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June 18, 2018

 
 
This Week’s Theme: ​A New and Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted 
Moral Narrative
 
Dear Honorable Members of the California Legislature, 
 
For the last 40 days, on each Monday for past six weeks, hundreds of 
Californians have gathered at the State Capitol to express the needs and demands of a 
“new unsettling force.” Fifty years ago, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the 
eve of his tragic death, used this phrase to describe the rising movement of the poor and 
dispossessed that led to the original Poor People’s Campaign.  
 
Today, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has reignited a 
growing movement that brings together people impacted by systemic racism, economic 
exploitation and poverty, militarism, and economic devastation. It is a moral fusion of 
multi-racial, multi-gendered, intergenerational, inter-faith, constitutionally grounded, 
and non-faith participants. It has been growing in more than 39 states around the 
country, and in Washington, D.C.. It is the new, unsettling force for a new age. 
  
We are building power and holding our government accountable, opening the eyes of 
the people to the anti-democratic concentration of economic and political power into 
fewer and fewer hands, power that drives a deepening and dangerous inequality that is 
impacting the majority of people in this country and in this state.  
 
As California, through its many “silicon valleys,” led the world into the digital age, 
productivity rose to unprecedented levels. But virtually all of the economic benefits 
went to those at the top. The state now has 111 billionaires. (​CALMatters.​) ​At the same 
time, the already very poor are getting even poorer. Incomes at the bottom 10 percent 
of Californians have dropped ​by 26 percent​ since 2007. (​Huffington Post​.)  
 
California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, 20.6 percent, when calculated 
under the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure to account for the cost 
of living. 
 
As of 2015, 46.0% of children in the state were poor or near poor, including 4.7%, or 
nearly half a million, living in deep poverty, with less than half of the resources needed 

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to prevent deprivation of their basic human needs. For those at or below the poverty 
line, the rate for Latino children (29.6%) was more than double that of Asian American 
(14.4%) and white (11.5%) children in California. Poverty rate among African American 
children claimed almost one in five children at 18.5%. (​Public Policy Institute of 
California​.) 
 
California has become a state of hardship and suffering for the poor. No one can shut 
their eyes to this reality.  
 
No family should have to decide between buying groceries or paying rent, no senior 
should have to choose between food and medicine, and no parent should have to skip a 
meal in order for their children to eat. California produces nearly half of the nation’s 
fruits and vegetables, yet one in eight Californians currently struggle with hunger and 
food insecurity – not knowing where their next meal is coming from. (​California 
Association of Food Banks.​) 
 
While unemployment is reportedly at an all-time low, in reality, by the official measure, 
almost a million people in California want and need work but cannot find it. The new 
jobs don’t pay much: industries paying near or at the minimum wage accounted for 
nearly two-thirds of net jobs growth. (​L.A. Daily News​.) This, while California workers 
earning minimum wage would have to work two and a half full-time jobs just to afford a 
modest two-bedroom apartment. (​CBS News, 2018​.)  
 
Moreover, millions lack basic protections such as sick leave and family leave, predictable 
scheduling, and child care; are denied the right to organize in unions at the workplace. 
Unjust mass incarceration, a product of systemic racism, creates barriers to work for 
people with prior convictions. Debt, and specifically medical and education debt, is 
overwhelming our people and lawmakers refuse to reign in predatory lending that flood 
our communities.  
 
There are now over 14 million Californians on Medi-Cal, the government’s safety-net 
health insurance, and more than 4 million Californians on food stamps. Many people 
receiving these benefits have jobs and are working hard but have still been unable to 
climb out of poverty.  
  
But most visibly, and terribly, as rents skyrocket, and institutional investors buy up 
rental housing, we see California’s crisis in the faces of the many hundreds of thousands 
who have lost their housing – exhausted, parched, sunburned, often living outside, 
under freeways, along rivers and canals, or at our very doorsteps, right on the street, 
vulnerable not only because they are living outside, but because they suffer from 
systemic racism and police abuse. 
 
The coordinated protests of the past 40 days demonstrate that the Poor People’s 
Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has the power to mobilize and organize, 
statewide, the many communities where millions suffer from deprivation of their basic 

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human needs, a desperate situation compounded by systemic racism, by the subsidies 
and lack of oversight of the oil industry and other toxic polluters, and by the diversion 
of resources to the war economy.  
 
