URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
We demand that ALL "illegal abortion" charges against Madison County, Nebraska women be dropped
In Madison County, Nebraska, two women- one the mother of a pregnant teenager who was a minor at the time of her pregnancy and is being charged as an adult- are facing prosecution for self managing an abortion. In an outrageous violation of civil liberties, Facebook assisted the police and county attorney in this case by turning over communication between the daughter and her mother regarding obtaining abortion pills which is not illegal in Nebraska. The prosecutor has used this information to charge the daughter, her mother, and a male friend who assisted them after the fact with illegal abortion along with additional trumped up charges of "concealing a body."
We demand that ALL charges be dropped against all three of them and we ask that you call the office of Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith at 402-454-3311 Ext. 206 with the following:
"I am calling to demand that all charges against Jessica Burgess, her daughter, and their friend be dropped. In your own words- no charges like this have ever been brought before. That is because criminalizing abortion is unjust and unconstitutional. We will not stand for any charges being brought against any pregnant person for the outcome of their pregnancy OR anyone who assists that pregnant person. Drop all charges NOW."
You can also email County Attorney Smith here.
If you pledged to #AidAndAbetAbortion- NOW is the time to stand up for these women in Nebraska as this could be any of us in the future.
National Women's Liberation (NWL) is a multiracial feminist group for women who want to fight male supremacy and gain more freedom for women. Our priorities are abortion and birth control, overthrowing the double day, and feminist consciousness-raising.
NWL meetings are for women and tranpeople who do not benefit from male supremacy because we believe we should lead the fight for our liberation. In addition, women of color meet separately from white women in Women of Color Caucus (WOCC) meetings to examine their experiences with white supremacy and how it intersects with male supremacy to oppress women of color.
Learn more at womensliberation.org.
Questions? Email email@example.com for more info.
No to red-baiting in the reproductive justice movement
National Radical Women statement
By Nga Bui, NYC
At a time when a united mass movement to defend reproductive justice is needed more than ever, NYC for Abortion Rights and nearly two dozen organizations have chosen to launch an anti-communist attack against one of the most visible activist groups, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. Radical Women, a veteran socialist feminist organization with decades of experience in the movement for reproductive justice, denounces this dangerous game of divide and conquer.
The “Statement Against RiseUp4AbortionRights” – signed by NYC for Abortion Rights, United Against Racism & Fascism NYC, Brooklyn People’s March, Shout Your Abortion, The Jane Fund, Chicago Abortion Fund, Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group and others – deplores Rise Up’s connections to the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It labels this well-known fixture on the Left as a personality cult. It accuses both Rise Up and RCP of using pyramid schemes to raise money and exploitative methods to recruit. These unsubstantiated claims are bolstered by other “crimes”: wearing white pants stained with fake blood, holding die-ins, using coat-hanger imagery, and describing forced pregnancy as “female enslavement.” The Statement calls on “repro groups to now unite in discrediting Rise Up publicly” and demand that “the group step back from pro-abortion spaces.” This divisive attack is like a dog-whistle to corporate media, which is crawling all over the issue in coverage from Daily Beast and The Intercept.
Imperfect as Rise Up may be, the reality is the group has been out front nationally in defense of abortion – though not the only group as they have claimed. It has consistently organized protests and used audacious tactics such as unfurling huge banners at sports events to draw media attention to the issue. It has broadened its messaging after being criticized that its single-issue focus on women having abortions was transphobic and limiting. Its green wave imagery is omnipresent and its anti-capitalist message is spot-on. Its boldness has resonated with youth.
Truth be told, it has been largely the Left, including Radical Women, that organized rallies, speak outs, marches, and protests throughout last year to draw attention to the impending Supreme Court debacle. Meanwhile, moderate feminist organizations pushed online fundraising and waited for the Democratic Party to ride to the rescue.
One has to think that some of the venom expressed in the Statement is from groups that did much less than Rise Up and may begrudge its appeal to young people. Others may be driven to undermine the influence of the Left in the movement overall. How condescending it is for them to demand that Rise Up disappear rather than trust young supporters to reach their own conclusions about whether Rise Up’s strategies work in the long run.
