaborative effort to share customers has helped fill in the gaps that the LPVMA has not been able to. “We don’t try to exclude anybody,” Hendrix says. “It’s better than fighting for yourself.”

For about 80 years, Leimert Park businesses have been drawing customers with festivals. According to Hendrix, there are about three or four street-wide festivals throughout the year, mostly put on by non-profit groups, in addition to other events organized by local businesses.

“If you want more people to come, you have to have more events, something to spice things up,” says Barrington Bailey, a two-year employee of Adassa’s Island Café and Entertainment in Leimert Park Village.

imageBailey notices that more customers come in during special events like their buffet brunch and live jazz music every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. When customers come to Adassa’s Island Café for their highly rated Jamaican food, other businesses on the street also get customers.

Mia Robinson, a regular at Addassa’s, began walking the street after visiting the restaurant one time. “I’ve been to the bookstore,” she says. “People have done book signings, but I haven’t been [to the signings] yet, but I want to.”

While the LPVMA or the stores of Leimert Park Village are not as successful as they were in the past, they are not giving up. Even Ador who is closing his store plans to return.

“I’m going to come back and bring my African art.” He says he’s thinking of doing wholesale to supply the stores in Leimert Park Village.

In the meantime, Ador and other storeowners hope the economy recovers soon, so that Leimert Park Village can once again become a thriving cultural and business hub.

Turkey for all in South LA

imageE.J. Jackson knew how desperately people would need him this year.

Before dawn he was up, lighting bonfires for the people already in line for his turkey giveaway.

He’s been doing this for 23 years, but this year the need was the worst he’s ever seen.

His volunteers have been working nonstop for the last few days.

“…We had to make up 20,000 boxes, 20,000 turkeys…And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Jodie Fallon’s a volunteer with the Jackson Limousine Dinner Giveaway.

She said last year it pulled in ten thousand people, tops.

Last week, Jackson was worried the donations would fall far short of the need.

But corporate and private donors stepped up to help.

Now he’s emptying two mac-trucks full of frozen turkey.

Since four in the morning, Fallon’s been…

“…Packing and packing and we’re still packing right now…I just had to get a break. I snuck out….but it’s a really good event and it helps a lot of people. See how many people out here?”

One of these people is Dee Brown. I met her when she was getting her friend to help her cut in front of people who’d been waiting in line since last night.

“Are people going to be okay with that? I hope so, I’m just going to slide in and pretend like I was part of the picture”

If you can’t tell by the lack of line etiquette, she’s new here.

She used to work in a hospital but got laid off. Her income’s all dried up.

And finding herself in line for food? It’s…

“Humbling, very humbling.”

She says her unemployment check hardly covers the rent. And everywhere, prices are rising.

“Well times are hard. You know, inflation goes up… Everything went up. You know, just a bag of potato chips is five dollars…But I didn’t notice that until I got laid off. And so when they offer things out here for the community, you know at the time I didn’t need it, but now since I’m laid off, I’m out here just like everybody else.”

Which is exactly why Jackson feels he has to return every year, Turkeys and groceries in hand, the Santa of Thanksgiving.

Demonstrators arrested in downtown anti-Wall Street protests

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageTen anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested downtown Thursday afternoon after entering a Bank of America. They were a small part of Re-fund California, a coalition that marched to protest bank policies. They were joined by demonstrators from Occupy LA, who’ve been camping outside City Hall since this weekend.

The march started with a rally at California Plaza, then snaked its way through the skyscrapers and food plazas in the financial heart of LA.

The marchers stopped at the intersection of 7th and Figueroa streets, in front of both a Bank of America branch and a Chase Bank office in the Ernst and Young plaza.

The marchers were young and old; black, white, Hispanic, Asian; students, grandparents, homeowners, young families. All were upset with the irresponsibility of financial organizations.

Barbara Gustafson joined the protest after she saw a lack of cooperation from banks.

“It’s game playing and you don’t get the same person to talk to,” she said. “They don’t want to work with you because it behooves them to foreclose. I am not an activist by nature. I’ve been forced to do this.”

A police spokesperson estimated that 1,000 people turned up for the protest, which mirrors the Occupy LA protests of the last week.

James McDade works in the financial services industry, but said he supports the protesters.

“It’s democracy at work,” he said. “People have the right to express their opposition to ideas, and I think it’s great.”

The march was a coalition of groups including ACCE, the SEIU, and various faith-based groups.

