In this episode of Future Proof, Peter Kaldes talks with Robert Espinoza, Vice President of Policy for PHI, about issues of equity and justice and how they intersect with the work he does in advocating for the direct care workforce and pushing policy change in long-term care. Espinoza addresses how systemic racism has affected direct care workers and how that might be ameliorated, how immigration policy feeds into the mix of racial and social justice, and his vision for a more equitable and just world, especially as it pertains to caring for older adults.
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On the impact of police brutality and racial injustice on the direct care workforce
"Our research shows that about 59% of direct care workers are people of color, and about 30% are Black. So when you think about what a worker brings when they come to the job, they're coming with the experience of violent police brutality in some instances and the overarching challenges of systemic racism. They've been subjected to a lifetime of differential treatment, of discrimination on the job, in their lives, on top of living in a police state where they fear for their lives."
How policies on immigration impact direct care workers
"...what we know is that the long term care system relies on immigrants and would probably collapse without immigrants being on the front lines of this workforce. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we saw a number of measures that really meant to punish immigrants working in this sector and across the country. We saw the Muslim ban when Trump was elected as president, we saw the removal of temporary protected status for many workers, the discourse became more xenophobic over time, immigrants became the targets and scapegoats for crime in this country, which is not an accurate representation."
On what is needed to improve the quality of jobs in the direct care workforce
"We must improve the quality of jobs for direct care workers across the board. That means higher wages and compensation. That means benefits like paid leave and childcare. It means that training standards and training opportunities for workers. Advanced roles so that workers can advance in their careers and so much more that the sector needs. Because anybody, regardless of their immigration status, should have a job where they can make ends meet, and where they want to stay long term because it benefits workers and it benefits consumers."
How the pandemic has shed light on the plight of direct care workers
"One thing that COVID-19 has shown is that when direct care workers don't have quality jobs, they're not able to deliver quality care. In many instances, we saw home care workers who knew that their employers didn't have proper protection like PPE supplies and they themselves did not have access to paid lead. And so they had to make the impossible choice: Do I go to my job and risk getting infected and then infecting my families and clients, or do I stay home and collapse financially. And many workers chose not to go to work, which of course ultimately affects the delivery of care."
Recent Work from Robert and PHI
- Workforce Matters: The Direct Care Workforce and State-Based LTSS Social Insurance Programs
- Federal Policy Priorities: Strengthening the Direct Care Workforce
- It’s Time to Care: A Detailed Profile of America’s Direct Care Workforce
- We Can Do Better: How Our Broken Long-Term Care System Undermines Care
- Direct Care Work Is Real Work
Peter Kaldes: Hi everyone my name is Peter Kaldes. I'm the CEO of the American Society on Aging. Welcome to Future Proof. This is our first episode of season two of Future Proof. You'll remember Future Proof was started to really get at innovations that leaders were implementing in response to COVID. Well, in season two we want to explore innovations leaders are implementing with respect to equity and justice issues.
It feels quite timely now given what our country's going through. And I know many of our ASA members are really struggling with this question. And so today on Future Proof, I'm really excited to share that we have Robert Espinosa who's a nationally recognized expert in aging, caregiving, and long term care workforce issues. Robert is currently the Vice President of policy at PHI in addition to serving on ASA's board of directors. He was appointed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to its advisory panel on outreach and education, as well as by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, through his forum on aging, disability, and independence. Robert, thank you so much for joining us today on episode one of season two of Future Proof.
Robert Espinoza: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Peter Kaldes: Today, we'll be addressing the issues of equity and justice, and specifically how they intersect with your important work for the long term care workforce. So let's just start on a daily basis. Let's look at what's going on in the headlines right now related to police brutality and racial injustice. Where's the intersect? How does that affect the workforce you represent?
Robert Espinoza: It has a profound effect on the direct care workforce. I think in general we're in a moment in our country's history, where we're having a real reckoning with racial injustice and our long history of police brutality, specifically on Black people, but also on Black and brown communities. And it's a topic that shapes our system and it shapes all of our workers as well.
