fresh voices from the front lines of change








Tom Conway

Why Workers Like Victoria Need The PRO Act Now

Those bundles of joy cost bundles of money, so Victoria Whipple, a quality control worker at Kumho Tire in Macon, Ga., had been working overtime to get ready for her new arrival. She also got involved in union organizing at the plant, and management decided to teach her a lesson. It didn’t matter that Victoria had seven kids ranging in age from 10 to 1. Or that she was eight months pregnant. Those things just made her a more appealing target. On Sept. 6, the day Kumho workers wrapped up an election in which they voted to join the United Steelworkers (USW), managers pulled Victoria off the plant floor and suspended her indefinitely without pay solely because she was supporting the union. In a heartbeat, her income was gone. What happened to Victoria happens all the time: Employers face no real financial penalties for breaking federal labor law by retaliating against workers during a union organizing campaign. So they feel free to suspend, fire or threaten anyone they want. Workers are fired in one of every three organizing efforts nationwide. Legislation now before Congress — the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act—would curtail this rampant abuse. The PRO Act would fine employers up to $50,000 for retaliating against workers during organizing campaigns. It would require the National Labor Relations Board to go to court to seek reinstatement of workers who are fired or face serious financial harm because of retaliation, and it would give workers the right to file lawsuits and seek damages on their own. Members of Congress need to understand something. Employers like Kumho too often exploit their employees and resist any effort that workers make to improve their lot. When that happens, workers like Victoria will stand their ground. Now more than ever, they need the protections of the PRO Act backing them up.

Sec. DeVos Could Face Jail For Illegally Collecting Student Debt

DeVos violated 2018 order not to collect fraudulent student loans. Newsweek: "ducation Secretary Betsy DeVos has been threatened with the possibility of jail after a judge deemed she was violating a court order for continuing to collect student debts on a now-defunct school. That ruling, handed down in June of 2018, was made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim and prevented DeVos and her Department of Education for going after former students at the bankrupt Corinthian Colleges Inc. However, Kim said she was 'astounded' to discover that DeVos was violating the court order at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday after a filing by the Education Department earlier disclosed that more than 16,000 former students at Corinthian College 'were incorrectly informed at one time or another ... that they had payments due on their federal student loans.' At least 1,800 people reportedly lost wages or tax refunds according to the filing. 'At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order,' Kim said, reported Bloomberg. 'I'm not sure if this is contempt or sanctions,' she added. 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability.'"

WH Blocks E.U. Ambassador From Testimony To Congress On Ukraine

State Dept. orders European Union Ambassador Sondland not to testify before Congress. CBS: "U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was scheduled to be interviewed by Congress Tuesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the the State Department, according to a statement issued by his attorney. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings. Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin said in the statement that Sondland 'is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today' and went on to say that the ambassador had traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with the Joint Committee staff to appear. Sondland 'believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States' and remains ready to testify 'on short notice,' Luskin said."

DHS Chief Booed Off Georgetown Stage

Acting Homeland Security Chief shouted off stage at Georgetown Law. NYT: "Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, was forced offstage at Georgetown University’s law school by demonstrators who shut down his planned keynote address as they protested the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Almost immediately after Mr. McAleenan was introduced to give a speech hosted by the Migration Policy Institute, nearly a dozen advocates and law students in the crowd stood up holding signs saying, 'Stand with immigrants' and 'Hate is not normal.' Standing at the lectern in front of the packed auditorium, Mr. McAleenan tried to start speaking but was drowned out by chants of: 'When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.' The protesters also read the names of the migrants who have died after being detained at the border. The event was the latest effort by opponents of the administration’s hard-line immigration policies to let their grievances be known to the policymakers carrying them out. Last year, Stephen Miller, one of the chief architects of President Trump’s immigration policies, threw away $80 worth of takeout sushi, fearing that it had been spat on after a Washington bartender screamed at him. Protesters heckled the last confirmed homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, last year as she ate at a Mexican restaurant."

SCOTUS To Consider Protections For Gay, Transgender Workers

Supreme Court will consider whether gay, transgender workers are protected by federal law. WaPo: "The Supreme Court takes on one of its most consequential issues of the term Tuesday, considering whether federal discrimination laws protect gay and transgender workers. The issue for the court is the reach of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, besides protecting against workplace discrimination because of race, religion and other characteristics, also prohibits discrimination 'because of sex.' The court combined two cases to consider whether gay workers are covered. Gerald Bostock claims he was fired from his job as a social worker in Clayton County, Ga., after he became more open about being gay, including joining a gay softball league. Donald Zarda said he was fired as skydiving instructor after joking with a female client to whom he was strapped for a tandem dive that he was gay. (Zarda died in 2014.) The transgender case involves Aimee Stephens, who worked for years at a Michigan funeral home before being fired after informing the owners and colleagues of her gender transition. For 50 years, courts read the 1964 law to mean only that women could not be treated worse than men, and vice versa, not that discrimination on the basis of sex included LGBTQ individuals. The Trump administration says that is what the Supreme Court should find as well. 'The ordinary meaning of 'sex' is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,' Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said in a brief to the court in the Bostock and Zarda cases, which have been combined."

Dick's Destroys $5m Gun Inventory

Dick's has destroyed $5 million worth of weapons, its CEO says. CNN: "Dick's Sporting Goods has destroyed $5 million of the chain's gun inventory, its CEO said. After finding out that Dick's had sold the Parkland shooter a shotgun, CEO Edward Stack decided last year the company would no longer sell firearm to anyone under 21. Dick's announced it would destroy its inventory of weapons, rather than allow them to be sold by another retailer. Since then, about $5 million of the chain's gun inventory has been turned into scrap metal, Stack said in an interview with CBS. Stack is a hunter and gun owner who believes strongly in the Second Amendment. The company, which his father started as a fish-and-tackle shop in 1948, has sold guns since long before Stack started working there in 1977. But the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, on February 14, 2018, changed that. Seventeen people were killed in the attack. Though the gun sold to the shooter was not the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting, Stack said he couldn't stand being part of the narrative of mass shootings. 'We had a pit in our stomach,' he told CNN soon after the shooting. 'We did everything by the book that we were supposed to do, from a legal standpoint, we followed everything we were supposed to do. And somehow this kid was still able to buy a gun from us.'"

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