The Rock, Bernal Hill, San Francisco
Olivia Rodrigo - F*** You (feat. Lily Allen) (Glastonbury 2022)
With Olivia Rodrigo and Lily Allen
[Verse 1: Lily Allen]
Look inside, look inside your tiny mind
Then look a bit harder
'Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired
Of all the hatred you harbour
So you say it's not okay to be gay
Well, I think you're just evil
You're just some racist who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval
[Chorus: Lily Allen]
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please, don't stay in touch
[Verse 2: Olivia Rodrigo, Lily Allen & Olivia Rodrigo]
Do you get, do you get a little kick out of being small minded?
You want to be like your father, it's approval you're after
Well, that's not how you find it
Do you, do you really enjoy living a life that's so hateful?
'Cause there's a hole where your soul should be
You're losing control of it
And it's really distasteful
[Chorus: Olivia Rodrigo, Lily Allen & Olivia Rodrigo]
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
[Verse 3: Lily Allen]
You say you think we need to go to war
Well, you're already in one
'Cause it's people like you that need to get slew
No one wants your opinion
Doctors for Assange Statement
Doctors to UK: Assange Extradition
‘Medically & Ethically’ Wrong
Ahead of the U.K. Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, a group of more than 300 doctors representing 35 countries have told Priti Patel that approving his extradition would be “medically and ethically unacceptable”.
In an open letter sent to the Home Secretary on Friday June 10, and copied to British Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the doctors draw attention to the fact that Assange suffered a “mini stroke” in October 2021. They note:
“Predictably, Mr Assange’s health has since continued to deteriorate in your custody. In October 2021 Mr. Assange suffered a ‘mini-stroke’… This dramatic deterioration of Mr Assange’s health has not yet been considered in his extradition proceedings. The US assurances accepted by the High Court, therefore, which would form the basis of any extradition approval, are founded upon outdated medical information, rendering them obsolete.”
The doctors charge that any extradition under these circumstances would constitute negligence. They write:
“Under conditions in which the UK legal system has failed to take Mr Assange’s current health status into account, no valid decision regarding his extradition may be made, by yourself or anyone else. Should he come to harm in the US under these circumstances it is you, Home Secretary, who will be left holding the responsibility for that negligent outcome.”
In their letter the group reminds the Home Secretary that they first wrote to her on Friday 22 November 2019, expressing their serious concerns about Julian Assange’s deteriorating health.
Those concerns were subsequently borne out by the testimony of expert witnesses in court during Assange’s extradition proceedings, which led to the denial of his extradition by the original judge on health grounds. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, which referred the decision to Priti Patel in light of US assurances that Julian Assange would not be treated inhumanely.
The doctors write:
“The subsequent ‘assurances’ of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism.”
“Home Secretary, in making your decision as to extradition, do not make yourself, your government, and your country complicit in the slow-motion execution of this award-winning journalist, arguably the foremost publisher of our time. Do not extradite Julian Assange; free him.”
Julian Assange remains in High Security Belmarsh Prison awaiting Priti Patel’s decision, which is due any day.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus
• a petition you can sign
• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom
• a Donate button to support his campaign
• a link to our campaign website.
Please take a moment and help.
Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.
Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar:
Here is the Facebook link:
Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:
Write to Governor Newsom’s office:
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
By Margaret Atwood*
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
By Sara Herschander, July 17, 2022
Oakland Unified School District educators, students, and families participate in a rally against the possible closure of 16 schools in Oakland, California, on February 4, 2022.
On the last day of school at Parker Elementary, following tearful moving up ceremonies for fifth and eighth grades, one group of mothers — frustrated over a decision to permanently shutter the school — refused to leave.
Over 50 days later, they’re still there, occupying the school alongside a network of community activists and other supporters. In the meantime, they’ve started “Parker Community School,” which offers free summer programming for schoolchildren and adults. Even as the next school year approaches, they’re refusing to back down, with plans to expand their efforts as part of a broader fight against educational racism and inequity in Oakland and across the country.
“Our kids are important to us — and that’s the reason why this has to happen,” said Misty Cross, a mother of two in the district who has been one of several parents sleeping at the school. “When we keep seeing closures every year, those are entire communities that are at stake.”
