Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, October 12.
Nothing back to normal
What do dog blood, brooms and teachers have in common?
California is facing a severe shortage of all of them — evidence that the state’s labor pool, supply chain and morale are far from returning to normal nearly four months after the Golden State flung off most of its pandemic restrictions and reopened its economy.
Veterinarians are scrambling to procure enough canine blood to heal injured pets. A newly opened Oakland restaurant ordered brooms and received just sticks, while tables it ordered months ago are nowhere to be found. And in an apparent attempt to stave off a staff exodus while simultaneously trying to fill thousands of job openings, Los Angeles Unified School District on Monday pushed its employee vaccine deadline from Friday to Nov. 15.
After cancelling thousands of flights over the weekend, Southwest Airlines cancelled and delayed hundreds more on Monday, impacting operations at numerous California airports. Southwest, which had previously suggested the problems were primarily caused by weather and air traffic control issues, on Monday acknowledged the disruptions were partly due to staffing shortages. The pilots union denied that its members were striking because of Southwest’s recently announced vaccine mandate, blaming the meltdown on the airline’s poor planning and subpar working conditions.
Indeed, a year and a half into the pandemic, many workers appear to be burned out and at a breaking point. On Monday, tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers in Southern California voted to authorize a strike — a move that comes about a week after Hollywood production workers approved a strike authorization for the first time in their union’s 128-year history. And a shortage of warehouse workers and truckers has contributed to a record level of cargo ships idling off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — exacerbating backlogs and delays and prompting some retail giants to charter private ships ahead of the holiday season.
- Jim McKenna, CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association: “The volume is unrelenting and it’s forecasted to continue through the first part of 2023. This is far from over.”
- A warehouse worker named Ricardo: “I feel like I’m doing the work of six people. You know when you’re worked to the bone, and you just want to go home, eat and sleep? It’s like that all the time.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,553,194 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 69,741 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election, which will be certified Oct. 22.
Other stories you should know
1. Understanding Newsom’s vetoes
Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed 770 new California laws — but what about the 66 ideas that he prevented from becoming law? CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall found that several key themes united most of the bills Newsom vetoed: they cost more than the state budgeted for, clashed with work already underway in his administration or were repeats of ideas he’d already nixed. That helps explain some of Newsom’s more surprising decisions, including blocking a bill that would have allowed workers to receive a larger portion of their salary while on family leave and vetoing the most consequential reform to California’s college financial aid system in a generation. As CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports, Newsom’s veto of the massive Cal Grant expansion will affect community college students far more than any other.
- Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations for the research and advocacy group Ed Trust West: Newsom “had the resources and chose not to invest in students shut out from opportunity who have been pleading for greater assistance for years. This hurts.”
2. State investigating oil spill
The California Department of Justice is launching an investigation into the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday. The state investigation comes on top of criminal probes from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Orange County district attorney. As first reported in this newsletter, the state Assembly on Monday also launched a select committee to investigate the oil spill — and plans to hold its first hearing in November, said chairperson Cottie Petrie-Norris, a Costa Mesa Democrat. Meanwhile, stretches of sand in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach reopened to surfers, swimmers and tourists Monday — the result of non-detectable amounts of oil contaminants in the water and workers removing more than 250,000 pounds of oil debris from the beaches.
- Surfer Monica Dunn: “The waves are not good, but it feels good to be in the water. I feel alive.”
Other parts of the state are dealing with their own environmental challenges. PG&E began cutting power to about 25,000 customers in portions of 20 counties on Monday as powerful, dry winds ravaged the state and spread fast-growing fires. The Alisal Fire shut down Highway 101 near Santa Barbara and prompted evacuations, while another fast-moving fire ignited in Napa County. The winds were so strong that one San Diego County school district canceled classes — citing “inadvisable” conditions for students to get to campus — and a major dust storm encircled much of Central California, potentially fueling spread of the deadly fungal disease known as Valley Fever. Meanwhile, public health officials warned Carson residents to keep their doors and windows closed to ward off the foul smell of hydrogen sulfide — which has permeated the city for nearly a week as it leaks from a pipeline.
3. CA accelerates renaming efforts
Newsom proclaimed Monday to be Indigenous People’s Day in California, the third year the state has recognized Native people on a day originally named for Christopher Columbus. “Columbus’ arrival in the Americas opened the door to unimaginable acts of cruelty against Indigenous families, communities and nations,” Newsom wrote in the proclamation. “Rather than celebrate this event, let us take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the resiliency and resurgence of Indigenous peoples everywhere.” The governor’s office also unveiled a partnership to raise philanthropic dollars to support forthcoming recommendations from the Truth & Healing Council, which Newsom launched in 2019 as part of a formal apology to Native Americans.
Also Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city will work with local tribes to rename Father Serra Park. The move comes a few weeks after Newsom signed a bill to replace a statue of Serra at the state Capitol building with a monument to Native American tribes — and as numerous sites with contentious names adopt new ones, including Squaw Valley ski resort (now Palisades Tahoe) and Patrick’s Point State Park (now Sue-meg State Park).
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s Master Plan for Higher Education isn’t working — but new laws purport to fix its shortcomings.
Time to reform Bay Area bridge tolls: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s fines and late fees — which are negligible to its bottom line — inflict hardship on those that can least afford it, writes Anne Stuhldreher of the Financial Justice Project.
Protecting California’s coast: As long as offshore oil drilling is allowed to continue, no level of safeguards can protect ocean habitats, argue Fred Keeley of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Laura Deehan of Environment California.
Revitalizing the burned-out nursing workforce: I’m chomping at the bit to graduate, enter the workforce and help those who have sacrificed so much, writes Della Turner, a nursing student at CSU San Marcos.
Other things worth your time
Hedge funds cash out billions in PG&E stock. Fire survivors suffer and wait. // KQED
California’s community clinics shouldered much of the vaccine rollout. Many haven’t been paid. // California Healthline
State fines Folsom care home where worker was caught on video hitting elderly resident. // Sacramento Bee
School district loses 3,500 students in two years, costing it $35 million. // San Francisco Chronicle
Rising rents spark buying frenzy among apartment investors. // Orange County Register
Palm Springs feels the strain as neighboring cities place more restrictions on vacation rentals. // Palm Springs Post
Confrontations at Walnut Creek’s Planned Parenthood prompt call for buffer zones. // Mercury News
Ex-San Jose council candidate won’t serve jail time for deadly crash. // Mercury News
Two cyclists killed. Two drivers arrested. And in San Francisco, two very different outcomes. // San Francisco Chronicle
Man befriends brother’s murderer in California prison; in each other, they found healing. // Los Angeles Times
A group of California inmates just earned bachelor’s degrees while behind bars. // CNN
Fight to protect giant sequoias from fire goes experimental. // Los Angeles Times
Inside the massive and costly fight to contain the Dixie Fire. // New York Times
See you tomorrow.
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