Radical Women initiated the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice a year ago in order to build the kind of coalition effort we think is urgently needed to preserve abortion and achieve full reproductive justice. The Mobilization has attracted feminist groups, grassroots organizations, unions, radicals, and individuals coming together in common cause. Though Rise Up in many instances put itself in competition with actions announced by the Mobilization, we managed to work cooperatively with it in various cities, including in NYC. Rather than demanding political conformity, we believe in respectfully debating differences. With the right wing intensifying its attacks on the most vulnerable, a united front of working-class organizations is essential to pushing them back.
Red-baiting, smearing people or groups for their radical associations, is not acceptable in the movement. It needs to be stopped before it further hurts the very women, people of color, non-binary, trans and poor folks looking to find a channel for their rage as their rights are stripped away. There’s no denying that those of us fighting for abortion rights and reproductive justice will have differences of opinions. It is essential we learn to work together with mutual respect instead of excluding, silencing and witch-hunting one another. Organizations and independent activists can unite around issues while maintaining our differences. The future of reproductive justice and all social movements depends on it.
—Radical Women, August 2, 2022
CUBA URGENTLY NEEDS OUR HELP TODAY!
MATANZAS IS NOT ALONE!
The unprecedented massive fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas province has not abated. Dozens of people have suffered burns, 16 firefighters are still missing, and thousands are evacuated. Heroic efforts by firefighters and civil defense are 24/7.
Supplies are urgently needed to save the lives of the burn and other victims affected by the fire. The Hatuey Project is working to provide some of the most critical supplies for burn and other patients.
Please make a monetary donation so we can buy medical items in bulk and ship immediately to Matanzas.
Cuba has been through so much during the time of pandemic. Despite a heroic and successful campaign to vaccinate virtually all of Cuba from COVID, this summer has been particularly taxing for all of Cuba. Now the fire has added to the hardship.
Please click here to make a donation to The Hatuey Project for Matanzas Relief. Every donation to Hatuey is tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor, The Alliance for Global Justice.
On behalf of The Hatuey Project, we thank you.
Nadia Marsh, MD, Assoc. Prof. of Clinical Medicine
Simon Ma, MD, MPH, Family Medicine
Rachel Viqueira, MHS, Epidemiologist
Brian Becker, Executive Director, ANSWER Coalition
Gloria La Riva, coordinator, Hatuey Project
ABOUT THE HATUEY PROJECT
We are health providers and social justice activists concerned about the harmful effects of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. We have inaugurated this medical aid project to extend solidarity to the Cuban people, with the procurement of vital medicines and medical equipment.
Cuba has already shown that its remarkable health care and scientific/biotech systems are fully capable of serving the 11+ million people on the island, providing excellent quality, universal and free care to everyone. But more than 240 measures by the Trump administration that turned the screws even further on Cuba’s people — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — have created a truly difficult situation for the people. We have already taken part in direct delivery of vital medicines over the last year, and we aim to do much more.
We invite you to join in our project in any way you can: With your monetary contribution, as well as helping procure major donations from pharmaceuticals and other medical providers. We are fully volunteer; all of the donations we receive will go strictly to acquire medical aid. Shipping costs will be held to the utmost minimum. The Hatuey Project is fiscally sponsored by the Alliance For Global Justice, so all donations are tax-deductible. Join our effort today!
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 Christopher Blackwell, Aug. 17, 2022
Mr. Blackwell is an incarcerated writer.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/17/opinion/banned-books-prison.html
SHELTON, Wash. — During my first decade in prison, I busied myself with exercising and hanging out in the big yard. I hardly grew as a person, aside from developing muscles that I really used only to intimidate others.
I stopped going to school at around 14. After multiple stints in juvenile detention, I was too far behind all my classmates to catch up. By my mid-20s, I was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison, first for a robbery and then for taking the life of another person during a drug robbery. Every day I regret what I did. It wasn’t until I began college in prison in my 30s that I started to realize my full potential.
In my classes, I met people who were intelligent, spoke with confidence and understood structural forces I had almost no knowledge of, despite the huge role they played in my life. I realized I didn’t want to feel like the most ignorant person in the room. I, too, wanted to participate in an intellectual conversation and have people think I was smart and well spoken.
