Governor Signs Bill to Promote Supplier Diversity Across California’s Hospital Industry

AB 962 Requires Hospitals to Report Their Supplier Diversity Starting July 1, 2021

Contact:
Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)
Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director, 510-926-4009; 619-633-5185 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 962, introduced by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and coauthored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). This bill establishes California’s first-ever reporting requirement for hospitals’ contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and LGBT individuals to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. This bill will shed light on the degree to which California’s $230 billion hospital sector contracts  with and outreaches to diverse businesses for various products and services.

“AB 962 is the embodiment of some of the values that are at the core of our state: transparency, economic opportunity, and diversity,” said Assemblymember Burke. “The signing of this measure furthers California’s storied history of promoting opportunity for the communities that comprise the backbone of our economy, and shows that we value diversity across all levels of this state, whether it is in the hospital industry, utility industry, or in the makeup of the legislature. Continuing this history of promoting diversity is crucial because when our diverse communities thrive, all Californians thrive.”

“AB 962 introduces a proven formula to increase diversity,” said Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “Requiring hospitals to report their supplier diversity will lead to significant contracting opportunities for diverse businesses, which will directly benefit the populations and communities those businesses serve. We applaud Assemblymember Burke’s leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with hospitals across the state, and with OSHPD to ensure proper implementation of this bill.”

This bill, sponsored by The Greenlining Institute, is modeled on several successful supplier diversity programs overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Insurance. After both programs were enacted, the number of contracts going to diverse businesses skyrocketed, and advocates credit the reporting and transparency requirements created by these programs. They anticipate similar results from AB 962

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

New Research: Moving off of gas in buildings can have significant benefits for low-income communities

Housing and energy experts say building electrification can be a transformative force, but policies must prioritize environmental and social justice communities 

Contact: Sage Welch, Principal at Sunstone Strategies, sage@sunstonestrategies.org, 615.715.6714

OAKLAND, CALIF. – As a wave of local governments move to kickstart a new era of cleaner, healthier all-electric homes and buildings, Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities, produced in partnership between The Greenlining Institute and California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition, highlights the benefits the move away from gas in buildings can have for low-income residents as long as policies are designed with communities at their center. 

More than 50 California cities have passed or are considering measures to accelerate all-electric buildings – moves that have been attacked by the gas industry on a number of fronts, including how they may impact low-income Californians. However, this new resource shows that through community-led, intentional policymaking, building electrification can actually help close the clean energy gap and lead to greater affordability for working families in California by putting environmental and social justice communities at the front of the line to access healthier, fossil fuel-free homes and high-quality local jobs that may come from greening the building sector.  

“The gas industry is working overtime to stoke fear around building electrification, and is specifically targeting low-income residents and communities of color with this message,” said Carmelita Miller, an author of the report and legal counsel for The Greenlining Institute. “We’re here to say that getting off of gas will have important benefits for these communities if policies are rolled out with a mission to improve the health and resilience of environmental and social justice communities.”

Data from Energy and Environmental Consulting (E3) shows gas rates rising steeply in California in coming years, as the cost to safely maintain the aging gas system rises following two major disasters and the demand for gas dries up as California moves forward with its clean electricity and climate targets. Those left on gas in coming decades could be looking at massive bill increases. 

“As gas costs increase and we learn more about the detrimental health and climate impacts of burning gas in our homes, we expect many Californians who can afford to will choose to get off gas on their own,” noted Isaac Sevier, co-author of the report and coordinator of California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition. “Policies and support must focus on empowering entire communities who cannot afford new appliances or new homes to access all-electric housing – which is more affordable and will have long-term health benefits.” 

The framework notes that African Americans, Native Americans, immigrant communities of color, low-income communities, and others have long suffered systemic exclusion from housing and job opportunities and it urges electrification policies to address this inequity as the state seeks to transform its building stock.

“There’s no room for polluting gas in California’s future. We also can’t afford another market-based, trickle down clean energy initiative that doesn’t reach low-income people,” said Mad Stano, program director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “This framework explains how we can design building electrification policies with community resiliency at their core to help working families and communities of color be first in line to receive benefits and continue leading on climate solutions.”