Our research shows that about 59% of direct care workers are people of color, and about 30% are Black. So when you think about what a worker brings when they come to the job, they're coming with the experience of violent police brutality in some instances and the overarching challenges of systemic racism. They've been subjected to a lifetime of differential treatment, of discrimination on the job, in their lives, on top of living in a police state where they fear for their lives. I think it's a real reckoning for our country and for our long term care sector to ask, "What does it mean to support people who deal with constant violence in our lives?"
Peter Kaldes: So obviously our ASA members understand what a direct care worker is. Could you just define it for those who may not be familiar with it?
Robert Espinoza: Yeah, absolutely. Direct care workers, by definition, are home care workers and nursing assistants, who support older adults and people with disabilities in a variety of settings. They do this work in people's homes, in nursing homes, and in a variety of residential care settings like assisted living settings. There are about 4.5 million direct care workers. And many people don't know that it's actually the largest growing job occupation in this country. But unfortunately, even though they are incredibly valuable to many of us, they don't work in high-quality jobs that pay them enough, that offer them enough training or opportunities for advancement. So it's a workforce that's also incredibly neglected.
Peter Kaldes: Robert, I know your work at PHI tries to address a lot of these inequalities and really elevate the profile of the significance and the impact of the direct care worker. Could you share a little bit about how PHI responds to this challenge?
Robert Espinoza: We've been around for almost 30 years. Our focus is on strengthening the direct care workforce, and specifically on elevating the role of direct care workers in the healthcare system and in our broader economy. We do this work through a variety of ways. We study and analyze the workforce. We look at demographics and job characteristics and future job projections. And we issue analyses and reports to help people understand who these workers are, where they fit in the long term care system, and all the challenges that they face.
The other piece is, we have an array of workforce interventions where we work closely with providers of all sizes all around the country, who are interested in better training workers, creating advanced roles, improving the recruitment and retention efforts. We learned from these interventions that we can really inform the field.
The final thing is that we advocate for policy reforms at the federal, state, and local levels. There is a big role that government can play in improving the quality of these jobs. And we partner with government leaders and with agencies to help them understand these issues, and then to, of course, enact a range of reforms that improve these jobs and ultimately, improve care for all of us.
Peter Kaldes: One of the areas that I know you are actively involved with is that of immigration. So as an expert in immigration, how do you see the policies of the current administration impacting the director workforce in the short-term? And then I want to ask that you think about it in the long-term a well.
Robert Espinoza: Absolutely. I think in the short term, it has been a few rough years for immigrants and for immigrants in the direct care workforce. A few years ago PHI issued a study that looked at the composition of immigrants in the direct care workforce, and we found that about one in four direct care workers is an immigrant and a total of about 1 million immigrants. Our research only looks at direct care workers who are part of the formal system. We can assume that in the gray market, where a lot of consumers will hire workers basically off the books because that's all that they can afford, the immigrants are probably a big part of that sector as well. So, what we know is that the long term care system relies on immigrants and would probably collapse without immigrants being on the front lines of this workforce. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we saw a number of measures that really meant to punish immigrants working in this sector and across the country. We saw the Muslim ban when Trump was elected as president, we saw the removal of temporary protected status for many workers, the discourse became more xenophobic over time, immigrants became the targets and scapegoats for crime in this country, which is not an accurate representation. And what we saw in our sector is that immigrants felt less stable in their communities. And because of that, they felt less stable on the job. So it became more difficult for immigrants to do their valuable work. It became more difficult for employers to hire immigrants and retain them because there was something about the fabric of their lives that was being torn apart. And it's only been increasing in the last few years.
It's complicated because when our research looks at the future demand for these workers, we show that between 2018 and 2028, the long term care sector will need to fill 8.2 million job openings in direct care. These are jobs that are being created by demand, new jobs. But there are also workers who are leaving direct care for other sectors because it doesn't pay enough, it's too psychologically demanding or physically demanding, and because there are better jobs in retail or fast food, for example. So immigrants are absolutely a key part of the solution. And all of this anti-immigrant sentiment is hurting us just when we need it most of the country.