Shyly, I asked a classmate and fellow prisoner in my class if he’d be willing to help me. He jumped at the task. Before I knew it, I was absorbed in David Foster Wallace and Michel Foucault and using concepts and terms in conversations that were previously far over my head.
Through my journey in college, I became an avid reader and writer, striving to escape prison life by expanding my mind beyond the toxic environments I’d been confined to. I started studying feminism and restorative justice. One concept that really hit home for me was toxic masculinity. I come from an abusive home and a neighborhood consumed by gangs, drugs and gun violence. I wanted to understand better why I had used violence to solve my problems.
I have found, however, that strangers stand between me and many of the books I want to read.
Books, like everything an incarcerated person receives — personal mail, emails, photos, news and education materials — are evaluated by prison officials and rejected or shared with us. Corrections departments typically claim they ban books that contain sexual content, racial animus or depictions of violence, criminal activity, anti-authority attitudes or escape. In practice, PEN America wrote in a 2019 report on prison book restriction policies, the restrictions “have been wide-ranging, from perverse to absurd to constitutionally troubling, with bans being applied in ways that defy logic.”
In Texas, books by Alice Walker, Pablo Neruda and even the former senator Bob Dole have been banned. Throughout the country, prison officials have rejected or tried to ban books about biology (too much nudity in the anatomical drawings), the Holocaust (some of the victims were pictured nude), sketching, dragons and even the moon (it could “present risks of escape,” according to one New York prison). At one point, Colorado prison officials blocked a prisoner from reading two of President Barack Obama’s memoirs because they were “potentially detrimental to national security,” although they later reversed that decision.
Claiming such bans are necessary for the safety and security of prisons seems ludicrous. If anything, many banned books could contribute to a safer environment in prisons and in the societies incarcerated individuals are released into. Practically every author I have encountered while in prison, from Don Miguel Ruiz to Angela Y. Davis, has played a role in my efforts to grow and become a better person — someone who can live in society by adding to it, as opposed to taking from it.
While working to understand my harmful ways, I corresponded with Michael Kimmel, the author of “Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.” When he sent a copy of his book to me, it was rejected for what the prison claimed were “penological objectives.”
“The content could reasonably be thought to lead or add to tensions between groups specifically in a prison setting,” the prison explained in the rejection notice I was sent.
Successfully challenging book rejections often requires navigating a forbidding bureaucratic maze. But I appealed. I explained that the book is about toxic masculinity and shows men how to be functioning adults without the need for violence and anger — the opposite of what the prison claimed could be the outcome of reading the book.
Four months later, the rejection was overturned, and the book was released. For me, this small win was huge. Reading Dr. Kimmel’s book helped me to understand some of the deeply rooted structures around masculinity. I learned about how entitlement could lead men to hit women they claimed to love because they felt disrespected — something that happened in my family. He helped me to see my own toxic masculinity and to prevent it from consuming me and harming others.
I wish my fellow prisoners across the country could easily have access to books like Dr. Kimmel’s that show how to solve problems without violence. But my successful appeal didn’t automatically make the book available for others. Mailroom staff members can still reject the same book for the next prisoner who wants to read it. And many prisoners don’t have the time or the skill to file an appeal, or they are afraid of retaliation. Denied the chance to learn and grow through reading, incarcerated people are released with fewer skills and less knowledge.
State and federal prisons should not be allowed to censor the reading and educational materials of adult prisoners unless they can point to a legitimate safety threat; I’m not expecting them to allow us to read “The Anarchist Cookbook,” for example.
Prisons across the country will continue arbitrarily rejecting books like “Angry White Men” until state and federal officials create more explicit book restriction policies that clearly define what constitutes a safety threat. Prison officials should also be required to carefully consider the rehabilitative and educational potential of each book. The process for appealing a book rejection should be easier, and successful appeals should make formerly banned books easily accessible to all prisoners who want to read them.
Without college and without access to books and materials that expanded my mind beyond the razor wire and towering concrete walls, I might still be wasting my time on the yard. My worldview would still be dictated by toxic masculinity and the violence and harm that surround it. That’s not who I want to be when I leave this prison. It’s not who I want to see sent back into society.