 The framework offers five steps on how equitable electrification can be implemented: 

  • Assess community needs.
  • Establish community-led decision-making.
  • Develop metrics and a plan for tracking.
  • Ensure funding and program leveraging.
  • Improve outcomes.

“This framework makes it clear that through strategic, targeted and sufficient investment, we can make the transition to a clean energy future equitable,” said David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission. “This is exactly the kind of direction that California agencies and policymakers need as we explore how to cost-effectively reduce emissions from our buildings,  improve public health and increase the quality of life for all Californians – especially those struggling with affordability.”

The framework identifies building electrification as a potential boon for high-quality jobs and careers, including a just transition plan for those who currently depend on gas and other fossil fuels for their livelihood. The inherently local nature of work in the built environment means that, with the right policies and programs, electrification can produce strong careers in communities all across the state. In addition to ensuring that fossil fuel workers have access to good jobs, equitable electrification policies should include workforce development programs that create pathways for people with barriers to employment, so that they too can access good quality electrification jobs.  

“Ultimately, building electrification policies must be designed to improve people’s everyday lives,” said Sevier. “If we focus on people-centered policies, electrification can provide solutions to existing household problems – by providing jobs that can’t be exported, lowering bills, improving health, and making homes more comfortable. Community-led planning initiatives that put local needs at the center will be key.”

 San Joaquin Valley pilot serves as model

The framework emphasizes the importance of community-driven decision making in policy, noting  that community members are the experts on what challenges they face, and how policy can help address them.

The report holds up the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) San Joaquin Valley Disadvantaged Communities Pilot Project as an example of what community-driven policymaking means in practice. The program allowed communities that have never had access to gas infrastructure to work in partnership with an on-the-ground team to identify alternatives that would best suit residents, with a deep focus on long-term engagement and outreach.

Through a process that put community needs center stage, nine host communities were offered a variety of options to move from wood or propane as a heating and cooking source – to electric appliances powered by clean energy – all driven by community-led choices ensuring the result would benefit their daily lives.

“With building electrification policies being in their nascent, developmental phase, local and statewide decisionmakers and advocates have the opportunity to design these policies in a manner that will lift up communities in California that have previously been left behind,” added Miller. “That’s what was achieved in the San Joaquin Valley, and that’s what we want to replicate around the state.” 

Buildings are responsible for more than a quarter of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. To date 10 cities have passed local measures that incentivize all-electric new construction or place restrictions on gas in new buildings. The PUC has undertaken a proceeding to implement SB 1477, which creates incentives for clean heating technologies, and is looking at pathways to cut pollution from buildings using electrification. Under AB 3232, the California Energy Commission is currently studying the most cost-effective pathways to cut pollution from buildings by 40 percent by 2030.

The framework can be found on our website: http://bit.ly/ElectrifyCaNow

ABOUT THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE:

Founded in 1993, The Greenlining Institute envisions a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to economic opportunity. Because people of color will be the majority of our population by 2044, America will prosper only if communities of color prosper. The Greenlining Institute advances economic opportunity and empowerment for people of color through advocacy, community and coalition building, research, and leadership development.

ABOUT EEFA:

California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition is committed to an equitable clean energy future and works to advance healthy, affordable energy solutions for underserved renters at the state, regional, and city levels, with a key focus on expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in frontline communities. To learn more about our state and national partnerships, visit energyefficiencyforall.org/states/california/

 

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining 

Seeking to help people at greatest risk from climate change

CalMatters
By Amee Raval and Sona Mohnot

Californians have faced droughts, heat waves, wildfires and other climate-fueled crises that seem to break records every year. But while climate change impacts everyone, the experience can feel dramatically different depending on who you are and where you live.

Consider a severe heat wave. In an affluent suburb with tree-lined streets and an abundance of air conditioning, most residents might experience a little inconvenience but will largely stay out of serious danger. In an economically struggling farmworker community in the Central Valley, that same heat wave could be deadly

In the aftermath of wildfires in Ventura County, many undocumented farmworkers could not take paid leave and instead continued working in the fields amid dangerous air pollution levels without protective masks.