Peter Kaldes: You know, while it's probably particularly obvious that this administration hasn't been terribly helpful immigration policies, to say the least, I'm wondering if you could also talk a little bit about the legislative outlook around immigration, and specifically as it relates to direct care workers. I'm wondering, is Congress has been helpful? Are there helpful proposals? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Robert Espinoza: Yeah, absolutely. I think in the next year or so, depending on the makeup of our presidential administration and Congress, there is an opportunity for us to think about sound and very needed immigration policies that would help resolve so many of these challenges that I mentioned. Some of these proposals are coming out of the long term care industry. They're coming from advocates who understand the need that employers have for immigrants as workers. And some of these proposals are based on, for example, developing the temporary visa for foreign-born workers to come into the US to take on these roles and are meant to help meet demand and providing those temporary visas.
I think there's also an attempt to think about how you recruit and build the pipeline of workers from all parts of the world and whether it's a temporary visa or some other approach. There are two challenges with this approach that I think we'll need to sort through as a sector. One is that many of these proposals don't really offer a path to permanent residency. And for immigrants who actually want to become Americans, who want to become a part of the country long term, it doesn't really offer that path. And that's something that immigration rights advocates have rightfully noted in many of these proposals. The other concern is that too often immigration status in these proposals is tied to the employer. And so the employer has the ability to decide whether or not they stay employed. And if they don't stay employed, they lose their immigration status. And that's a problem that can lead to a lot of exploitation. We've seen a number of news stories, even television, tackle this topic. How do we make sure that we tie these really important proposals, not to employers, but to some broader system so that employers don't exploit workers and create a bigger problem?
Peter Kaldes: Those are all very difficult issues and they're tied up in so many other areas of immigration so that it's really hard to get a win here. It's hard for Congress to move the needle on just one aspect of immigration. It feels as though the only way to improve our immigration system is the approach of a complete overhaul. But I'm wondering what's your take on a piecemeal approach?
Robert Espinoza: I think ultimately we do need an overhaul. I think that, and I'm not an immigration policy expert where I can speak to all those dimensions, but what I know from the direct care workforce angle is that it's not working. I think that we live in a system in which demand for direct care compels many immigrants into this sector. We live in a system that doesn't allow people to afford home care, for example. And so they go outside of the formal market, and they hire mostly immigrants, kind of off the books, where they can also be exploited. And the exploitation can happen in both ways, by the way, in the gray market. And we have a system that, in a global perspective, people are living in countries that are in disarray, that are falling apart politically and economically, and where people fear for their lives. And so they see coming to the US as an opportunity, not just to make a better life, but to survive. And how do we create the right kind of set of immigration policies and principles that acknowledges that there might be a cap on how many immigrants are admitted into the US, but does so in a way that's more humane, that's more reasonable, and that acknowledges the needs of workers and the demands on employers?
Peter Kaldes: I wonder what you think of the notion that we shouldn't be relying almost exclusively, it feels like sometimes, on immigrants for direct care workers. So what's the response to someone who says, "Well, why can't we hire U.S. citizens who are here already looking for jobs?"
Robert Espinoza: Yeah, absolutely. We see it as almost like two trains running. So our primary train is, we must improve the quality of jobs for direct care workers across the board. That means higher wages and compensation. That means benefits like paid leave and childcare. It means that more training standards and training opportunities for workers. Advanced roles so that workers can advance in their careers and so much more that the sector needs. Because anybody, regardless of your immigration status, should have a job where they can make ends meet, and where they want to stay long term because it benefits workers and it benefits consumers. Unfortunately, we're far from that. And because so often direct-care jobs are low in quality, we're left with thinking, "How do we boost recruitment and retention into the sector just to meet basic demand?"
