Little Saigon upset over California bill that would prohibit the firing of state workers who are Communist Party members – Orange County Register

Little Saigon officials and activists said they are gearing up to fight a proposed California bill that would prevent the firing of public employees for being affiliated with the Communist Party.

The bill, AB 22, passed the state Assembly this week by a 41 to 30 margin – with no support from the Orange County delegation. If the bill passes the state Senate, it would change a law that dates from the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and singles out Communist Party membership as grounds for firing state workers.

The prospect of allowing Communist Party members to work for California has riled Little Saigon. Most in the community are either refugees or relatives of refugees who fled their homeland after the fall of Saigon in 1975 to communist forces. Orange County’s Little Saigon is the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Southeast Asia.

“I am disappointed in the Assembly,” Westminster Mayor Tri Ta said. “It feels like they betrayed our community.”

The Westminster City Council on Wednesday, May 10, unanimously passed an emergency resolution to send a letter to the state legislature condemning the bill. Garden Grove leaders have asked their staff to prepare a similar protest.

Garden Grove Councilman Phat Bui said he is also working with local activists to send protesters to Sacramento.

“We sacrificed so much – not just Vietnamese, but American veterans as well – fighting communism,” Bui said. “The communist doctrine is opposed to the American way of life.”

The law, as originally written, also allows the firing of an employee who belongs to any organization that advocates the “overthrow of the government of the United States.” But fear of communism is explicitly mentioned in its opening paragraphs as the motivation.

The new bill, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), would strike the introduction and reword the law to allow public employees to be fired only if they are members of organizations they know want to, and are seeking to, overthrow the government by force or violence.

Bonta said his bill is a “technical cleanup,” meant to align California law with the United States Constitution and the ruling of the Supreme Court in the 1967 case United States V. Robel. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, in essence, it is unconstitutional for the government to fire people because of their political affiliations.

“This bill certainly doesn’t endorse communism or encourage communism,” Bonta said. “The bill stands up for people’s rights.”

Trying to overthrow the government has always been illegal and the bill wouldn’t change that, Bonta added.

But it will be a hard sell for those who represent the Vietnamese community.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Republican representing Garden Grove, has vowed to vote no on the bill if  it comes to the Senate floor. She has started a petition opposing it.

“Many California residents still bear the painful scars of having lived under communist regimes,” Nguyen said. “And now Sacramento wants to allow avowed Communist Party members to work for the state of California. The bill is an incredible insult to Californians who have escaped communism.”

Bonta said he understands why the Vietnamese community dislikes this bill, and drew a distinction between what he described as the “McCarthyite, paranoid” intent of the current law and the visceral, traumatic experiences of Vietnamese Americans.

“Everyone from the Orange County delegation will have a tough time with this bill and I totally understand why,” he added. “But I hope they try to understand the bill and its intent. It is meant to bring California in compliance with the Constitution.”

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