Power outages present health risks for people who rely on electrically powered medical equipment, not to mention serious mobility challenges for wheelchair users during evacuation orders.

We could go on with examples all day. But simply put: climate change acts as a threat multiplier that magnifies differences in income, race, health, zip codes, immigration status, housing, and other factors that determine whether a community can access the resources needed to cope and recover from climate disasters.

As we work to increase our climate resilience–that is, the ability of communities to adapt and thrive in the face of impacts from climate change–we need to be able to identify the communities that face the biggest threats. And then we need to make sure they have the resources they need. That takes conscious effort.

California is starting to make important decisions about climate resilience, but we’re doing it without the tools we need to identify and assist those most at risk. So our two organizations, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and The Greenlining Institute, have come together to jumpstart the process of creating those tools while we still have time to prepare.

New research from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters,” points to a critical need for applying an interactive mapping tool that layers all the various social, health and environmental factors that can contribute to, or add protections from, climate threats.

Such a  framework can provide essential information for state and local leaders tasked with making important decisions and appropriately prioritizing communities that face the biggest threats.

The good news is that the climate threat assessment tool we need is well within reach, with many of the needed indicators already in use across dozens of existing frameworks. It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together in a streamlined, usable form.

But once we’ve identified the people and places facing the biggest threats, then what? We want to help them prepare, but how do we turn those good intentions into reality? That’s where Greenlining’s research can help.

Greenlining reviewed over 30 California policies and grant programs and spoke to dozens of experts, distilling the findings into “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Grant Programs and Policies: A Guidebook.”

The Guidebook lays out step-by-step instructions for building climate resilience policies that focus on equity, policies designed to ensure that communities can survive and thrive, even when faced with limited resources.

Greenlining’s framework shows policymakers how to consider not just physical threats like heat and sea level rise, but the factors that make them worse, like income levels and access to health care. And it provides guidance for addressing them while making sure policies center the experience and wisdom of our frontline communities, recognizing that community members have real expertise that even well-intended outsiders lack.

Climate change is here. How we prepare for its impact will determine whether we survive, or even come out thriving. California’s policymakers will need all the help they can get. We offer our research as a humble start.

Amee Raval is Senior Policy Researcher at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, amee@apen4ej.org. Sona Mohnot is Environmental Equity Senior Program Manager at The Greenlining Institutesonam@greenlining.org. They wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

Governor Signs Bill Advancing Insurance Diversity

SB 534 Requires California’s Largest Insurers to Report Their Supplier Diversity and Governing Board Diversity

Contact: Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director, 510-926-4009; 619-633-5185 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Governor Newsom signed SB 534, introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and supported by the California Department of Insurance, members of the department’s Insurance Diversity Task Force and The Greenlining Institute. This bill re-establishes a requirement for the largest insurers in California’s $310 billion insurance industry to report their level of contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and LGBT individuals. Insurance companies will also be required to survey their board members regarding demographic information and report the demographics of these most senior decision-makers to the Department of Insurance. 

“California insurers should be using their enormous buying power to invest in California’s minority, woman, LGBT, veteran, and disabled veteran owned businesses as well as work towards achieving a governing board that reflects the diverse population in California,” said Commissioner Lara. “Since its inception, the Department’s Diversity Initiative has helped empower diverse businesses to put resources back into their local communities. Thank you to Governor Newsom and Senator Bradford for reauthorizing and expanding this valuable program to help more people and communities throughout the state.”

“Studies have shown that a diverse population is more effective than even a uniform body of experts,” said Senator Bradford. “It is time for the insurance industry to reflect the great diversity of California and the United States. SB 534 makes that possible. Encouraging diverse spending and collecting governance data strengthens our insurance market and by extension its protection of Californians. I am proud to have worked on this measure with Insurance Commissioner Lara and happy to see Governor Newsom share our beliefs on the benefits diversity can bring our state.”

“SB 534 ensures that diversity will be at the forefront of California’s insurance industry,” said Anthony Galace, Health Equity Director at The Greenlining Institute. “We applaud the leadership of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Senator Bradford for pushing this important issue and making this bill a priority.” 

