SACRAMENTO — By a voice vote, the California State Assembly on Monday approved a resolution that formally apologizes to Japanese American state employees who were fired because of their ancestry during World War II.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 19 was introduced by Assemblymember Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on Feb. 19 to commemorate the 71st anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
At this year’s Day of Remembrance observance at the State Capitol, ACR 19 was announced by Assemblymembers Pan, Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). They were joined by Yosh Uchida, who was fired from his teaching position at San Jose State College in 1942 but became a world-renowned judo coach at San Jose State University after the war.
Pan said he was proud to have authored the resolution and noted that the Legislature has not formally apologized for its actions until now.
The measure acknowledges that “the State of California made a grievous mistake that injured loyal employees who were dedicated to serving the people of California when it dismissed over 300 Americans of Japanese ancestry as a result of Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 15 of 1942 by Senator John Swan. This measure would resolve to issue a public apology to the state civil service employees who were dismissed.”
The State Personnel Board said at the time that “the morale among other employees … has been adversely affected by their being required to be associated in their work with these employees of Japanese ancestry” and that “there is a general lack of confidence on the part of the public and state employees in the loyalty of many of said employees of Japanese ancestry.”
Although the fired workers were offered their jobs back after the war, they were given only 10 days to return, and by that time they had been scattered across the country as a result of the internment and resettlement.
Last January, the current State Personnel Board formally apologized for its1942 resolution.
The Assembly’s apology does not involve monetary compensation as the fired employees were given a token amount of $5,000 by the state in 1982 under a bill introduced by then-Assemblymember Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton). This was eight years before the first federal payments of $20,000 to those who were interned.
Priscilla Ouchida, now the executive director of JACL, was an aide to Johnston at the time and was instrumental in getting the bill passed.
“The Japanese American Citizens League applauds the passage of ACR 19,” said Ouchida. “In 1982, dozens of Japanese Americans gathered in the governor’s conference room to witness Gov. Jerry Brown sign the first bill to recognize the World War II injustice that singled out loyal Japanese American employees of the State of California. Many of the employees clutched pink slips they had kept in hopes of vindication. Assemblyman Pan has taken the final step in a long struggle to right a wrong.”