I mentioned that 8.2 million job openings will need to fill by 2028. Immigrants are a part of that question. We must support immigrants in a variety of ways. And there are rules for providers too. I don't think it's all public policy. We recently interviewed an organization based in New Mexico called and Encuentro, which is a community-based organization that supports immigrants and they have developed a homecare training program for Spanish speaking immigrants. New Mexico is a border state and there are high percentages of immigrants from Latin America and from Mexico. And they developed a program that was accessible to people who primarily spoke Spanish. It abided by state standards, state training standards. And at the end of their training program, you had a pool of homecare workers who could go into the community and support immigrants who are consumers. We need those kinds of innovations that can support immigrants, but we can't lose perspective on the overarching goal, which is really to transform the quality of direct care jobs.
Peter Kaldes: So let's move away from using immigration policy and improving it as a tool to improve our workforce or domestic care workforce. What other things could we be doing as a country or could localities be doing, or could even our ASA members be doing, to improve the pipeline of direct care workers?
Robert Espinoza: Sure, absolutely. When you look at the primary reasons why so many direct care workers leave their jobs, two issues that come up right away are low wages and poor supervision. So there's something in there as well. Now, when you look at other reasons, you also see concerns around training and that there are limited advanced roles in this workforce. And the psychological and physical demand of direct care makes it harder to recruit new workers as well. Nursing assistants have some of the highest injury rates of any occupation in this country because they're lifting so many people within one schedule. So I think part of ensuring that we have adequate numbers of direct care workers is improving the quality of those jobs through all those measures. I think it's largely a policy question, although I'm biased as the vice president of policy. I think it's a role for federal leaders and for state and local policy leaders and we outlined a variety of measures that can be done, depending on what state or federal leaders are interested in.
It can start with developing a plan. We did a report last year where we showed 16 states that had commissioned statewide workgroups on direct care. And they had outlined really ambitious and realistic blueprints for change in the direct care workforce. And those plans will hit on things like improving wages, ensuring paid leave and childcare for workers, better training, advanced roles, stronger data collection. We don't have good data on direct care workers at the state level, and that hurts us. And I think part of that is also the role of providers. I think providers are interested in playing roles as advocates. They themselves are struggling with recruitment and retention. And they can play a role in passing that public policy.
The one thing that I'll say is that, in this moment, what we have seen is that an overarching problem with the direct care workforce and their employers is the lack of funding. Medicaid is the primary payer of long term care and Medicaid is often strapped in state budgets. And labor costs are often the highest cost within those budgets. Well, as those states shrink their budgets, and we're seeing that with the COVID-19 reality, the ability for those providers to receive enough money just to deliver care is going to shrink. And it's also going to shrink in terms of their ability to improve jobs. And so, how can we make sure that we better finance long term care and finance this workforce?
Peter Kaldes: I want to follow up on that. Do you think do you have a sense of whether the pandemic has gotten folks thinking a little more creatively about the financial question? I wonder if we can make these jobs a little bit more palatable to folks and that they actually pay salaries and more than just a living wage, and it's attractive as a sector. I'm wondering, could we see a change where the pandemic will have contributed to a rising salary and wages for folks in this space.
Robert Espinoza: I hope. You know, one thing that COVID-19 has shown is that when direct care workers don't have quality jobs, they're not able to deliver quality care. In many instances, we saw home care workers who knew that their employers didn't have proper protection like PPE supplies, and they themselves did not have access to paid lead. And so they had to make the impossible choice: Do I go to my job and risk getting infected and then infecting my families and clients, or do I stay home and collapse financially? And many workers chose not to go to work, which of course ultimately affects the delivery of care.
So, we're at a point in which we need to understand that equation a little better—quality jobs lead to quality care. And if we don't improve the quality jobs, many of us won't have the home care workers, or the nursing assistants, or the residential care aides to deliver that care.