After California first passed supplier diversity reporting requirements for the insurance industry via AB 53 (Solorio, 2012), contracting with diverse businesses skyrocketed by 93 percent between 2012 and2017. SB 534 seeks to build on this trend and further strengthen diverse businesses across the state. Additionally, data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that 80 percent of major insurers’ governing board seats were held by men while just 12 percent were held by people of color. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13 percent of insurance companies reported zero women and 35 percent reported zero persons of color on their boards.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining 

Debra Gore-Mann Named New Leader of The Greenlining Institute

Current CEO of San Francisco Conservation Corps Will Be 1st Woman of Color President in Organization’s 26 Year History

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA –The Greenlining Institute has chosen Debra Gore-Mann to be the racial equity organization’s new president – the third leader in Greenlining’s 26-year history and the first woman to lead the organization.

Gore-Mann has led the San Francisco Conservation Corps – America’s first urban municipal youth corps – for the past four years. Chosen from a large field of outstanding candidates considered over the course of the search, she brings a wealth of nonprofit and business experience to her new position at Greenlining, with a resume that includes experience in investment banking, an engineering degree and an M.B.A. from Stanford. She will assume the post Oct. 1.

Gore-Mann brings a multi-dimensional perspective to the role, having been raised in a low-income, biracial family (African American & Japanese), being the first generation in her family to go to college and part of the first generation to receive a basketball scholarship for women student athletes at Stanford University under Title IX, the federal law requiring gender equity in federally funded college sports. She studied engineering and then joined the Graduate School of Business at Stanford to earn her M.B.A., where she was the only African American woman in a class of 400 graduate students. Her experiences give her a depth of understanding of what it takes to serve historically underserved and underrepresented people.

“We were impressed by Debra’s vision and dynamism,” said Greenlining Board Co-Chair Ortensia Lopez. “She is intimately familiar with seeing change, being change and building community. Greenlining has grown remarkably over the last decade, and the challenges our nation faces are complex. With her wide variety of experience, we believe Debra is the right person to take us to the next level and to bring new energy and excitement to the fight for racial equity in these challenging times.”

“Debra is the right person with the right experience at an important time in the life of our organization,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Transition Committee Co-Chair. “She brings an important intersectional perspective and experience working with the very communities we serve.”

“I think I speak for everyone at The Greenlining Institute in thanking Orson Aguilar for his leadership and tireless dedication to the organization,” Gore-Mann said. “I am humbled to be able to follow such a legacy leader who worked for over 20 years to help build Greenlining into the strong and vibrant organization it is. I am incredibly excited to assume this role, and know that if we stand together, learn together, and educate each other, we will prosper together.”

Begun as an informal, multiethnic coalition of civil rights groups in the 1980s and formally incorporated as an organization in 1993, Greenlining has emerged as a leading advocate for racial equity in a variety of fields, from banking to tech and the fight against climate change. Its Leadership Academy has trained over 1,000 young leaders, and its graduates have taken on leadership positions as elected officials, heads of nonprofit organizations, a sitting California Supreme Court Justice and other influential roles. The Greenlining 360 Center in downtown Oakland has become a hub for grassroots community organizing, regularly hosting a variety of community meetings and events.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

New Research Finds Blind Spots in Assessing Climate Threats in California; Advocates Point to Solutions in Interactive Mapping Tool, Equity Guidebook

Contact:
Jenny Park, jenny@resource-media.org, 415-867-1166
Marie Choi, marie@apen4ej.org, 530-505-1102
Bruce Mirken, brucem@greenlining.org, 415-846-7758

SACRAMENTO — Two new resources from California’s leading environmental justice and equity groups aim to fill critical information gaps for state and local policymakers tasked with making important decisions around building climate resilience. Research from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change, while a guidebook from The Greenlining Institute provides a practical guidebook for implementing an equitable approach to building climate resilience.

“Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters,” presents findings and recommendations from APEN researchers, who conducted a careful review of dozens of existing climate threat assessment frameworks. The report finds that while some frameworks show promise in integrating the broad range of social, health, and environmental factors that contribute to climate vulnerability, they are limited by the data’s accessibility to be put to meaningful use by relevant agencies.

