This post is written by Huy Tran, a partner with Justice at Work Law Group, LLP. This was submitted to the Mercury News as a proposed Opinion Editorial, but was turned down.
Justice at Work wholeheartedly endorses Ash Kalra, the true progressive in this race, for the California State Assembly.
I am a child of Vietnamese refugees and consider myself a progressive, and I support Ash Kalra for State Assembly. There is no better champion of progressive values and no stronger fighter for the underprivileged than Ash Kalra. Consequently, it is quite confusing to see the Mercury News’ endorsement of Madison Nguyen as the progressive fighter for the underprivileged. Ash votes and advocates on all issues that protect the poor, the oppressed, and the underprivileged. He does not distinguish between social issues and other issues in his actions or his advocacy.
As a member of the Wage Theft Coalition of Santa Clara County and an employment law attorney, I personally witnessed Ash fiercely advocate for our cause from Day One. He was the first to push the City forward on this issue at a Rules Committee meeting where Madison voted to put the matter on the backburner for a year. Wage theft is an issue that costs its victims and the State of California millions in lost wages and taxes, while straining the families of those who rely on those wages for survival, and it is well established that wage theft disproportionately impacts women and people of color.
Homelessness and affordable housing are also important issues to me as I once had to live in my car. Ash has pushed for direct solutions to house the chronically homeless and worked with nonprofits and VTA to bring social workers to the homeless who huddled at public transit stations. Madison cannot demonstrate the same record on homelessness and affordable housing. Rather, outside interests have spent millions to support Madison and attack Ash, including the Apartment Association and the Association of Realtors spending over half a million dollars to attack Ash during the primary. When a candidate will not say what she has or will do to address this issue, following the money surely provides a good idea of what we can expect.
(And let me add here that the Mercury News was concerned about Ash’s independence because he would be a “predictable vote for the labor establishment.” Madison has received massive support from charter schools, landlords, and real estate developers. Are we not to assume that she may be beholden to them despite their spending nearly $3 million for her and against Ash? It should not be surprising that Organized Labor, which supports progressive causes, would also support the demonstrated progressive in this race.)
As a Vietnamese American and a child of refugees, one other matter stands out to me: Madison’s handling of the Little Saigon issue. Back then, I actually thought the elders who protested against her were fighting for the wrong issues, and I opposed Madison’s recall. However, I was taken aback by how a minor issue such as a street name became national news. It takes a colossal failure of leadership to turn a street name into a protest with hundreds of people and a hunger strike.
The Mercury News’ Assembly District 27’s endorsement was a lukewarm, factually unsupported call to support the wrong candidate in this election. What we have with Ash is a true progressive and a true fighter. He has made his values known since he was a public defender, ensuring that those who cannot afford a lawyer could still obtain fairness in our criminal justice system, and he will continue to fight for working families, the underprivileged, and the environment in the State Assembly.