Christopher Blackwell (@chriswblackwell) is an incarcerated writer and a co-founder of the nonprofit Look 2 Justice. He is a contributing writer at Jewish Currents, and he is working on a book about solitary confinement.
By Nicole Walker, Aug. 18, 2022
Ms. Walker is a writer and editor who teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/opinion/abortion-pregnancy-child-roe.html
I predict that my 17-year-old daughter will become a doctor. When my husband told her about a neuroscientist and nutritionist he met while producing a documentary, she said, “That sounds like the job for me.” She knows everything about the gut microbiome, dopamine and herniated discs. She does not look away at times when others might — like when my mother unexpectedly texted me pictures of a cyst she had removed from the back of her head, sitting in a bloody specimen cup. “That’s exactly what I would do,” my daughter said. “You have to show people.”
I don’t mind looking at such things, though I would like a little warning. But here I offer no warning, except to say that in an alternative world — one without abortion access — that conversation with my daughter would not have happened. In fact, my family and I would not have our lives together at all. The loss of Roe v. Wade is collective, but this story is mine. I ask you not to look away.
In 1982, when I was 10 years old, a 14-year-old boy molested me. He was supposed to be babysitting me and my younger sisters. After my sisters went to sleep, the babysitter and I sat on the couch, watching “M*A*S*H,” which came on after the news. He started caressing my arm. Then my neck. Then he took off my shirt and my pants. Then his clothes. He lay on top of me and had intercourse with me. I had a vague idea of what was happening. My parents had been forthcoming about how babies were made, and during long and lazy summers in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, I watched plenty of instructive soap operas.
I didn’t really know how wrong the babysitter situation was. I was flattered by the attention, but also confused. Why me? What does this mean? Was he my boyfriend? Why did we have to keep it a secret?
He continued to molest me for more than a year. I haven’t always used the word “molest” — I felt too much guilt and complicity. I am still prone to feeling both. I’m not sure if that’s a product of the molestation or if that is my personality, or if the two can even be disentangled.
When I was 11, he impregnated me. I use this active verb, with me as direct object, intentionally. To “get pregnant” suggests he threw the baseball and I, knowing it was coming, caught it. I did not mean to catch anything, nor did I know how to avoid doing so. My mom, who was already worried that something seemed wrong, figured it out. “Are you pregnant?” she asked me. I nodded yes. How did she know? I barely knew. Maybe it was pure motherly intuition.
In 1983, abortion was legal in Utah because it was legal across the United States. I did not feel lucky to get an abortion. I felt like garbage. The babysitter did not have to go to the clinic. The babysitter was not shunned and censured by our community. Most people didn’t even know what he had done, though they seemed to know something bad had happened to me — or perhaps that I had done something wrong. Only my mom and I were subject to the shame of entering that special building for that special procedure. Although no one in the neighborhood or at school talked to me about it, I could feel the electric gossip surge around me. I eventually skipped a grade.
In many parts of the world, the United States included, adult men marry children, sometimes legally and sometimes not. These girls, some of them the age that I was when I was molested, are sometimes forced to give birth. The pelvis can be too small for a fetus to pass through during birth. The fetus can die. The girl can suffer from a fistula, where the pressure during prolonged labor creates a connection between the bladder or rectum and the vagina. Bodily waste can then drip through the vagina.
Some abortion rights supporters worry that devoting too much energy to the stories of young children who need abortions — abortions that are still legal in at least some U.S. states — narrows the cause. Focusing on these exceptional cases, they fear, could shift the fight away from a more expansive battle for women’s rights and the obvious truth that bodily autonomy should exist for all people.
But I am telling you all this — even though it hurts to type, even though when my husband walked by as I was writing this essay, I reflexively closed my laptop — because the world changed on June 24, 2022. On that day, I understood the extent of what we were losing.
The freedom to choose wasn’t what I experienced in 1983. My abortion wasn’t a choice. It was my life. If I had been forced to give birth, I wouldn’t be texting my mom from my home in a beautiful mountain town. I wouldn’t teach at the nearby university. I wouldn’t be working on a book about climate change and how to shatter predetermined destinies. I wouldn’t be married to my husband or have my two children. My life would not have been my own. I would be a prisoner subject to a body’s whims — and not my body’s whims, but the whims of a teenage boy who, as best I can tell, experienced no consequences for inflicting what his body wanted upon my own.