“Climate change impacts everyone, but the experience can feel dramatically different depending on who you are and where you live,” said Amee Raval, APEN’s Senior Policy Researcher and principal author of the study. “State and local leaders need an interactive mapping tool that layers all the disparate factors that contribute to climate impacts, so that they can see the full picture of the places and people that face the biggest threats and prioritize their decision-making accordingly.”

Complementing APEN’s research is The Greenlining Institute’s “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook.” The guidebook serves as an instruction manual on how to make equity real in California’s climate policies, so that resources are directed to those who face the most serious impacts yet have the fewest resources to adapt.

“More people are recognizing that the climate crisis impacts some communities more severely than others, and low-income communities of color are at the top of the list,” said Sona Mohnot, Greenlining Institute Senior Policy Analyst. “But good intentions alone won’t address these injustices. Our guidebook gives policymakers concrete tools to make equity real as we work to cope with climate change.”

Greenlining’s guidebook makes practical recommendations on how to embed equity into climate adaptation policies from the start, from setting goals through implementation and evaluation. It also includes tangible examples from existing policies and grant programs that illustrate what the recommendations would look like in practice, providing an equity report card on recent California climate policy.

“Policymakers need to recognize that communities are the best experts on their own needs,” Mohnot said. “That means officials need to not just hear community voices; they need to give them real power at every stage, from planning to implementation.”

Recent events in California point to how climate change can act as a threat multiplier that magnifies the enormous differences in zip codes, income, race, immigration status, and other indicators that impact an individual’s ability to cope and recover from climate disasters. In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, undocumented farmworkers in Oxnard didn’t have paid leave and continued to work in the fields amid dangerous air pollution levels without protective masks.

Despite the current shortcomings in building California’s climate resilience, researchers point to promising signs that the recommended climate threat assessment framework is well within reach. “We already have the building blocks we need to build a user-friendly, comprehensive mapping tool,” said Raval. “Many of the climate vulnerability indicators are already being used across several platforms that just need to be brought under one actionable format.”

“Community-led policy and planning is core to our vision for healthy, thriving, and resilient communities for all,” says Louise Bedsworth of the California Strategic Growth Council, who served on the Advisory Committee for the Making Equity Real guidebook. “Resources like these can help inform program development to achieve resilience outcomes.”

The full reports are accessible online:

 

Opinion: Donald Trump vs. the Statue of Liberty

Newsday
By Anthony Galace

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

— Plaque inside the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

— Update proposed by Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

———

The Trump administration has literally declared war on the Statue of Liberty and everything it stands for. Its new “public charge” rule — which Cuccinelli announced during the same Aug. 13 radio appearance in which he offered his rewording of the Statue of Liberty poem — aims to make the idea of the United States as a “land of opportunity” a relic of the past.

Set to take effect Oct. 15, the rule would deny the issuance of green cards granting permission to live and work in the United States to legal immigrants deemed “more likely than not” to receive public benefits. Those benefits include things like food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers and Medicaid.

Implementing this rule will not just punish legal immigrants who use public benefits. It’s written so broadly that it can even bar green cards to those judged “likely” to use them for a total of 12 months or longer during a 36-month period. Essentially, it’s a “No Trespassing” sign aimed at anyone who isn’t wealthy and educated, particularly for those coming from what President Donald Trump has called “s — -hole countries.”

This is not the America I grew up believing in. I was raised by immigrants and am proud to work with immigrants every day. Throughout history, millions of people have immigrated to the United States with nothing, sometimes needing help with housing or medical care to get started before going on to build successful lives, careers and families.

Immigrants are often entrepreneurial, attracted to this country by the idea that you can succeed if you have a good idea and a strong work ethic. A few years ago, researchers calculated that more than half of all startup companies worth $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants. They also estimated that, as of 2015, the nation was home to 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs who had less than a bachelor’s degree.

How many of these budding job creators will we now turn away?

Sadly, even though it hasn’t officially taken effect, the updated public charge rule has already done damage. After the idea was first floated in 2017, public health leaders found it had a chilling effect, causing immigrants to avoid seeking services, including nutrition programs for children and pregnant women.