South Los Angeles residents rally for Obama’s job bill

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageThe activist organization “Good Jobs LA” waved signs and handed out leaflets to passing cars on an overpass of the 110 freeway this morning in support of president Obama’s American Jobs Act.

The activists are residents of the South LA community and gathered on the overpass that is structurally deficient. If passed, the jobs act would provide funding for such projects.

Pamela Hall says the act would connect unemployment worries with infrastructure needs.

“Today we’re here in our first demonstration to show that this bridge needs to be fixed and create jobs and get jobs back to our community,” Hall said.

If passed, the act will save or create over 51 thousand jobs building California’s roads, highways, bridges and mass transit.

Jacob Hay said that passing the act would benefit the entire community.

“Well the condition of our country and our city, the roads, schools, bridges, it effects all of us,” said Hay. “LA traffic is the most congested in the nation. Potholes on the road contribute to the need for car repairs and accidents and creates dangerous conditions. And of course the unemployment crisis, that impacts everyone as well.”

Obama has been traveling around the US with the same message to gain support for the bill.

In down economy, Leimert Park urges residents to ‘Buy Black’

By Laura J. Nelson

imageObinne Onyeador remembers when the streets of Leimert Park were jumping all night.

Until 4 a.m. and later, the gallery owner would hear saxophones wail from inside Fifth Street Dick’s, where men and women from all over the world played chess, drank coffee and soaked in the culture of one of Los Angeles’s most dynamic arts neighborhoods.

Leimert Park Village still seems a black bohemia, where shopkeepers vend batik earrings, photos of the Obama family and books by black authors, where residents linger over rich coffee and sweet potato pie at the local jazz club. But business has changed.

Red, green, yellow and black, often associated with Africa, adorn the streets of Leimert Park, including this streetlight pole on Degnan Boulevard.

In the last 10 years, rents have skyrocketed from $700 to $2,000 and above a month, Onyeador said. Many businesses have left. And in 2000, when Fifth Street Dick’s owner Richard Fulton died of throat cancer, much of the area’s culture died with him.

The strip of small, specialty businesses on Degnan Boulevard that vend to a limited clientele is now struggling in the wake of an economy that was particularly hard on African-American disposable income.

Read more…

Bernard Parks breaks ground on new skate park in South Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Councilmember Bernard Parks and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Mark Mariscal broke ground today on a new skate park in the Jackie Tatum / Harvard Recreation Center in South Los Angeles.

The Jackie Tatum / Harvard Recreation Center has seen a lot of improvements recently — a brand new swimming pool, repainted tennis courts and even an aerobics class. But there was one thing the community youth kept asking for — a skate park.

“This is something that has really been long awaited by the community,” Parks said. “The young kids have asked that every park have a skate park, and the problem is that we can’t put one at every park, so we kind of direct them and say wait three months.”

The skate park will take about three months to build, and word is spreading quickly.

“We’ve already begun to direct kids from other parks,” Parks said. “So they’ll understand when this opens they’re welcome no matter what their neighborhood is.”

Parks believes the importance of fully serviced parks is more crucial than ever right now.

“One of the things particularly in these down economic times is people are constantly looking for someplace they can go to without costing them money,” Parks said. “Here, the community relies on free city services, and they want them to be on the top level — they want them to be safe, and they want them to be first class, and that’s what these park facilities have done.”

Even after the skate park is complete, the upgrade on the Jackie Tatum Rec Center is not over.

“Once the skate park is done, the next thing you’ll see, and it will probably begin construction in the fall, is a series of outdoor improvements,” said Neil Drucker of the Bureau of Engineering. “We’re going to be improving the sports fields, a walking path throughout the park, walking and jogging paths, some exercise stations — a lot of improvements. So this park will be very, very beautiful and serve the entire community.”

The skate park is set to open for use early August 2011.

Q&A: Car dealership survives recession, hopes for future

imageThe past two years have seen both the decline and resurgence of American car companies. Don Chou, who owns a General Motors (GM) car dealership in South Los Angeles, has ridden those waves, seeing his sales decrease dramatically and then begin to steadily rise again.

Located just a few blocks from the University of Southern California, Don’s Auto Sales sells for new and used GM vehicles. It is a family business, as Chou’s wife works alongside him as the dealership’s Chief Financial Officer and the vice president of Human Relations. The dealership employs 10 people.

Chou said many of his customers live within a two-mile radius of the dealership.

While memories of inventory and financing problems are still fresh, Chou told Intersections South LA’s Qinyuan Chen that he is hopeful for the future of GM and of his dealership.

