Together we are powerful

November 11, 2020

Today, I am angry, and I am hopeful.

I am angry that giant corporations and billionaires can spend obscene amounts of money to deceive and divide us — so they can keep their wealth and privilege.

But I am hopeful because we are building deep community power into a political force that will last and grow far beyond this election.

In the run-up to this election, we wrote that “racial capitalism is on the ballot.” Both sides put forward ambitious agendas. Corporations and right-wing forces sought to imprison more people and cement the gig economy’s caste system. Those committed to justice sought to expand voting rights, overturn legacies of racism, and make corporations pay their fair share.

We won important measures that give more people a voice in our democracy and protect the reforms our movements have made in criminal justice. But on two key initiatives, lies paid for by corporate money carried the day.

On Prop 22, Uber, Lyft, Instacart and other gig corporations spent $200 million deceiving voters to buy a carveout from the law. Californians thought they were standing with gig workers — exit polls showed a full 40% of those who supported Prop 22 thought their yes vote meant livable wages for drivers. Instead, gig corporations can now legally deny drivers the pay, benefits, and rights all working people should have in their jobs.

This blatant abuse of our initiative process is deeply troubling — both for the hundreds of thousands of app-based workers in California, and for our democracy. We should expect Uber and Lyft to try the same thing elsewhere in the country, and for corporations in other industries to follow their lead.

With Prop 15, we took on one of the toughest fights in California: closing commercial property tax loopholes to fund the schools and community services we all need to thrive. Here in Santa Clara County, over 55% of voters supported Prop 15. Unfortunately, the opposition’s barrage of misinformation and fear tactics — much of it deliberately targeted at Black and Latinx voters — pushed statewide support for the measure below 50%.

Taken together, these results show the battleground on which we stand — and our path forward. Corporations will spend millions on deceptive, racially charged ads. Their political allies will put up barriers to make it harder for people (particularly people of color) to make their voices heard at the ballot box, at city hall, and in the streets. We cannot underestimate what we’re up against.

Yet at the same time, this election reinforces that together we are powerful. Gig workers led the fight against Prop 22: building a unified coalition, sharing their stories, and taking over Market Street in front of Uber’s headquarters. These leaders are far from defeated, and will pull us all forward with them. As driver Cherri Murphy said the day after the election, “they may have won this round, but we’re in this for the long haul.”

On Prop 15, years of organizing by an unprecedented statewide coalition brought us within striking distance of overturning the “third rail” of California politics. Over the past six years, we and our partners at California Calls, the Million Voters Project, and the labor movement have been building an electorate that better reflects our diverse state: bringing in young voters, voters of color, new voters, and those working low-wage jobs. Just this fall, our statewide alliance talked with over 500,000 voters and recruited over 15,000 volunteers.

This is what people power looks like, and this multi-racial electorate — one that believes in racial, economic, worker, and social justice — is the future of California.

While losing on these initiatives hurts deeply, I find inspiration in what we did together, and what it means we can do going forward.

Because ultimately, this work is never just about one proposition, or one election. It’s about creating a new configuration of power, rooted in communities of color and the labor movement. With sustained organizing, we are inviting historically marginalized communities to claim their role in our democracy. We are advancing a powerful vision of good jobs, vibrant neighborhoods, and racial justice. We are strengthening the infrastructure, networks, and grassroots leadership that makes bold structural reform possible. Our movement is stronger today than it was when this election season began, and we’re far from done.

So first, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who contributed to growing our collective power. Thank you to those who gave your time to gather petition signatures, make phone calls, and text your friends and family. Thank you to the gig workers who gave your all to the Prop 22 fight, you will carry us onward to victory. Thank you to all our partner organizations — you inspire us every day.

And then I want to look ahead. City council majorities in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Gilroy are positioned to lead policymaking that brings resources, attention, and power to long-marginalized communities. Together, we will protect renters, lift up essential workers, help our families and small businesses get through the pandemic, and ensure that corporations and billionaires contribute to our common good.

We will drive progress in our cities, our county, and in Sacramento. And you better believe that next election season, we will come back even stronger.

In solidarity & health,

Derecka Mehrens
Executive Director