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 the state 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,” said Westminster Mayor Tri Ta. “It feels like they betrayed our community.”
The Garden Grove City Council on Tuesday, May 9, unanimously told its staff to prepare a resolution condemning the bill.
Ta said Wednesday he, too, would ask at a Westminter council meeting scheduled for later in the day for a similar resolution.
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,” he 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…