L.A. County Fed President Yvonne Wheeler, left, and U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler at the L.A. County Fed Summit on Poverty & Homelessness on Oct. 13. (Courtesy photo)


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California’s newest United States Senator Laphonza Butler made a surprise appearance at the L.A. County Labor Federation’s first-ever Summit on Poverty & Homelessness on Friday, Oct. 13.

During the symposium held at IBEW Local 11 in commerce, Butler joined hundreds of labor, political and community leaders to call for real policy change to help working families tackle the affordability crisis head-on. Butler is a former vice chair of L.A. County Fed.

L.A. County Labor Fed President Yvonne Wheeler hosted the event with guests including L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.

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“We must address the issue of structural working poverty if we ever hope to emerge from the homelessness and poverty crises,” said Wheeler. “It is simply unacceptable that working people are working paycheck to paycheck but still can’t afford to pay the rent.

“We look forward to locking arms with our elected leaders so we can work together to make meaningful change to address poverty and homelessness in our communities head-on. We understand tenants’ struggle. Their fight is our fight. We can only solve this crisis when we work together, and that’s the goal of our Summit on Poverty and Homelessness,” she insisted.

Mayor Karen Bass addresses the audience at the Summit. (Courtesy photo)

Supporting the Summit’s goals, Butler said, “To know that the movement of workers in L.A. County is coming together not just to talk about abolishing poverty. Not just to talk about bringing our sisters and brothers who are unhoused, but we are going to make a plan to do something to change it.

“We may not come to the solutions today because if the solutions were easy, we would have come to them already. But the how is what is so critical, and the how is what has always made the house of labor so critical.”

The Summit examined the systemic challenges, roadblocks, and root causes of housing insecurity, especially for those working full-time but still living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to afford rent. Attendees identified actionable steps to help those living in poverty and experiencing homelessness.

Also, the Summit brought together leaders from every part of the county for a full-morning convening that included speakers and workshops that will create a platform to develop solutions to address poverty and homelessness in Los Angeles.

From left are L.A. County Fed Vice President Thom Davis, L.A. Councilwoman Heather Hutt, and Brotherhood Crusade President/CEO Charisse Bremond Weaver. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

Specifically, union members called for:

  • Civil Service Reform throughout L.A. County that removes barriers to hiring while preserving good union standards;
  • Support for a $25/hour Hospitality Living Wage Ballot Initiative for the March election;
  • Support for a $25/hour living wage policy at LAX
  • Fast Food worker policy
  • Support specific affordable housing projects
From left are Pres. Wheeler, Michele Reed, Sen. Butler, and Bishop William Barber. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

The Summit also included a keynote message by Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. In his remarks, Barber cited solutions to eradicate poverty – the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. – and combat homelessness in Los Angeles County and beyond.

In concluding remarks, Wheeler noted, “We know that poverty wages are a major reason people can’t afford to live in the city where they work. The LA Labor movement is leading the fight against poverty wages, and the labor movement has a role in resolving this crisis.

“We must lock arms with all stakeholders like our community allies, elected officials, faith-based partners, those directly impacted, and everyone in between if we want to solve this generational crisis because the labor movement cannot do this alone.”

Pres. Wheeler is joined by members of L.A. County Fed. (Courtesy photo)