We are the new unsettling force. This is just the beginning. For this last week, we 
summarize our core needs and demands – outlining the moral, yet practical, imperatives 
that underlie our moral revival.   
 
Establish the Right to Housing for All 

California must free itself from the strangling grip of poverty and homelessness. Even 
though current proposals will fund some affordable housing, relief from the crisis will 
take far greater and more expeditious measures. Nearly 70 percent of poor Californians 
see the majority of their paychecks go immediately to escalating rents. 
(​CALMatters​.)​.​Landlords freely refuse to rent to people who depend on housing 
vouchers (Section 8) or people who have prior convictions.  

We need publically funded and subsidized housing, rent control, renter protections and 
the protection of tenants from unjust evictions.   

Decriminalize homelessness; reintroduce and enact “The Right to Rest Act” and the 
“Homeless Bill of Rights”​ ​that would protect the right to move freely, rest, sleep, and be 
in public spaces; the right to occupy a legally parked vehicle; the right to serve food and 
eat in public; the right to 24-hour hygiene facilities.  
 
Establish the Human Right to a Living Wage or Basic Income; Protect Workers, 
Their Families and the Right To Organize; Increase and Extend CalWORKs 
Benefits. 
 
Establish the Human Rights to a Healthy Environment, Access To Clean and 
Affordable Water and Food; Increase and Extend the Food Stamp 
(SNAP/CalFresh) Benefits 
 
Establish the Right to Healthcare for All; Enact Senate Bill 562.  
 
The expectation of finding a good job and keeping it for a lifetime has been replaced by 
the need to jump from job to job, without secure benefits or steady income. Workers are 
increasingly bearing all the economic risk of corporate losses, economic downturn and 
unemployment. Jobs are not only outsourced, but they are also automated away. Low 
wages are the norm. 
 
CalWORKs provides a shamefully low benefit. Food Stamps (SNAP/CalFresh) also falls 
far short of the need -- in Los Angeles County, for example, the average cost of a 
low-income meal is 38 percent higher than the $2.00 per meal benefit.  
 

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Nearly 3 million Californians have no health insurance or access to health care. 62% of 
workers have no health insurance. (​California Health Care Foundation.)​ We need single 
payer health care and the enactment of Senate Bill 562. 
 
Meanwhile, these same forces behind the unequal economy have sought to undermine 
unions, the last line of defense against corporate greed.  
At a time of record income inequality, poverty, and attacks on workers’ rights, we must 
stand by workers and protect and strengthen their right to collective bargaining.  
 
We must guarantee employment for everyone who wants to work and require a living 
wage​ ​and a basic income​. 
 
Recognize and Support Indigenous Rights and the Sovereign Rights of 
Indigenous People, Which Are Essential to the Restoration of the Environment 
through Indigenous Life-Ways. 
 
Many of our Nations and communities still suffer from gripping poverty, rampant drug 
and alcohol abuse, undrinkable water, violent resource extraction and unemployment 
rates three and four times that of the rest of America. The United States continues its 
attempted genocide on paper and in its systems built to eradicate Native identities and 
nationalities through harmful practices. We must restore the power of indigenous 
people as part of the campaign of poor people for justice and environmental health, 
including addressing climate change; we must open the dialogue and bring about the 
removal of statues honoring Columbus, who was a brutal colonizer; we must establish a 
statewide Indigenous People’s Day. 
 
End Systemic Corruption and Regulatory Capture: Require That Elected Officials 
and Candidates Refuse Cash Payouts And Bribes (“Campaign Contributions”) 
From the Oil And Infrastructure Industries; Remove All Oil Representatives from 
State Appointed Boards and Commissions Having To Do with Water and 
Environmental Oversight.  
 
It is time to end the ruling influence of corporate interests over our government. In 
California, we see systemic corruption of the political system, exemplified by $17.6 
million dumped into lobbying by the three top oil industry lobbying organizations in 
2017. (​Dan Bacher.)​ Today, through sponsored bills, lobbyists function almost as a 
shadow legislature, pulling the strings at every turn for short-term lawmakers who 
have become accustomed to letting private businesses, business associations, and 
corporations monopolize the public debate. (​LA Daily News.) 
 