In February, the Oakland Unified School District approved plans to close, merge or shrink 11 schools in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods in the district, including Parker, which has served children in grades K-8 for 96 years. While officials say the closures are necessary to address budget shortfalls, families, teachers and students in the district’s close-knit schools have expressed widespread and impassioned opposition.
The Oakland Education Association teachers union held a one-day strike and filed an unfair labor charge over the plan. In April, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the state’s attorney general on behalf of the Justice for Oakland Students coalition, urging an investigation into the closures’ disproportionate impact on Black students. In February, Maurice André San-Chez, an educator in the district, was hospitalized after hunger striking for 20 days to protest the closures alongside school administrator Moses Omolade.
Black students make up 22 percent of the district’s total enrollees, but accounted for roughly 43 percent of students at the schools slated for closure under the school board’s initial plan. The closures have been driven in part because Oakland students attend charter schools at more than double the rate of other children across the state, leading to declining enrollment in the district.
“This matters not just for these children, but for all children,” Cross said. “And, all Black and Brown communities who have been going through closures.”
Cross is also a co-founder of the Oakland activist group Moms 4 Housing, a collective of unhoused working mothers who successfully occupied and ultimately reclaimed an empty home owned by speculators in 2020. She’s been applying the strategies she learned through Moms 4 Housing to build support for the sit-in at Parker.
On Tuesday, Cross and her seven-year-old daughter went on a field trip to the East Oakland Collective as part of the occupation’s on-site programming, where they viewed an exhibit on the Black Panthers, who once operated a network of liberation schools and community care programs across the country.
The Parker Community School also features poetry nights, Narcan trainings, current event discussions, and other programming facilitated by parents, teachers and community members that Cross says shows “what a community school really looks like.”
“When we keep the community in the school, it keeps those families together,” said Cross, who fears what plans the district might have for selling the school building. “It is so important that this building stays in the community. And, that the land is not given to privatizers or changed into a charter school, or sold off to a billionaire to create market rate housing.”
For now, Cross says the parents and activists occupying Parker have big plans in anticipation of next school year, including bringing on other parents affected by closures. The district plans to close five more elementary schools at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
“The neglect has gone way too far,” Cross said, emphasizing that working parents were leading the struggle out of necessity in light of the district’s failures. “We fight for our kids until they fight for themselves.”
By Michelle Goldberg, July 18, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/18/opinion/miscarriages-abortion-ban.html
It’s getting hard to keep track of all the stories of women being denied care for miscarriages and otherwise having their lives endangered because of state abortion bans.
The Washington Post reported on a woman who had to travel to Michigan after a doctor in her home state refused to end an ectopic pregnancy because of the presence of fetal cardiac activity. (Ectopic pregnancies, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus, never lead to a live birth and are the leading cause of first-trimester maternal death.)
In an interview with The Associated Press, a doctor described a patient who was miscarrying in Texas and had developed a uterine infection. She couldn’t get the necessary treatment — an immediate abortion — as long as the fetus displayed signs of life. “The patient developed complications, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine,” The A.P. reported, all because, as the doctor said, “we were essentially 24 hours behind.”
A doctor in Wisconsin, Carley Zeal, told The New York Times about caring for a woman having a miscarriage who had been denied treatment at a hospital. By the time she found Dr. Zeal, The Times reported, “the woman had been bleeding intermittently for days,” which the doctor said put her at “increased risk of hemorrhage or infection.”
Some in the anti-abortion movement insist that the doctors refusing to treat these women are mistaken about what the laws in their states say. “To the extent that doctors or attorneys are confused about whether necessary women’s health care is forbidden under pro-life laws, the fault lies in large part with pro-abortion activists, who have been intentionally muddying the waters,” tweeted Alexandra DeSanctis Marr, a writer for National Review and the co-author of “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.”
If that was the case, one might think abortion opponents would be eager to see their laws clarified. After all, the suffering caused by mismanaged miscarriages doesn’t serve the cause of fetal life. Ultimately, it will likely be detrimental to the anti-abortion movement. In Ireland, it was the death of Savita Halappanavar, who developed septicemia after being refused a termination while she was miscarrying, that spurred the successful campaign for legalized abortion there. Preventing such deaths should be as urgent a priority for those opposed to legal abortion as for those who champion it.