In terms of financing. This is a tricky question that can get wonkish really quickly, but I think it's an important one. A year ago, I was part of an expert panel that advised the new report on universal family care as part of the National Academy of Social Insurance. I advised specifically the long term care section. And what the committee was grappling with was this reality that, for many people, the only public support to pay for long term care is Medicaid. But Medicaid requires you to spend down your income and assets. It's for people who are in poverty. So it depletes the resources that many middle-income people have. And it makes it harder to deliver that care and it creates all these other dysfunctions. And so what the report proposed was, could we think about a social insurance program option for long term care that would allow consumers to be able to hire home care workers, live in a nursing home if that's their option or in an assisted living facility and not require them to spend on all their income and assets. We've seen some energy at the state level. Washington State passed a modest version of this. Maine was considering the ballot initiative. And we are always in conversation with states around the country.
But where the report didn't go, and this is where PHI steps in, is that it didn't outline how these social insurance programs should also improve the quality of direct care jobs. If we're going to put money into making long term care more affordable, why not make these jobs also high quality since affordability and accessibility kind of go hand in hand. So we produce our own report called the Workforce Matters, where we outline various areas from training to better supervision for supervisors, to better data collection systems, and so on. As measures that should be included in all of these social insurance programs. The ideas are there, but is the will there? I think we're at a point in which we need the states and the federal government to say we need social insurance and long term care.
Peter Kaldes: So one of the things that we touched on at the beginning and I'd like to return to now is this very real racial discrimination that affects our direct care workers. So, could you share how racial discrimination impacts our direct care workers, by the public, or by the older adult they serve?
Robert Espinoza: Yeah, absolutely. Several decades ago, in the 30s, when the New Deal was being debated, direct care workers were exempted from basic wage and overtime protections. It was not an issue that was repaired until 2010, although it took several years through court cases for them to achieve that. And part of the reason is that there's a historical record showing that Southern segregationists, for the most part, employed racist rhetoric to say that people of color, largely women of color, didn't deserve those wage and overtime protections. It wasn't "real work." I won't go into the specifics of that, but there is a record that shows all of that. And this is a really great example of how racial injustice ultimately hurts all of us. It primarily hurts people of color, but it hurts all of us. Because of those exemptions all direct care workers, regardless of their race and ethnicity, didn't have basic wage and overtime protections for decades. And when the job was devalued and is still devalued in many ways, because it's considered "women's work" and thus not "real work," or because like many other highly people of color sectors, it's devalued.
Two ways in which I see racial injustice affecting this workforce: We did a study two years ago looking at racial and gender disparities in the direct care workforce, and in many measures from basic wages to part-time hours, etc., there were modest differences across race, across gender, etc. But when you look at median family income, women of color earn a median family income of $20,000 less than white men in the same sector. And far less than white women and far less than men of color. What that tells us is that women of color have kind of a depleted social safety net. They're coming into these jobs with decades of discrimination, they have reduced earning potential and family incomes, their nest egg, so to speak. And in a disruption like COVID-19, they have something less to fall on than white men and white women. And it tells you that in a workforce that is already marginalized, women of color, in particular, are facing additional disparities that make their jobs more intense.
The final issue I'll point out to this question is that a few years ago, when I first started at PHI, I began looking at the media coverage on direct care workers. Just to get a sense of what the conversation was like, and where there were opportunities to build that. The most common news story you saw at the time, was the story of what I would call the homecare thief. This is the story of a homecare worker who was hired by a consumer and the homecare worker robs them. They steal their money, they go into their accounts, in some cases, there was elder abuse as well for workers who are supporting older people, and they devastate the lives of the people. And the stories were often paired with these pretty awful mug shots of mostly people of color. And so you saw this headline that was devastating, of course, to the consumer. But it advertently reified the racist representations of people of color as criminals. And just recently, I saw a story about a newspaper that was deciding that they would no longer print mug shots of people of color because research has shown that it feeds racist ideas of people of color as criminals. Well, that was the implicitly racist idea that framed most news coverage. I can say that five years later, we don't see those photos that often, although we still struggle with the question about if homecare workers going to put people's lives in danger. A valid question, but an overstated one.