In one survey of California health care providers, more than two-thirds noted an increase in parental concerns about enrolling children in Medicaid or food stamps, and 42% saw an increase in patients missing scheduled health care appointments.

Administration officials deny that this policy change, which the Migration Policy Institute estimates could affect up to 27 million people, is fueled by racism or xenophobia, arguing it’s just about “self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.” But these are also the same people who take migrant children from their parents and lock them in cages.

It’s been said that when it comes to Trump’s immigration policy, “the cruelty is the point.” This new policy to punish legal immigrants drives that point home yet again.

Anthony Galace is health equity director of The Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Trump DOJ Denounced for Approving ‘Anti-Competitive, Anti-Consumer’ Merger of Sprint and T-Mobile

Common Dreams
By Jessica Corbett

As the Justice Department struck a deal with Sprint and T-Mobile on Friday, consumer advocates vowed, “we’ll continue to fight to stop this dangerous merger from going through.” (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Consumer advocates decried the Department of Justice’s decision Friday to sign off on T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed merger, warning that allowing the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to join forces will drive up prices and negatively impact low-income and marginalized communities.

“The leadership at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission have failed in their job at protecting America’s citizens from the concentration of power that would result from this deal.”
—Barry Lynn, Open Markets Institute

In a statement, the DOJ announced that it had reached an agreement with five state attorneys general and the companies that makes the merger contingent on the divestment of “Sprint’s prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider.”

“The proposed settlement also provides for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish,” the statement explained. “Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. T-Mobile must also provide Dish with robust access to the T-Mobile network for a period of seven years while Dish builds out its own 5G network.”

DOJ Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim claimed that the deal will enable Dish “to become a facilities-based mobile network operator that can provide a full range of mobile wireless services nationwide,” and T-Mobile chief executive John Legere welcomed the settlement as “a win-win for everyone involved.”

However, critics such as Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps cautioned that “despite the addition of Dish, this is still a four-to-three merger where Verizon, AT&T, and a post-transaction T-Mobile will call all of the shots.”

T-Mobile and Sprint have framed their proposed merger as a bid to compete with AT&T and Verizon, the nation’s largest two wireless carriers.

If the merger is allowed to move forward, “consumers can expect to see higher prices, fewer choices, and less innovative offerings across the board,” said Copps, who formerly served at the Federal Communications Commission. “Low-income and marginalized communities who rely on prepaid services from T-Mobile and Sprint will face significant consequences and potentially get priced out of wireless service.”

Greenlining Institute technology equity director Paul Goodman, in a statement, also denounced the “anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger.”

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“This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color,” said Goodman, whose group advocates for racial and economic justice. “We see no indication that Dish has the ability or incentive to become a meaningful competitor that will serve communities of color.”

Free Press research director S. Derek Turner, in a statement Friday, described Dish as “a satellite-TV company with no wireless customers, and a well-earned reputation for hoarding spectrum.”

“In truth, this arrangement does not offer cellphone users a viable fourth competitor in the wireless market,” Turner said. “Dish has a troubling history when it comes to delivering wireless services, and it continues to squat on valuable spectrum, a delay that’s earned Dish considerable criticism from both inside and outside the FCC, including from T-Mobile itself before this newly engineered marriage of convenience.”

Turner pointed out that “prior to this last-minute dealmaking, all of the reports were that the Justice Department’s antitrust experts had reached the correct conclusion against approving this deal before being overruled by the political appointee leading the antitrust division. The merger would harm all wireless users through higher prices and diminished competition between the remaining three national carriers.”

“But the department’s antitrust chief has succumbed to political pressure from a White House that favors the deal,” Turner said.

Despite the DOJ’s approval, the merger still faces other regulatory hurdles before it can be finalized, which The Washington Post outlined Friday:

A federal judge must still approve the merger as must the Federal Communications Commission, though that agency’s Republican leaders previously expressed public support for the two wireless giant’s plans. T-Mobile and Sprint also must contend with the attorneys general of New York, California, and other states, who sued in recent weeks to stop the deal, arguing it threatens competition and could result in consumers paying higher prices for their phone service.