But it isn’t. Last week, the Biden administration released guidance that under federal law, hospitals must provide abortions when they’re necessary to stabilize patients suffering medical emergencies, or transfer them to a hospital that will. Texas is suing to prevent that policy from going into effect, saying it would “transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”
Idaho’s Republican Party recently changed its platform to call for the criminalization of all abortions without exception. According to a blog post by Idaho Reports, a public policy television program, some delegates shared concerns about ectopic pregnancies and proposed an exemption in the platform when a woman’s life is in “lethal danger.” The exemption proposal was voted down, 412-164.
In The Times, the president of Texas Right to Life, John Seago, acknowledged that abortion bans could delay intervention during miscarriages. Doctors, he said, cannot decide that “I want to cause the death of the child today because I believe that they’re going to pass away eventually.”
I thought I was sufficiently cynical about the anti-abortion movement, but I admit to being taken aback by this blithe, public disregard for the lives of women, including women suffering the loss of wanted pregnancies.
I suspect that part of what’s happening is the right following its own rhetoric to its logical conclusion. It’s common for abortion opponents to claim that abortion is never medically necessary. Among conservative elites, this argument relies on semantic trickery, defining the termination of pregnancy to save a woman’s life as something other than abortion. Hence when the president of Americans United for Life testified before Congress, she argued, about the high-profile case of the 10-year-old rape victim, “If a 10-year-old became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion.”
This stance allows some abortion opponents to avoid reckoning with the consequences of the laws they support. Others, however, see those consequences fully and are fine with them. Scott Herndon, an Idaho Republican who recently unseated an incumbent state senator, was the politician who proposed the abortion criminalization language in his party’s platform. A website he runs, Abolish Abortion Idaho, says, of legislation he pushes, “Doctors may not intentionally kill the child in their medical attempts to treat the mother.”
On the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, Herndon posted a Facebook video arguing for murder prosecutions for abortion patients as well as abortion providers. “This body inside the mother’s body is not her body, and we need to get over the lie that mothers are not accountable,” he said. Men like him are making laws now. Don’t expect mercy.
An Ohio 10-year-old’s recent abortion has generated fierce debate. Doctors in countries where pregnancy is common in adolescents say the toll of childbirth on young bodies is brutal.
By Stephanie Nolen, July 18, 2022
Stephanie Nolen has reported on maternal health and obstetric fistula in Ethiopia, India and more than a dozen other developing countries.
An X-ray of a healthy 10-year-old girl. Doctors who work in countries with underage pregnancies say a critical health issue is that the pelvis of a child is too small to allow passage of even a small fetus. Credit...Department of Radiology, U.C. San Diego Health
After the account a 10-year-old Ohio girl crossing state lines to get an abortion drew national attention last week, some prominent abortion opponents suggested the child should have carried her pregnancy to term.
But midwives and doctors who work in countries where pregnancy is common in young adolescent girls say those pushing for very young girls to carry pregnancies to term may not understand the brutal toll of pregnancy and delivery on the body of a child.
“Their bodies are not ready for childbirth and it’s very traumatic,” said Marie Bass Gomez, a midwife and the senior nursing officer at the reproductive and child health clinic at Bundung Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Gambia.
The critical issue is that the pelvis of a child is too small to allow passage of even a small fetus, said Dr. Ashok Dyalchand, who has worked with pregnant adolescent girls in low-income communities in India for more than 40 years.
“They have long labor, obstructed labor, the fetus bears down on the bladder and on the urethra,” sometimes causing pelvic inflammatory disease and the rupture of tissue between the vagina and the bladder and rectum, said Dr. Dyalchand, who heads an organization called the Institute of Health Management Pachod, a public health organization serving marginalized communities in central India.
“It is a pathetic state particularly for girls who are less than 15 years of age,” he added. “The complications, the morbidity and the mortality are much higher in girls under 15 than girls 16 to 19 although 16 to 19 has a mortality twice as high as women 20 and above.”
The phenomenon of young girls having babies is relatively rare in the United States. In 2017, the last year for which data was available, there were 4,460 pregnancies among girls under 15, with just under half ending in abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights and surveys clinics regularly.
But globally, complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Young maternal age is associated with an increased risk of maternal anemia, infections, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, emergency cesarean delivery and postpartum depression, according to a 2014 evaluation published in the Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.