Qinyuan Chen: Two years ago, the United States faced a financial crisis, which resulted in the collapse of some of its big automakers including GM. How did it affect your business?

Don Chou: It really hurt. We used to have no cars in our inventory in 2009 and early 2010 because General Motors went through bankruptcy. Not a single car in inventory, can you imagine that? We lost about 40 percent in sales in 2009, just because we had nothing to sell. Also, since there was a shortage in supply, wholesale price went up. Some dealers stopped selling GM cars and turned to other brands. People came to us for cars, but we just had nothing to sell.

QC: What about finance, then? I know dealers buy cars from manufacturers with large “floor plan” loans from a bank or finance company. Did you have any trouble getting loans?
(Floor plan financing is a revolving line of credit that allows the borrower to obtain financing for retail goods. The borrower then repays that debt as they sell their inventory and borrows against the line of credit to add new inventory.)

DC: Yes, we did. GMAC—which is now Ally—used to be our sole source for floor plan loans for the inventory, but it suspended financing a number of dealers when GM went bankruptcy. We had to find alternative sources for money. Bankers were reluctant to floor plan our inventory because they thought that market was weak.

QC: What about your customers? How were their loans affected?

DC: GMAC finances our customers for their purchase. The interest rate hit a historic low on car loans. On average, interest rates on a four-year loan for a new car is about 6 percent. Some lenders these days offer rates as low as 3 percent. This is the lowest rate that I’ve ever seen since I started the business.

QC: The Associated Press reported last week that new car and truck sales reached 11.6 million nationwide in 2010, up 11 percent from the previous year. What do you think of this number?

DC: This is a good sign for us. Actually, we have seen that the volume has picked up considerably in sales and inventory. GM started to put out new products and launched a marketing campaign that is pretty aggressive. We don’t even have the Chevy Volt (the all-electric car) in our showroom because it’s already been sold out. As soon as it comes in, it’s sold.

QC: Do you see any changes in preference when people choose cars for personal use?

DC: Gas prices are going crazy. More and more, people prefer four-cylinder cars to six-cylinder. Chevy Volt is very popular. Besides that, we have the Chevy Cruze, which is a very popular car among young people. It’s good-looking, affordable and gas-efficient.

QC: What’s your expectation to for the future?

DC: In the last a couple of months, we are happy to see sales going up again. And as GM comes with more and more cool products—like Chevy Volt, Malibu and Cruze—I think we will have a much better year.

QC: By “a much better year,” you mean…?

DC: That sales increase by 15 to 20 percent, if not more. I’m pretty sure about this.

OPINION: The economic impact of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageWith more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is one of the most heavily populated counties in America. There are more than 155,000 four-year-old children living here, and yet only about 70,000 licensed preschool spaces are even accessible. Since about half of the children in this area are missing out on a preschool education and possibly starting elementary school behind their peers, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is working to provide high-quality, free or low-cost preschool to thousands of children who need it most — but we can’t do it alone.

Business leaders, taxpayers and elected officials need to take a look at preschool as a smart business investment because preschool has proven to help close the achievement gap among children entering kindergarten, as well as combat high crime rates and a sagging economy.

According to a Rand Corporation study, RAND researchers estimated that “a high-quality, one-year, voluntary, universal preschool program in California could generate for California society $2.62 in benefits for every dollar of cost.” The study found that for each annual cohort of four-year-olds (approximately 550,000 children), California would receive an estimated $2.7 billion in “present-value net benefits.”

The positive economic impact of investing in Pre-K services is also significantly felt here in Los Angeles County. The Center for Community Economic Development released a report that says the early care and education (ECE) industry is a crucial element in strengthening and sustaining Los Angeles County’s economy. For instance:

• The early child care and education (ECE) industry generates $1.9 billion dollars annually in Los Angeles County
• The ECE industry is expected to generate the sixth highest number of new jobs between 2006 and 2016 of all industries in Los Angeles County
• The ECE Industry currently employs 65,000 people in full-time jobs
• Benefits all industries in the county by enabling parents to work and attend job training/education programs to upgrade skills
• The ECE industry supports the employment of thousands of families whose earnings are estimated at more than $22 billion.

It’s clear that investing in the early care and education industry is a wise investment not only for taxpayers, but for the proper care and development of our children and the future of Los Angeles County. For more information, please contact Jennifer Quinonez at LAUP at 213-416-1838 or email [email protected].