On a holiday week, fire, rain — and workplace turmoil

Good morning, California. Laurel Rosenhall’s sitting in for Dan Morain on this short holiday week.

“Hazardous travel with significant delays is likely. Travel is highly discouraged late Tuesday afternoon through the Thanksgiving holiday.” — National Weather Service, forecasting rain, wind and snow for California on the biggest travel week of the year.

Bloomberg blows in

Summit co-host Michael Bloomberg. Photo by World Bank via Flickr
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg will spend big in California.

That big Thanksgiving-week storm isn’t all that’s about to sweep California. In launching his last-minute bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Michael Bloomberg will be making a big play for the Golden State.

The former New York City mayor and business mogul, who officially announced his candidacy Sunday, has entered the race too late to have a shot at winning early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead, The New York Times reports, he will focus “on the delegate-rich March primaries in states such as California and Texas.”

First up: a $31 million ad blitz airing in dozens of cities including Los Angeles. That includes 20 ads on NBC’s 5 p.m. news broadcast in L.A. this week, points out Times reporter Shane Goldmacher.

However: Like his rivals Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, Bloomberg skipped the California Democratic Party convention this month, a confab of progressive activists and labor leaders not likely to show the moderate former Republican a lot of love. Bloomberg, a charter school supporter, is no stranger to politics in the Golden State — or to losing here:

  • He gave $3.5 million to a committee supporting former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s unsuccessful run for governor in 2018.
  • He gave more than $500,000 to support Marshall Tuck’s losing bid for state superintendent of schools in 2014.
  • He gave $750,000 to support losing ballot measures that sought to raise taxes on cigarettes in 2006 and 2009. He also gave $500,000 to the ballot measure voters passed in 2016 to raise cigarette taxes to fund health programs.

Turkey’s revenge

Interstate 80 near Soda Springs February 2019 in the Sierra Nevada. Photo courtesy of the State Department of Transportation
Interstate 80 near Soda Springs last winter in the Sierra Nevada.

Storms hitting California today and tomorrow are expected to bring rain and mountain snow — except in Santa Barbara County, where a wind-whipped wildfire out of the Los Padres National Forest on Monday consumed thousands of acres overnight, prompting mandatory evacuations and threatening homes. The essentials:

Nor-Cal: Rain and wind are forecast to pick up Tuesday afternoon, with the storm hitting heaviest throughout the night and into Wednesday. Isolated power outages are possible in the Bay Area and chain controls are likely in the Sierras. The National Weather Service is discouraging travel over the mountain passes, where whiteout conditions are possible through Thanksgiving Day.

So-Cal: Snow and ice possible over the Grapevine Wednesday afternoon through Friday. One to two inches of rain expected on the coast. Flash floods and debris flows possible in areas that have recently burned.

Behind Black Friday

Packages travel down a conveyor belt before being scanned and a shipping address is attached at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
Packages on a conveyor belt at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, April 12, 2016.

Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Riverside County are injured more than four times as often warehouse workers nationwide, reports a new investigation by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. And the injury rate at 23 Amazon warehouses the report examined was more than double the industry’s national average.

“The root of Amazon’s success appears to be at the root of its injury problem, too: the blistering pace of delivering packages to its customers,” says the blistering report from Reveal.

An Amazon worker in Tracy tells Reveal the pace of work became unmanageable after robots were added to the warehouse, and two Southern California warehouse workers say they got urinary tract infections from holding their bladders so they wouldn’t get docked for taking time off to use the restroom.

Meanwhile at Google

Laurence Berland, speaking, and Rebecca Rivers, left, with glasses, were among those reported fired.

Four Google employees who had criticized the tech giant and taken part in labor organizing were fired on Monday, “escalating tension between management and activist workers at a company once revered for its open corporate culture,” Bloomberg reported, citing a companywide email. The memo said the firings were for violations of its data-security policies.

All four had spoken publicly against company actions, including Google’s work with federal border agencies and the Chinese government, according to The New York Times. Tech Workers Coalition, made up of workers from Google and other companies, dubbed them the “Thanksgiving Four,” and urged others to offer them jobs.

Robots rising

Automation will be a big part of the future of work in California.

Hefty raises for high-skill workers haven’t trickled down in recent years to the low-skill end of the pay scale. And the news is about to get worse as automation comes for office clerks, fast food workers, retail sales people and cashiers, economics reporter Judy Lin reports.

In CalMatters’ latest explainer, Lin explores what’s happening to California’s work force, and takes a look at why the Newsom administration believes labor unions are part of the solution.

Some highlights:

  • Metro areas with the highest and lowest risk of job disruption are in California. That means you have a better chance of weathering the next 15 years if you live in San Francisco or San Jose. Worse if you live in Riverside, San Bernardino, Merced or Modesto.
  • Health, technology and business will continue to grow. Demand remains high for home health aides, personal care aides and nurse practitioners as California faces a graying tsunami.
  • The administration believes union jobs will ensure quality jobs but the tide will be tough to turn: Just 8.3% of the private-sector workforce is unionized. 

What to watch: Newsom’s Future of Work commission and rules for gig workers, a sector of the future economy where Newsom is looking for a win.

Calling all docs

A physician’s assistant examines a patient in rural Bieber.

A severe physician shortage is expected in California by 2030 and rural and inner-city areas are already feeling the dearth of doctors. The problem is so dire that the state put together a Future Health Workforce Commission; it released its final report earlier this year.

CalMatters reporter Elizabeth Aguilera reports on the impending crisis from Riverside, where the county and the medical school are working together to grow, recruit and retain doctors in the Inland Empire. The region has the state’s lowest ratio of doctors per resident, 35 per 100,000.

Part of the California Dream Collaboration, the report follows up on Aguilera’s earlier look at the state’s doctor shortage. Earlier this year, she reported from Lassen County, where a septuagenarian doctor has been putting off his retirement until a replacement is found.

Commentary at CalMatters

Stephanie James, Chief Probation Officers of California: Since 2007, California’s juvenile justice system, led by local probation departments, has decreased juvenile detention rates by 60% and juvenile arrest rates by 73%. We have safely treated and supervised 90% of youth in the justice system in the community, and we have diverted nearly 67% of youth out of the justice system. But our work is not done.

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See you tomorrow.

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