Babies born to girls are more often premature and have low birth weight, said Dr. Willibald Zeck, the maternal and newborn health coordinator for the United Nations Population Fund, who frequently delivered babies for young mothers while working as a gynecologist in Tanzania and later oversaw maternal health programs in Nepal and the Philippines.
While a pregnant 10-year-old in Ohio might have access to prenatal care and a cesarean section that would blunt the effects of obstructed labor, the experience of pregnancy in a young girl is the same in India as it is in the United States, Dr. Dyalchand said. “The girls would go through more or less exactly the same kind of complication: The only difference is because of access to better health care they may not have the same kind of terrible outcomes. But that doesn’t mean that the girl’s body and her life doesn’t get scarred.”
Dr. Shershah Syed, a gynecologist and expert on maternal mortality in Pakistan, regularly provides care to pregnant girls as young as 11. He said good prenatal care can avert the development of a hole between the wall of the bladder or rectum and the vagina — called a fistula — which causes leaked urine or feces that is not only painful (the leaked urine causes burning sores) but also a source of enormous shame and humiliation.
But even good prenatal care cannot prevent the hypertension or urinary tract infections that are common in very young mothers, he said.
“In normal physiology a 10-year-old child is not supposed to be pregnant. The point is, she’s a child and the child cannot deliver a child, she’s not ready,” Dr. Syed said, adding: “And the mental torture she will go through, that is not measurable.”
In the cases he has seen, early pregnancy arrests the very young mother’s physical growth, and also often her mental development because many girls leave school and lose normal social interaction with peers, he said. But while an anemic mother struggles to carry the pregnancy, fetuses appropriate nutrients and continue to grow, until they have well surpassed what a young mother’s pelvis can deliver.
“They go to labor for three days, four days, five days, and after that labor, usually the baby is dead. And then when the head is collapsed, then the baby is delivered,” said Dr. Syed, who is one of South Asia’s pre-eminent experts on the repair of obstetric fistula, a common outcome of obstructed labor in pregnant girls.
In nearly all these cases, the girl has developed vesicovaginal fistula, a hole between the wall of the bladder and the vagina. In a quarter of cases, the prolonged labor will also cause fistula of the rectum, so that the girl constantly leaks both urine and feces.
If fistula sufferers learn that treatment is available and make their way to his clinic, Dr. Syed said he can repair the condition. But the process requires a long recovery: fistula of the bladder takes about five weeks to heal, while a rectal fistula needs four or five months.
In 1978, Dr. Dyalchand began his career in public health at a small district hospital in rural Maharashtra, on the western coast of India. In his first week, two young pregnant girls bled to death — one while in labor, the other at the entrance to the hospital, before she ever made it inside. It started him on a long career of working with communities to convince them to delay the age of marriage and first conception in girls.
That intervention has shown considerable success, and, Dr. Dyalchand noted, India has also been steadily expanding abortion access. The procedure is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
In Gambia, Ms. Bass Gomez said that her clinic is able to offer good prenatal care to pregnant girls, but that does little to blunt the larger trauma of the experience. Her clinic is designed to serve adults, she said. “But when you have a child walk in equally pregnant it’s really traumatizing for the child,” she said. “It’s not comfortable, that environment, it’s not set for them. You can tell they are struggling. There’s a lot of shame and disgrace.”
The official report on the Uvalde school shooting has confirmed what has long been painfully clear: police responded in a catastrophic and disgraceful fashion as innocent children were being massacred. The utter cowardice and inaction by officers the day of the mass shooting exposes the cops’ myths and serves as a bitter reminder that police officers do not keep us safe.
The report, carried out by the Texas state legislature, found that “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making” contributed to a disaster in which police “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.” Video made public shortly before the report’s publication showed cops in the school callously checking their phones and sanitizing their hands as children screamed inside the classroom where they were trapped with the gunman. Outside, police brutalized parents who were desperately pleading with them to rescue their children.
This cannot possibly be blamed on “a few bad apples.” Three hundred and seventy-six cops were present at the scene of the massacre. They came from a wide range of agencies, including Uvalde city police, Uvalde school police, San Antonio Police Department, Uvalde county sheriffs, Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, and Texas Department of Public Safety.
Their total disregard for the lives of innocent children who attended a working-class Latino school is a reflection on the entire institution of policing under capitalism. When it comes to terrorizing and inflicting violence on defenseless people, the cops posture as courageous defenders of “law and order.” But when it came time to confront a mass shooter, not a single one of the cops on the scene decided to act.
As they so often do, the police lied about what happened. Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, falsely claimed on May 25 that police “did engage immediately” and that “As the shooter was approaching, there was a school district resource officer that approached him.” In fact, it took the police well over an hour to take action.
A debate about public safety is raging across the country. Pro-police organizations, politicians and media outlets are attempting to manipulate people’s genuine concerns about safety to promote the idea that police should be celebrated and showered with even more resources. This, they hope, will help the cops regain their political footing after being challenged in historic fashion by the 2020 nationwide uprising against racism.
What transpired at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde shows what a cynical maneuver this is. The multifaceted epidemic of violence in the United States can only be truly addressed by a profound transformation of society that ends the systematic devaluation of human life that is so pronounced in this country. Immediate steps like the expansion of social programs, violence interrupter programs and an end to the legal impunity enjoyed by gun manufacturing corporations can do so much more to alleviate the crisis than the enlargement of police power. As officers stood idly by outside the classroom on that tragic day, they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that their role in society has nothing to do with keeping people safe.
By Bryce Covert, July 21, 2022
Ms. Covert is a journalist who focuses on the economy, with an emphasis on policies that affect workers and families.
Illustration by Dakarai Akil; photographs via Shutterstock
The United States is one of six countries in the world without a national guarantee of paid parental leave. Twenty-three other countries have universal child or family allowances. We spend just 0.2 percent of our gross domestic product on child care for our youngest children, compared with an average of 0.7 percent among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In other words, paid leave, child care systems and child allowances are so common as to be banal in much of the rest of the developed world. But the United States has none of these things. That was supposed to change when House Democrats passed the Build Back Better reconciliation package, which originally included 12 weeks of paid family leave, heavily subsidized child care and universal pre-K, and a continuation of expanded child tax credit payments that went out in 2021 and acted as a kind of child allowance.
But negotiations over that ever-diminishing package came to a halt late last year when Senator Joe Manchin walked away. (Now there’s a phrase we’ve heard repeatedly during President Biden’s first two years in office.) Democrats have since scrambled to piece together a narrower deal that eschewed all of these things, but after Mr. Manchin recently balked at raising taxes on wealthy Americans, hopes for even that smaller deal have dimmed, if not gone totally dark. It’s not just Mr. Manchin who stands in the way. Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has opposed raising taxes on the rich, while some House moderates have also started to question raising taxes before the midterms.
Why is it so much harder — right now, seemingly impossible — for our country to enact new programs that are customary in much of the rest of the world? It’s easy to blame one or two senators, but the problem runs much deeper. More or less, it comes down to our long history of racism and how it’s wormed its way into every debate over government benefits.
In a seminal 2001 paper, the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote tried to answer this very question: Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries, progressively taxing those with the most wealth to redistribute resources to those with the least? Economic differences, they concluded, don’t explain it. But they did find that “racial fragmentation” has played a “major role” in keeping us from these policies in a way it hasn’t elsewhere. They also find that while Europeans see the poor as members of their own group who are merely unfortunate, Americans see them as lazy “others.” American voters are less likely to demand that their leaders pass policies that help the least well off. “Racial animosity in the U.S. makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately Black, unappealing to many voters,” they conclude.
The United States is not the only country that has racists and racism, of course. But our history is deeply intertwined with race, tracing back to slavery and its role in building the country. It was “often more grotesque” and more “salient” here than in other countries that had slavery, noted Zach Parolin, a senior fellow at the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. Other countries certainly have their divisions, but “in the U.S. it appears that the most salient dividing line is race,” Dr. Alesina, Dr. Glaeser and Dr. Sacerdote write.
Race has played an outsized role in nearly every debate over the American social safety net. Cutting out agricultural and domestic workers, who were majority Black, made it easier to win the support of Southern Democrats for Social Security legislation. Racism has long stood in the way of universal health care. Before welfare was reformed in the 1990s, Dr. Alesina, Dr. Glaeser and Dr. Sacerdote found, states with higher shares of Black people offered less generous benefits. Then President Ronald Reagan used the “welfare queen” trope to gin up racial resentment against people on cash assistance, and President Bill Clinton signed a welfare-reform bill into law that was deeply shaped by Mr. Reagan’s politics and gave states broad authority over their programs.
Dr. Parolin has found that ever since, states with larger proportions of Black residents allocate fewer of the resources to direct cash assistance. Hana Brown, an associate professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, has found that state lawmakers are more likely to push through restrictive welfare policies when racial tension is high, in order to appease white voters. States with higher Black populations also have the strictest rules for unemployment insurance.
The United States has a far higher child poverty rate than most peer countries: Out of 40 countries, we rank at number 38. The main difference is that most other countries spend far more on children, often through a child allowance, but the United States didn’t have one until expanded child tax credit payments were sent out to most parents in the second half of last year. And the reason we don’t, Dr. Parolin said, is “inseparable from the racialized perceptions of who receives social assistance benefits in the U.S.” Americans believe programs like public housing, food stamps and welfare primarily serve Black people, even though whites make up the largest or an equal percentage of recipients.
It might seem almost obvious at this point that the United States doesn’t offer the social benefits that Nordic countries do. But even comparing us to more similar countries shows how out of touch and out of step we are. Take one case study in particular: how the United States and the United Kingdom have approached child care. Both countries were on the verge of passing universal child care and early education in the 1970s, and yet both turned around and rejected the policy. In the 1980s, President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could have been cut from the same cloth, pushing an anti-welfare ideology.
And yet in the 1990s the two countries “go in completely different directions,” said Anna Danziger Halperin, a postdoctoral fellow at the New-York Historical Society who wrote a dissertation on the two countries’ approaches to child care policy. In the United States child care spending has continued to be dedicated mostly to poor parents. But Britain embarked on universal child care in 1996, at first with vouchers for families of 4-year-olds and then with guaranteed preschool spots for all 3- and 4-year-olds. The country’s spending on early education and child care quadrupled between 1997 and 2008.
Race, again, played a huge role in the diverging paths the two countries took. After the 1960s, the U.S. federal government mostly invested in child care for poor mothers through cash assistance and Head Start. It ended up “being tied so closely to welfare,” Dr. Danziger Halperin said. In Britain, however, “the imagined person is a white British family,” she said. “Both programs would have been for broad populations, but the way that people think of who this is about is different.”
The other reason for the divergence, she found, was how child care was defined and whom it was intended to serve. In the 1960s, lawmakers in both countries argued in favor of universal child care as an educational program benefiting children. But after President Richard Nixon vetoed a bipartisan universal child care bill by saying it would “commit the vast moral authority of the national government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family‐centered approach,” in the United States, “conservatives paint it as a feminist boogeyman,” Dr. Danziger Halperin said. That’s when it became “untouchable.” Even today, we arbitrarily divide child care from school. But there was no similar extensive right-wing backlash in Britain. “You just don’t get that kind of thinking,” she said. Instead, in Britain child care is talked about as something that benefits children.
There is also more of an acceptance in Britain, despite Thatcherism and what followed in its wake, “that the state does have a role to play,” Dr. Danziger Halperin said. Britain, after all, has universal health care. “There is more of a state responsibility for the family and for children’s well-being than we have here.”
That’s not how we think about government in the United States. A thick streak of individualism has been embedded in the bedrock of the country’s values since its founding. Americans have been told to “turn first to our families, our own efforts in the labor market,” said Jane Waldfogel, professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia, “and turn to government only as a last resort.” We’ve relied on the private market, through employers, to deliver things like health care and paid time off, rather than the government.
Our political structures are also to blame. There have been times in the past when more webbing was added to the social safety net. But Congress “didn’t have the filibuster in the way we have the filibuster in either the Great Society or the New Deal,” said Mike Konczal, a director at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of “Freedom From the Market: America’s Fight to Liberate Itself From the Grip of the Invisible Hand.” Its use to block legislation has grown in recent decades; about half of all uses of the filibuster have happened in just the last 12 years. Despite currently holding a majority in both the House and the Senate, Democrats had to pile all of their priorities into an unwieldy package and try to pass it through budget reconciliation to avoid a Republican filibuster, which is “a very time-sensitive and brittle process that is very good for cutting taxes and slashing programs,” Mr. Konczal said, “but actually very hard to do on the side of building a better society.”
On top of that, our nonproportional two-party system means we haven’t developed a labor or social democratic party that stands almost exclusively for increasing the role of government in helping people get by. “In the United States, both parties have been relatively market-oriented,” Dr. Waldfogel said. Our courts have also generally been hostile to redistributive policies and more inclined to protect personal property.
In the end, though, experts agree that race is the most defining factor. “Racial prejudice is a real and enduring feature of the American landscape,” Dr. Alesina, Dr. Glaeser and Dr. Sacerdote write. We’ve yet to shake that legacy, and it seeps into everything. “Racism has undermined efforts to deliver a social safety net in the U.S. for a very long time,” Dr. Brown said. It’s a hurdle we still haven’t been able to clear.
The shutdown was announced hours before a hearing on a possible vote to unionize the location, which employees said was understaffed.
By Noam Scheiber, July 20, 2022
Workers who filed for a union election at a Chipotle in Augusta, Maine, are accusing the company of seeking to undermine their campaign by closing the restaurant.
The company notified employees of the closing on Tuesday morning, hours before the two sides were scheduled to take part in a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board about the possible election.
“We have been unable to adequately staff this remote restaurant,” Laurie Schalow, the company’s chief corporate affairs officer, said in a statement. Ms. Schalow added that “because of these ongoing staffing challenges, there is no probability of reopening in the foreseeable future, so we’ve made the decision to permanently close the restaurant.”
A lawyer representing the workers filed a charge with the labor board contending that the closing was an illegal act of retaliation.
“I’m referring to this as Union Busting 101,” said the lawyer, Jeffrey Neil Young, who frequently represents unions in the state. “It’s a classic response — employees decide to organize and the employer says it’s closing the store.”
The labor board will investigate the charge and issue a formal complaint if it finds merit in the accusation, at which point the case would go before an administrative law judge. The two sides could reach a settlement beforehand.
A handful of workers at the store walked off the job in mid-June to protest what they said were unsafe conditions that stemmed from understaffing and insufficient training.
“Not being properly trained to prepare food has a lot of risks to both the preparer and the people eating the food,” said Brandi McNease, a worker involved in the walkout and the union campaign. “You worry about knife skills, using equipment that is dangerous — hot, sharp.”
Within a few days, the company closed the store to the public while it sought to improve staffing, including retaining two recruiting experts, according to Ms. Schalow. During this time, workers continued to report to the store, where they received some training and helped clean it, but often for fewer hours a week than they previously worked.
On June 22, workers filed a petition to hold a union election. The labor board requires at least 30 percent of workers to indicate their support before it will order one.
The hearing scheduled for Tuesday was meant to consider arguments from the two sides about the proposed election. Chipotle had asserted in filings that the election should not go forward, partly because the store was understaffed and so the workers eligible to vote would not be fully representative of its eventual work force.
Mr. Young, the lawyer representing the workers, said the closing could chill organizing efforts at other stores in the chain, including those underway in Lansing, Mich., where workers have also filed for a union election, and New York City.
“By closing the Augusta store, it’s signaling to Chipotle workers elsewhere who are involved in or contemplating nascent organizational drives that if you organize, you might be out of job,” Mr. Young said.
Ms. Schalow, the Chipotle official, said in her statement that closing the store “has nothing to do with union activity.” The company said it had closed 13 locations out of about 3,000 because of staffing issues, performance, lease agreements and other business reasons over the past 18 months. Most of the closings appear to have come in the first half of last year.
Chipotle has offered the Augusta workers four weeks of severance pay based on their hours over the past two weeks, which have typically been lower than before the restaurant closed to the public. It has not offered to place the workers at other locations in Maine, the nearest of which is roughly an hour away, according to the company.
Ms. McNease said she and her co-workers planned to fight to have the store reopened. “No one is bailing now,” she said.
Chipotle is among several employers in the service industry whose workers have sought to unionize over the past year. Roughly 200 corporate-owned Starbucks locations have voted to unionize since last fall, as have workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, an REI store in Manhattan and an Apple store in Maryland.
The labor board has formally accused Starbucks of closing certain stores in retaliation for union organizing. The company has denied the accusations.
Last week, Starbucks said it was closing 16 additional stores because of safety concerns like crime, which it said have been reflected in incident reports over the past year. The union representing the newly unionized Starbucks workers has filed charges of unfair labor practices, accusing the company of closing the stores to undermine organizing activity or avoid bargaining with unionized workers.