End All State Investment and Tax Breaks for the War Economy and Reinvest The 
Savings in Our People. 
 
California’s Legislature should divest in the war economy, starting by auditing the tax 
code to identify all tax credits awarded to and public investments made in corporations 

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that profit from war and the prison industrial complex and then moving immediately to 
eliminate them. (For example, $420 million in tax breaks were granted to Boeing and 
Lockheed Martin in 2014 over widespread public opposition.)  
 
The war machinery that these companies created with the help of California tax credits 
have been used to violate the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the 
service of unjust wars against poor people in other countries. General funds recovered 
from ending these tax breaks should be reinvested in supporting refugees of war and 
U.S. military veterans living in poverty and struggling with the impacts war.  
 
End the Militarization of the Police, Increase Oversight of Police and End Mass 
Incarceration 
 
While police unions and associations spent millions to lobby against increased 
protection against police brutality. Police killings rose to 162 persons in 2017, a toll 
falling most heavily, and disproportionately, on people of color.​ Currently, California’s 
state prisons were home to 120,000 men, women, and children; an additional 84,000 are 
held in jail.​  
 
End Cash Bail (Pass SB 10) 
 
California jails thousands of low-income people who have not been convicted of a crime 
simply because they cannot afford to post bail. Over 60 percent of people in California 
jails are there awaiting trial or sentencing. Many of them remain in jail for weeks, 
months, and sometimes years while their cases move forward — or plead guilty to a 
crime they may not have committed in order to be released sooner, return to their 
families, and avoid being subjected to violence and poor conditions in California jails. 
Moreover, because Black and Latino people are more likely to be jailed than white 
people while their cases move forward, and more likely to be too poor to post bail, 
money bail fuels the egregious racial disparities in the justice system.  
 
Establish the Right to Free, Quality Public Education for All Californians; End 
Willful Defiance Suspensions and the School to Prison Pipeline 
 
The school to prison pipeline continues as school districts use broad and vague grounds 
for suspension, leading to criminalization and criminal records of students.   
 
Though we know that having more instructors and helping professionals at low-income 
schools can help students stay in school and achieve academically,  
California must​ ​support​ ​quality,​ ​well-funded public ​ education​ ​ and​ ​the​ ​protection​ ​and​ 
improvement​ ​of​ ​public​ ​schools​ ​rather ​than​ ​the​ ​unlimited replacement ​ of​ ​ traditional​ ​ 
public​​ ​ schools​ ​ with​ ​ ​charter ​ schools. (​Higher Ground Moral Declaration​, Poor 
People’s Campaign.) 
 
Protect the Right to Vote of All Californians 

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All elected officials should support ending race- and partisan-based gerrymandering of 
voting districts, as well as full funding of census resources for voting purposes. (Higher 
Ground Moral Declaration, Poor People’s Campaign.) 
 
Establish Human Right Protections for Migrants and Immigrants 
 
Humans have migrated throughout history. People migrate for different reasons, such 
as reuniting with their families; seeking better economic opportunities; and escaping 
human rights abuses, including armed conflict, persecution, and torture. (​See ​Amnesty 
International​, ​People on the Move​.) ​Migrants are entitled to the same human rights 
protections as all individuals, including the right to live and work. California, with its 
cultural and economic, indeed, familial, bonds with countries that span the world, must 
do the utmost to protect all its residents from the increasingly cruel, irrational, and 
discriminatory immigration policy and federal actions.   
 
In Struggle, 
 
The California Poor People’s Campaign:  
A National Call for Moral Revival 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This  document  was  prepared  with  the  input  and  assistance  of  many  organizations  and 
individuals,  as  well  as  Desiree  Kane,  the  Western  Center  On  Law  and  Poverty  (Jessica 
Bartholow),  The  Western  Regional  Advocacy  Project,  the  Sacramento  Local  Poor  People’s 
Campaign  (Kevin  Carter,  Steven  Payan,  Bobby  Clark,  Cathleen  Williams,  and others.), Idle No 
More  SoCal,  and  Red  Earth  Defense  (RED)  -  located  on  the  territories,  of  the  Tongva, 
Chumash, Tataviam, Acjachemen (aka Los Angeles).