Latinos Underrepresented on L.A. Times Opinion Pages

A UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative analysis of the opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times between January 2020 and May 2021 found that Latinos were severely underrepresented. During the period that included a presidential election in which the Latino vote was critical and a COVID-19 crisis that devastated the community, just 4% of the paper’s op-eds were written by Latino authors, while 95% made no explicit mention of Latinos, according to the report, which was also cited in the L.A. Times’ Latinx Files blog. Opinion pages play a significant role in shaping policy, and Latinos’ lack of inclusion leaves them voiceless on crucial issues affecting their communities, the report concluded. “Papers like the Los Angeles Times have a responsibility to ensure that Latinos are given a proportional and fair opportunity to shape the conversation,” said LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz. A response from The Times pointed to recent hires aimed at increasing diversity in the newsroom.


Diaz Pushes for Fair Redistricting in Orange County

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Director Sonja Diaz spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the potential impacts of redistricting in Orange County. Nearly a third of Orange County residents are Latino, but current district boundaries divide areas with large Latino populations in Santa Ana and Anaheim. Diaz explained that dividing adjacent cities with ethnic majorities, a process known as cracking, has been a major factor in Latino voter turnout and can dilute political power. The county Board of Supervisors is currently undergoing the decennial redistricting process with data from the 2020 Census and is expected to approve a majority Latino district for the first time. “Orange County has for far too long been dictated by the policy preferences of an aging, white electorate that leans conservative,” Diaz said. “And I say this as a jurisdiction that is increasingly multiethnic and multiracial, with large communities of Asian American and Latino electorates.”

Unionization Is Essential for Recovery, Diaz Says

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, co-authored a commentary in Latino Rebels about the need for union organization among Latino workers. Unions help alleviate the racial and ethnic pay gap by helping workers access non-discriminatory, collectively bargained contracts for the essential work that they do, Diaz wrote. “The benefits of unionization make it clear that economic recovery is not complete if workers aren’t given the opportunity to organize and demand better conditions, particularly given how essential many low-income service workers are to the economy,” she argued. A recent report found that Black and Latino workers in union jobs earned better wages and were less likely to lose their jobs and income during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to non-union workers. “Unionized jobs must pave the path forward to ensure that workers have the stability and economic resilience needed to withstand future crises,” she concluded.

Diaz on Mobilizing Voters Around Padilla

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, was featured in a Politico article discussing the importance of maximizing voter turnout in the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats are hoping to leverage the popularity of Sen. Alex Padilla, California’s first Latino senator, to increase voter turnout and deliver Democratic wins in districts with high Latino populations. “Sen. Padilla is going to be central in not only ensuring that Latino voters who were mobilized in the ’21 recall election are going to be primed for the ’22 midterms, but getting other voters across the country out, too,” Diaz explained. Nuestro PAC is leading a statewide campaign to elect Padilla and flip five congressional districts by targeting Latino voters. “There’s a need for the Democratic Party to coalesce around Sen. Padilla’s future, ensuring he gets the relevant face-time and exposure to create a national donor base,” Diaz said. “It’s essential to increase enthusiasm in the party.”

California Latinos’ Use of Emergency Medical Services Rose During Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos in California were relatively unlikely to use emergency medical services. But during the pandemic, across much of the state, Latinos’ use of such services — specifically seeking treatment for respiratory ailments — increased more than it did for non-Latino whites, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. The report’s authors compared figures for the first six months of 2020 to statistics for the same period in 2019. They analyzed data from the California Emergency Medical Services Information System, which includes information from all of the state’s 33 local emergency medical service agencies with the exception of Los Angeles County. “Although the study doesn’t directly account for about 30% of California’s Latinos who live in Los Angeles, other studies on the impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in L.A. would suggest that the same phenomenon would hold true in Los Angeles,” said Esmeralda Melgoza, a doctoral student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a co-author of the report. The study’s findings suggest that emergency medical services statewide have an opportunity to improve their language and cultural literacy to better serve the needs of their Latino patients. The study identified factors that kept Latinos from using emergency services prior to the pandemic, including concerns about the costs of emergency care and fears that interaction with public safety officials could endanger their immigration status. After the pandemic began, their use of emergency services for urgent respiratory illness pointed to the toll COVID-19 took on Latino essential workers and families. — Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas

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Grant to Support LPPI Research on Strengthening Latino Workforce

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $750,000 from The James Irvine Foundation to support data collection and research on the impacts of COVID-19 on Latino workers in California. The grant will also support the development of a policy toolkit to improve the capacity of California lawmakers, business leaders and advocates to champion recovery efforts that strengthen the state’s core workforce. “Latinos are the current and future workforce of California and the road to prosperity runs through them. Yet we often lack the data necessary to make the best policy decisions and targeted investments to uplift Latinos,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz said. “Opportunity and economic mobility for California’s Latinos is necessary for us all to thrive now and far into the future.” Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial group in the country, and a plurality in California, so understanding their contributions to the nation’s social and economic fabric is imperative, Diaz said. She added that providing opportunities to make a living wage and build new skills in a changing economy is critical to a strong recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irvine Foundation grant will support data collection focusing on eight areas: demography and population change; climate change and the environment; economic opportunity and social mobility; education; health; housing;  child welfare;  and voting rights and political representation. “We know that Latinos are essential to California’s future,” said Virginia Mosqueda, senior program officer at the Irvine Foundation. “Supporting UCLA LPPI helps ensure our state leads the nation in offering Latino workers access to economic opportunity.”

Diaz on Diversifying Health Care Field

Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Executive Director Sonja Diaz authored an opinion piece in the California Health Report about disparities in the American health care system. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed immense inequities across our health care systems, from coverage gaps to preexisting health conditions,” Diaz wrote. These inequities are felt most acutely by communities of color, she said, calling for urgent action to address the physician shortage and “diversify the field to include more doctors who share language, ethnicity and cultural norms with their patients.” Despite the diversity of the American population, communities of color remain underrepresented in health and medical occupations, which hinders physicians’ abilities to build trust with patients. “Expanding and diversifying our physician pool is a necessary infrastructure investment,” Diaz wrote. She suggested increasing opportunities for Americans to enter health professions by expanding federal scholarships and prioritizing students committed to serving in medically underserved areas for grant funding.

Diaz on How Latino Voters Were Mobilized to Help Block Recall

NPR’s All Things Considered spoke with Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, about California’s Latino electorate. The state’s Latinos skew younger and more Democratic than Latinos in many other regions, Diaz said, but “by and large, Latino voters care about the same things in California that they do in Texas — good jobs and good health care.” Civil society organizations, rather than the Democratic Party, did the bulk of the work to get out the vote to block the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, she said. “The fact that these voters came out, it was because of these community-based organizers that really put a message that was distinct from either party,” a message that focused on values steeped in data science and strong policy rather than xenophobia, Diaz said. “That was very persuasive to these voters. And by and large, now they’re likely voters going into the 2022 midterm elections.”


Diaz on Strategies to Engage Latino Electorate

Sonja Diaz, executive director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to CBS News about the importance of engaging Latino voters, who make up nearly 28% of the California electorate. Latinos’ priorities are largely dependent on where they live, Diaz said. “Los Angeles County was the epicenter of COVID 19. … In places like the Central Valley, you could see the closure of small businesses. In other places throughout the state, it’s issues of housing insecurity,” she said, advising campaigns and political parties to “meet Latino voters where they are and actually have the nuanced messaging that is geographical tailored.” In many diverse communities, trusted messengers such as medical professionals at local clinics are key in communicating that protecting one’s health and casting a ballot are important acts of civic engagement. “You need to identify the people that diverse households are going to respond to, especially since there is this plethora of misinformation and disinformation that target these households,” Diaz said.

Recall Vote Has High Stakes for COVID-19 Battle, Diaz Says

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPBS about changes to California’s policies to combat COVID-19 if Gov. Gavin Newsom is removed from office — including potential cuts in funding to deal with the pandemic. “We know who suffers when bad policy exists … and that’s Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic,” she said. “One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who’s anti-science in dealing with the pandemic.” Diaz also spoke to the Associated Press about the electoral power of Latinos, who now make up 40% of California’s population but are less likely to vote than other groups. And she spoke with Spectrum News about the importance of investing in turnout to motivate people of color to vote.