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THE BIG NEWS
Labor Department Belatedly Stands Up for Gig Workers
The Department of Labor yesterday published notice of a proposed rule that could benefit millions of Americans wrongly classified by their employers as independent contractors by giving them the right to minimum wage protections, overtime pay, and other benefits and protections reserved for full employees.
"While independent contractors have an important role in our economy, we have seen in many cases that employers misclassify their employees as independent contractors, particularly among our nation's most vulnerable workers," said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "Misclassification deprives workers of their federal labor protections, including their right to be paid their full, legally earned wages. The Department of Labor remains committed to addressing the issue of misclassification."
The proposal will formally rescind a rule from the Trump administration making it easier for employers to deny workers their due pay and benefits. As the New York Times reports, app-based gig work companies like Uber and Lyft are very concerned, saying their labor costs could increase up to 30 percent if the government required them to properly compensate their workers. And Wall Street investors understand that these corporate profits are wholly reliant on the government's failure, up to this point, to enforce labor law. Per NBC News, the market reaction to the Labor Department announcement "was immediate," with shares of Lyft and Uber falling 13 percent; one analyst says the rule change "would essentially throw the [gig economy] business model upside down and cause some major structural changes if this holds."
Well, good! You shouldn't be able to get rich by stealing. When I was reporting my book on Silicon Valley exploitation, elected Democrats were so cozy in bed with the tech industry I feared they might never deal with this misclassification problem -- or, worse, that they would rewrite the laws to keep Silicon Valley happy. Assuming it survives the industry lobbying campaign over the next month or so, the new Labor Department rule will not fix everything about the gig economy. But it is an important and necessary step toward economic justice. Too many companies have made unholy profits by systematically exploiting their workers in an egregious and illegal way. Capitalism is based on exploitation, it's true, but some companies are worse than others. The labor movement didn't fight for decades to win legal protections for workers only to roll over when some techies and finance bros claim the law doesn't apply to them. Appointing Walsh as Secretary of Labor has proven to be one of President Joe Biden's better decisions.
MORE STORIES TO WATCH
Biden Might Pause Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, who in a leaked recording called a fellow councilmember's young Black son a racial slur, resigned the council presidency yesterday, but not from her elected office. Councilmembers Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, who participated in the conversation recorded in Oct. 2021, also apologized. In addition to profligate racist language, the recording revealed city leaders plotting to weaken the power of Black voters and renters through redistricting. According to the LA Times, it's unclear who recorded and posted the audio online, though the now-suspended Reddit user who shared the file hinted at their agenda by commenting that "the labor movement is in bed with City Hall." California labor union leaders have joined on both LA mayoral candidates in calling on all three councilmembers and Herrera to step down from their positions.
New UN Climate Report Warns Deadly Heat Waves Will Spread
A new report from the United Nations and the Red Cross says that within decades, extreme heat waves will make large parts of Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas unsuitable for human habitation -- unless more is done to curtail climate change by tamping down on fossil fuels pollution. By the end of the century, one-third of the global population, could be living with average temperatures that have until now been limited mostly to the Sahara desert. The U.S. states of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and California are in the extreme heat danger zone, as the Washington Post notes in its write-up of the report. In all, up to 600 million people worldwide, many living in major cities, will be subjected to "recurring life-threatening" heat waves that also threaten plant and animal life and global food supplies -- again, unless governments get their act together and move the economy away from fossil fuels. Is survival too much to ask?
- Los Angelinos Pack City Council Meeting, Demand Resignations Nury Martinez said yesterday she would take a leave of absence following the leak of a recording where she and other officials made racist comments; President Biden also said Martinez should resign. via the LA Times.
- Report: Elon Musk Consulted Vladimir Putin Before Suggesting Ukraine Give Up The billionaire calls the report untrue, but Ukrainians who rely on Musk's satellites on the battlefield are worried. via Vice News.
- Iran Crackdown Grows More Violent as Oil Workers Join Protests "They have shut down the city and are slaughtering people inside with guns and bombs just because they are chanting for freedom," says a female protester in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province. via the Guardian.
- Trump's PAC Spends More on Legal Defense, Crony Salaries Than GOP Campaigns Party fundraisers are annoyed. via the Washington Post.
- Baltimore Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Adnan Syed After serving 23 years in prison, Syed, whose case was featured on the podcast "Serial," was exonerated by DNA evidence. via the New York Times.
That's how much the Treasury Department is fining the cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex for violating sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Russian-controlled Crimea in Ukraine, the largest such penalty to date against a crypto company.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
10/12: Emma hosts Indi Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to discuss recent polling showing that two thirds of parents who stopped receiving the Child Tax Credit in late 2021 reported difficulties obtaining enough food for their children. Then, Emma is joined by Danielle Carr, assistant professor at the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA, to discuss her recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, "Mental Health Is Political".
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
A caller rants about the party's failures and Sam explains what's behind them.
"It's mine, it's mine" (it isn't).
"I was vaccinated."
-- Kanye West, speaking to Tucker Carlson, in one of many comments edited out of the two-part interview broadcast on Fox News last week. Vice News obtained footage from the cutting room floor and found that West made many antisemitic and paranoid comments that weren't aired, including a bizarre claim that "fake children" portrayed by actors were "placed into my house to sexualize my kids."
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