If the deal goes through, Turner said, DOJ’s Delrahim “will have abandoned his long-held belief that antitrust is a matter of law enforcement, and that conditions don’t magically make illegal mergers legal.”

“The leadership at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission have failed in their job at protecting America’s citizens from the concentration of power that would result from this deal,” Open Markets Institute executive director Barry Lynn declared Friday, while applauding the attorneys general who are challenging the merger.

Turner also expressed support for the lawsuit brought by the states, and vowed that “we’ll continue to fight to stop this dangerous merger from going through.”

T-Mobile wins federal approval for Sprint merger, seeks to allay concerns about pricing and job losses.

Seattle Times
Paul Roberts

After nearly a decade of foiled attempts to either buy or be bought by a rival wireless carrier, T-Mobile is one huge step closer to its goal.

On Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave its long-sought approval for an ambitious plan by Bellevue-based T-Mobile US to acquire rival carrier Sprint.

The $26 billion deal, which still faces fierce opposition from some state officials and consumer groups, would combine T-Mobile, the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, with Sprint, the fourth-largest. The new company would be nearly as large as the sector’s two leaders, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility.

“Today marks an incredibly important step forward for the New T-Mobile,” said T-Mobile U.S. CEO John Legere, who will lead the new company, in a joint news release Friday morning with Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure.

The two executives say the deal would allow the combined company to deliver a range of new services and technologies, not least a next-generation 5G wireless network, while achieving future cost savings of $43 billion.

News of the DOJ approval sent shares in both companies climbing. T-Mobile stock closed up 5.4%  at $84.25, while Sprint shares rose 6.6% to $7.93. shares in Sprint were up 7.5% to $8.01. It was also a relief for company officials, who appeared to have blind sided Thursday after the Justice Department delayed its approval because of a lawsuit by several states to block the deal.

But Friday’s approval also renewed questions about the merger’s impact on the wireless industry and on employees at the two soon-to-be merged companies.

Moments after Friday’s announcement, consumer advocates were already criticizing the Justice Department’s approval of the merger, which they fear could reduce industry competition and bring higher customer charges and even loss of service for low-income consumers.

“We’re profoundly disappointed at the decision to approve an anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger,” Paul Goodman, director of technology equity for the Oakland-based nonprofit Greenlining Institute, said in a statement Friday morning. “This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color.”

Employees at both T-Mobile and Sprint likely are also anxious to learn their fate under a deal that was sold to investors as way to generate $43 billion in projected “synergies,” or cost savings realized by eliminating redundant systems and operations, over the next five years.

Although some of those savings would likely come from cutting overlapping infrastructure, some is likely to come from job reductions, said Jon Magin, a merger and acquisition specialist with the Seattle office of technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Magin of the projected savings. “So the people impact — I think everyone’s going to be worried about their jobs.“

T-Mobile US has some 51,000 employees, including 5,520 at its Bellevue headquarters and another 2,769 at other locations in Washington state.

According to a Thursday report by the Associated Press, Sprint and T-Mobile plan to keep the main headquarters for the combined company in Bellevue, while maintaining a “secondary headquarters” in what is now the Sprint headquarters in Overland Park near Kansas City, Kansas.

The AP also reported that Sprint had agreed to sell its headquarters campus in a deal that allows the company to lease back the space at a special bargain rate.

Officials with both T-Mobile and Sprint have said the merger would mean more jobs, not fewer. In an April statement, Legere said the merger would create “nearly 5,600 new American customer-care jobs by 2021,” and “7,500-plus more care professionals by 2024 than the standalone companies would have.”

During a question-and-answer period after T-Mobile’s discussion of the merger on a conference call, Legere again insisted that “jobs are going up every day in this new company.”

Legere and other company officials also rejected concerns that the new company would raise prices or abandon customers. As part of the DOJ agreement, T-Mobile gave assurances that it would not raise its prices for three years.

More broadly, to win Justice Department approval, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to spin off billions of dollars in key assets — including at least 20,000 cell sites, a huge amount of spectrum capacity for wireless communications and some 9 million of Sprint’s Boost  and Virgin Mobile prepaid customers — to be used to create a new wireless carrier.

