Assemblymember Holden’s Upward Mobility Act of 2021 Headed to Governor’s Desk

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Chris Holden’s Upward Mobility Act of 2021, AB 105 passed the California State Legislature. The legislation promotes upward mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system, and requires diversity on state boards and commissions.

“Upward mobility is integral to achieving racial justice, and we should be setting the example,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “The existing systems in place at our own state agencies fail to create inclusive workplace environments, and hinder qualified individuals to move up within their department simply based on the color of their skin. Today, the Legislature took a bold step to fix the problem.”

The bill makes specific reforms to processes that hinder upward mobility for people of color in the civil service system in areas of exams, compliance, the appeals process, and annual parity.

Data from the California Department of Human Resources reports show that the majority of Non-White civil service personnel are paid a salary in the "$40,000 and below" range, but when the salary range increases, the percentage of Non-White civil servants moving into management positions decreased.  The exact opposite takes place for White civil servants.

The Sacramento Bee has published a series of letters written on behalf of Black employees working at state agencies such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with detailed accounts of how Black employees are passed up for promotions over White employees. The problem, however, is not limited to upward mobility. In early November, three Black employees at the California Office of Publishing found racial slurs written on cards at their desk.

AB 105 also requires state boards and commissions that have at least one volunteer member from an underrepresented community. In September 2020, California took a bold step to address racial inequity in the private sector when Governor Newsom signed AB 979 (Holden) that requires diversity on corporate boards of corporations based in California – a policy that will help drive upward mobility for people of color.

“We already mandated the private sector to do their part. It’s time for the state to step up and do theirs,” said Holden.

Additionally, AB 105 calls for state agencies to collect and report demographic data using more nuanced categories of Californians of African descent, similar to the data collected for Californians of Asian descent.  This data will be critical in accurately reporting who among Californians of African descent is experiencing barriers to upward mobility. Last year, Governor Newsom signed AB 3121 authored by Former Assembly Member, Dr. Shirley Weber, that established a task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.  AB 105 would give the task force more accurate data to utilize in its deliberations.

Governor Newsom has until October 10, 2021 to sign the legislation.