Peter Kaldes: Yeah, it's overstated and I would argue that now we need to see media stories on the homecare heroes, particularly given the pandemic. These home care workers who are doing the most difficult, and some of the most risky work right now, given the pandemic. I'm so glad you brought that up because we think that the power of the media and at ASA we think that we have to do a better job of demonstrating the value of aging, generally. But like ageism, like racism, anything that devalues the human does not help the narrative here, right? And so similarly with a workforce, how do you think we could do a better job of demonstrating that this particular workforce has a value and should be paid according to their value?
Robert Espinoza: There are a number of arguments or narratives that support that, A lot of those narratives are narratives that PHI has put out, but we're also seeing others adopt them. One is noting the role, the essential role, of direct care workers, not just during the crisis, but in general. Many older adults and people with disabilities rely on direct care workers to make it through the day. And as we see the number of older people increasing in the next few decades, people are living longer and also we're seeing an increase in conditions like dementia, cardiovascular disease, direct care workers will become much more critical to people's lives and to their survival. So really keeping that top of mind. And I think people like us, like everyday people, who see the role of direct care workers in their lives can attest to that. And the more we get engaged in storytelling about workers, the more we take our own realities and challenge the narrative that workers are thieves, but actually are, as you said, heroes and essential to the fabric I think is really important.
The other piece is that as a policy analyst, and as a thinker, I also think we need to make stronger arguments about the role of direct care workers in the economy. There is research showing that, especially with home care workers, that home care workers can provide optimal homecare for consumers that prevent costly hospitalizations, and that prevents employers and the whole system from collapsing under the financial weight of that. So direct care workers and good training, advanced roles, all of that can help improve the kind of outcomes that oftentimes governments impair as well, which are economic and financial. I think the pairing of those two narratives could go a long way.
Peter Kaldes: So one of the things that we started off with was talking about police brutality. And we talked about it, linking it to the direct care workforce. I think there might be some lessons now in how local and state jurisdictions are reconfiguring their local policing. I know that some of them lowered their budgets or have disbanded them outright, for doing things from a community perspective. I'm wondering are there similar kinds of approaches to achieving equity and justice with respecting the direct care workforce?
Robert Espinoza: Sure. As I understand it, I think one of the central policy reforms that this racial justice movement is asking for is what they term "defunding the police." And central to that is the idea that cities and states should be investing more money into basic services that people need. I think that absolutely could benefit direct care workers. That money could go to improving wages so that workers aren't earning poverty-level wages and are actually able to create the life that they want. And that money could go to ensuring a better safety net to pay leave and childcare. I think it could go to creating stronger training programs so that workers have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to do their jobs. And I think it could go to a bigger investment in long term care that allows all of us to afford it, so that we don't have to exhaust our income and our assets in order to qualify for home care, for example, because we know the government is picking that off. They understand the value and they understand that the lives of older adults and people with disabilities matter, and they should be publicly supported. I think that's one of the biggest lessons that we can take from this moment around direct care workforce supports.
Peter Kaldes: The other thing that strikes me is, perhaps some of our members may assume that because you are in the face of serving older adults, that somehow you are not stricken by the same biases as say others might have. And I'm wondering what role does implicit bias play here? How can we do a better job of identifying it in ourselves and also in the delivery of services, whether they're direct care or volunteers who are providing caregiving? Talk to some of the community-based organizations that are members of ASA with some ideas.
Robert Espinoza: I think we have tried, especially in the last few years, to really challenge ageism, and all of our work, both our programs and policies, our internal operations, and in our marketing and how we describe the challenges and the realities of direct care workers. We avoid words like "seniors" and "elderly" or terminology that people in the reframing aging movement have called out as potentially activating ageist assumptions about older people as being frail and not having agency over their own lives. And we look out for ways in which our language can show that. We're also cognizant that you need to speak in a way that's still understandable and that people get the right images, but we want to make sure that we're not pushing forward that image.
One misconception about direct care workers that we confronted directly a year ago is that actually, there are a number of older adults who work as direct care workers. So it isn't just a binary of younger people supporting older adults or able-bodied people supporting people with disabilities. And we found that one in four direct care workers is aged 55 and older. And that oftentimes older workers are bringing years of work experience and family caregiving experience to these jobs. And that kind of wisdom, that character, is really important to be successful as a direct care worker. And it was a big aha moment for us internally. We hadn't framed direct coworkers as an older demographic. For the broader sector it was an opportunity for them to think about, "How do you support older workers as older people?" Are there specific issues/needs in ways that don't veer towards paternalism, but actually in real considerations. Post-retirement issues or second or third career concerns. Those kinds of issues. So it was a way that we took our internalized assumptions around age and turn it into a lesson for the field.
Peter Kaldes: Robert, there is so much I could talk to you about with respect to racism and equity and the direct care workforce. We're seeing in the front pages of all sorts of newspapers and on TV just given what's going on with the pandemic. Unfortunately, we've run out of time, but I do want to ask you one question. In season one, I asked Future Proof folks about leadership and their take on leadership during a crisis. For this season on equity and justice, I really want to ask a more personal question. And that is, your aha moment. You talked earlier about having an aha moment at PHI. I'm wondering when was your aha moment on why equity and justice issues matter to you?
Robert Espinoza: I think my first major aha moment, I probably had a number of aha moments all through my childhood, in high school, etc., but one of my major aha moments took place in college. It was my sophomore year in college and I had come out of the closet and I was really interested in engaging in advocacy in some way. This is the mid- to late-90s. And so I started looking around at what was available on our campus and I was recruited into a group of student activists who, at the time, were interested in the issue of affirmative action. Our university was a state flagship school in Colorado and we had become the target of the right-wing as a state that needed to eliminate affirmative action. And so a bunch of really smart, progressive multi-issue advocates and activists came together to say, "How do we preserve this? How do we make sure that we retain diversity in our affirmative action policies?" And even though as a Latino, as a gay Latino, as somebody who probably benefited in many ways from affirmative action throughout my life, I had not thought about how it operated as a public policy question as an issue that affects our university. So, part of that process was me sitting down and learning from other student activists who are still some of my closest friends and I would consider them family at this point, about the nature of affirmative action, the decades worth of work that had gone into it, how the opposition works, and how they will dismantle the systems that many of us rely on to protect us. And it was a great learning because even though we weren't successful at the time while I was in college on that issue, I learned so much about policy reform as movement-building work and that it often takes decades to achieve but it takes a willingness to work. I take that lesson throughout my entire career, and I use it now in my daily work. We're part of a movement, we're not just part of the organizations that we're employed by.
Peter Kaldes: And I think that the entire month of June and May, more and more people, whether they know it or not, are joining the movement. They're sort of waking up to the notion that they may very well not consider themselves racist or not get into things that would otherwise get them into trouble legally, whether it's any form discrimination, and yet they, too, are being challenged. And they're being brought into the movement. And I think simple conversations like these really help people open up their minds to the notion that maybe we aren't doing everything we can be doing. And as a white man, I know that I have an obligation, being in a position of leadership at the ASA, but also, just being a citizen in this country, we all have an obligation to open up our minds, listen and actually take action. And so I'm always curious to hear when you had your aha moment in taking action and I want to learn from leaders who joined Future Proof in the coming episodes about their moments as well. We can all learn from that to hopefully take some more action against racial inequity and injustice.
Robert, thank you so much for your candid answers in your response. As always, you're such a strong leader and ASA thank you for being so involved.
Robert Espinoza: Thank you. And likewise, thank you for including me and I look forward to the future conversations.
Peter Kaldes: And to everyone else, thank you for joining us. Season Two like we said at Future Proof is all about equity and justice. We hope you enjoyed this first episode and the lineup that's coming up. Thank you very much