This fourth carrier, which will be operated by satellite-TV company Dish Network, is intended to ensure that the wireless industry would remain competitive and keep consumer prices from rising.

Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, who led its investigation of the deal, said the government required this “historic structural settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint after concluding their merger, without this remedy, would substantially harm competition.” He added that the agreement will “set up Dish as a disruptive force in wireless.”

Even so, the merger still faces hurdles. It must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, though commission chairman Ajit Pai said last month he’d approve it, citing the two companies’ commitments to improve rural wireless access and build out 5G networks.

Also, an antitrust suit recently brought by the attorneys general of New York and California on behalf of more than a dozen states remains active. “We have serious concerns that cobbling together this new fourth mobile player, with the government picking winners and losers, will not address the merger’s harm to consumers, workers and innovation,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Friday.

Legere said during Friday’s question-and-answer session he was optimistic that the companies could address those concerns and persuade reluctant state officials to support the deal.

“I am very confident we will find what is necessary for [the objecting states] to join in,” he said.

One of critics’ big concerns is the viability of a Dish wireless operation.

Dish is largely a company with a declining satellite-TV business. It has no wireless business, but over the past decade it has spent more than $21 billion accumulating a large stock of spectrum for wireless service. The industry has long been skeptical of Dish’s ambitions to actually build a wireless service, instead speculating that the company wanted to make money by selling its holdings.

Under the terms of the DOJ agreement, Dish would get some assistance from Sprint, which is selling Dish its prepaid cellphone brands for $5 billion, and from T-Mobile, which would let Dish use its network for seven years while its own network is built out.

There are also incentives built into the agreement to keep Dish from sitting on spectrum assets rather than building them out into a network, DOJ’s Delrahim said. If the company doesn’t live up to its promises, it would face billions of dollars in penalties.

But some analysts remained skeptical. Dish on Friday promised the FCC that it would build a nationwide network using next-generation 5G technology by June 2023. But Dish is promising speeds that are only slightly higher than what’s typical today, even though 5G promises the potential for blazing speeds.

Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner, a longtime telecom analyst, said the settlement was good for T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, as a weak competitor in Sprint is being replaced by an even weaker one in Dish.

George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said that the current industry structure of four competing providers works as it is. He said the existing level of competition won’t be maintained by simply requiring the creation of a competitor that doesn’t currently have the infrastructure.

“Dish might become a competing network at some point but it’s not there now,” he said.

David Tan, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, said the agreement “does not seem like the most expedient or efficient way to create a fourth competitor.”

“If the justification for the merger is that a company is going to spin off its resources to another fourth player and make that fourth player an equivalent competitor, then … that sort of defeats the purpose,” Tan said. “Why go through the trouble of creating a fourth player that is meant to be a replacement of what you used to be? Why not just operate as they were before?”

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Approval of Sprint/T-Mobile Merger “Disappointing,” Greenlining Institute Says

Advocates Fear Larger T-Mobile Will Abandon Low-Income Consumers and Consumers of Color 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute today expressed sharp disappointment at the Justice Department’s decision to okay T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint, but noted that the deal is not yet a sure thing. Attorneys general in 13 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust suit in June to stop the merger.

“We’re profoundly disappointed at the decision to approve an anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger,” said Greenlining Institute Technology Equity Director Paul Goodman. “This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color. We see no indication that DISH has the ability or incentive to become a meaningful competitor that will serve communities of color.

“Finally, the agreement between T-Mobile and DISH, which they claim solves the problem of removing a major competitor from the market, is incredibly complex, and far beyond the ability of the Department of Justice or the Federal Communications Commission to enforce. Greenlining hopes that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the attorneys general of other states will prevail in their lawsuit to block this harmful, anti-consumer merger and protect communities of color, along with all consumers who will be harmed by this deal.”

In order to alleviate anti-competitive aspects of the merger, the companies agreed to sell off some assets to DISH Network, including prepaid subsidiaries like Boost Mobile, spectrum licenses and retail stores. Consumer advocates widely consider these measures to be inadequate.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining