fresh voices from the front lines of change








Jeff Bryant

Striking Teachers Are Fighting For Much More Than Paychecks

While national news outlets hail the conclusion of a historic teacher strike in Chicago, another important story often overlooked by national reporters is the ongoing struggle to defend public education in the months that follow successful strikes. Advocacy for public education can no longer settle for labor-friendly contracts that make life better for teachers and students, but has to challenge more widespread political and societal conditions that undermine schools, as Chicago teachers just did. Calling for these deeper structural changes means taking on an economic and political agenda and a hierarchy of policy leaders that choose to give public funds and tax breaks to an array of beneficiaries other than public schools. Advocating for this more ambitious goal can result in real change not only in local communities, as teachers have been proving in Chicago, but also on the national stage.

WATCH: Second Day Of Impeachment Hearings

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies in second day of public impeachment hearings. WaPo: "House Democrats’ second public hearing in their impeachment inquiry kicks off at 9 am ET on Friday, featuring the testimony of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. You can watch the hearing on CSPAN or other major networks, and a live stream is embedded above. After hearing from witnesses who had a front-row seat to Trump officials’ attempts to pressure Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky this summer, Friday’s hearing will take a step back chronologically, to an earlier point in this saga. Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who was widely respected at the State Department, was ousted from her ambassador post back in April, just days after Zelensky was elected. The alleged quid pro quo efforts unfolded after she left Kyiv. But her ouster is a story in itself, one that showcases the influence Rudy Giuliani and certain Ukrainian officials gained over US policy. It began, Yovanovitch has said, with ominous rumors that Giuliani and a top Ukrainian official were going to 'do things' to her. In the months that followed, Giuliani, Fox News hosts, and even the president’s son Don Jr. would call her corrupt or publicly push for her ouster. She was eventually told to leave Kyiv and return to the US on the next plane. Months after Yovanovitch’s exit, President Trump made a menacing-sounding remark about her to Zelensky on the phone: 'She’s going to go through some things,' he said."

Trump Asks SCOTUS To Conceal His Tax Returns

Trump asks Supreme Court to block New York subpoenas for his tax records. NPR: "President Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to bar his accounting firm from turning over eight years of his tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors. The case, the first concerning Mr. Trump’s personal conduct and business dealings to reach the court, could yield a major ruling on the scope of presidential immunity from criminal investigations. Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said a federal appeals court had committed a grave legal error in allowing the accounting firm to provide the tax records. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant review in this significant constitutional case and reverse the dangerous and damaging decision of the appeals court,” Mr. Sekulow said in a statement. In their petition urging the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule that state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct. A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. 'That the Constitution would empower thousands of state and local prosecutors to embroil the president in criminal proceedings is unimaginable,' Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote. Much of the petition was devoted to a plea that the justices hear the case. If they turn it down, the accounting firm has indicated that it will supply the requested records."

DeVos Refuses To Cancel Fraudulent Student Loans

Betsy DeVos and the high-stakes standoff over student loan forgiveness. NPR: "The U.S. Department of Education agreed to hand over department records late Thursday to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House education committee, just hours before Scott was set to subpoena Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for the records. The information relates to the Education Department's unwillingness to fully forgive the federal student loans of borrowers who say they were defrauded by for-profit colleges, including the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges. According to the most recent federal data, as of June 2019 more than 210,000 borrowers were waiting to have their claims processed under a 1995 rule known as "borrower defense." The department's decision is just the latest development in an ongoing dispute between DeVos and Scott about this previously little-used provision. Betsy DeVos has argued that borrower defense is too lenient. In a 2017 speech, she said, 'While students should have protections from predatory practices, schools and taxpayers should also be treated fairly as well. Under the previous rules, all one had to do was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.' When DeVos had to sign off on thousands of claims that had already been approved by the Obama administration, she added three words below her signature: 'with extreme displeasure.'"

Uber Fined For Saying Drivers Aren't Employees

Uber fined $649 million for saying drivers aren’t employees. NYT: "New Jersey has demanded that Uber pay $649 million for years of unpaid employment taxes for its drivers, arguing that the ride-hailing company has misclassified the workers as independent contractors and not as employees. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development issued the request this week to Uber and a subsidiary, Raiser, after an audit uncovered $530 million in back taxes that had not been paid for unemployment and disability insurance from 2014 to 2018. Because of the nonpayment, the state is seeking another $119 million in interest. The case represents a major escalation in how states nationwide view the employment practices at the core of many app-based companies, and the first time that a local government has sought back payroll taxes from Uber, which has hundreds of thousands of drivers in the United States. A spokeswoman at Uber said the company disputed the state’s findings. 'We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination, because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere,' the spokeswoman, Alix Anfang, said. Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more. Across the country, states and cities have moved aggressively to rein in gig-economy companies that depend on inexpensive and independent labor, potentially reshaping their business models. Such companies have so far been able to successfully beat back attempts to alter the decades-long trend of outsourcing and franchising work."

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