On June 24, I felt the prison gates fall around me, around my daughter, around everyone with a uterus. Pregnancy and childbirth change life trajectories. Now, for many more Americans, trajectories are set. Paths defined. This future is foreseeable. I ask that you look at it.
Nicole Walker is the author of several books, most recently “Processed Meats: Essays on Food, Flesh and Navigating Disaster” and “The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet.” She edits the “Crux” series at the University of Georgia Press, is the nonfiction editor at the journal “Diagram” and teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.
By Ai-jen Poo, Aug. 17, 2022
Ms. Poo is the executive director of Caring Across Generations and the president of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/17/opinion/home-family-child-care.html
On Tuesday President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains parts of his Build Back Better agenda, including major climate investments and authorization for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. The law will reduce the cost of health care, slash carbon emissions to roughly 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, invest in clean energy vehicles and raise taxes on corporations, among other things.
Make no mistake, President Biden and the Democrats in Congress have achieved a transformative investment in our future.
But investments in Medicaid home and community-based services for older adults and people with disabilities, raising wages for the work force that provides caregiving, four weeks of paid family and medical leave, and subsidies for families in need of child care did not make it into law.
Infrastructure isn’t only sustainable modes of transportation. As Senator Bob Casey recently said: “The bridge to work for many is someone who can come into their home and care for aging parents. For others, it’s quality, affordable child care for their kids.” Fair pay for caregiving would free up more Americans to take part in the economy.
For too long we have underinvested in and undervalued caregivers. After the coronavirus pandemic hit, a breakthrough seemed possible when policies intended to help families became the focus of a national conversation.
A 2020 report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that more than one in five Americans were caregivers and almost one in four of these was caring for more than one person. A more recent study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that a vast majority of Americans want to age at home and want the government to act to help them do so.
But we can hardly sustain the existing home care work force with workers’ current median annual income just over $18,000 per year. What will we do when the aging baby boomer generation — roughly 73 million people — needs more support and services?
There are more than 12 million working parents with children younger than 6 years old. Without access to paid leave, these parents must find affordable child care in order to work and provide for their families. The American Rescue Plan Act included funding to stabilize child care programs for low-income families and expanded the child tax credit for 2021, but what will happen when that funding runs out?
Lawmakers must now decide how to support the care economy — including administrative and regulatory reforms as well as legislation. We should see investments in care reflected in appropriations and at the heart of the next budget reconciliation. Many voters want representatives who refuse to devalue women and families and who want caregivers to have the freedom to choose whether they leave the work force rather than be forced out of it.
The Biden administration’s economic agenda has often been compared to Roosevelt’s New Deal in scope and significance, but the New Deal explicitly excluded two groups of workers — farm workers and domestic workers. Over time, these domestic workers became the backbone of the care economy, but the government never advanced comprehensive solutions to support them.
Mr. Biden’s original agenda not only included these workers, but it highlighted the importance of investing holistically in the care that families need and the jobs that support it. Today, we understand that the economy doesn’t grow or work without care, including for the work force entrusted with the people who matter most in our lives. Let’s not wait another 80 years to act on that vision.
Nathan Connolly and his wife, Shani Mott, say an appraisal company undervalued their home based on their race. The couple has filed a lawsuit in Maryland.
By Debra Kamin, Aug. 18, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/realestate/housing-discrimination-maryland.html
Last summer, Nathan Connolly and his wife, Shani Mott, welcomed an appraiser into their house in Baltimore, hoping to take advantage of historically low interest rates and refinance their mortgage.
They believed that their house — improved with a new $5,000 tankless water heater and $35,000 in other renovations — was worth much more than the $450,000 that they paid for it in 2017. Home prices have been on the rise nationwide since the pandemic; in Baltimore, they have gone up 42 percent in the past five years, according to Zillow.com.
But 20/20 Valuations, a Maryland appraisal company, put the home’s value at $472,000, and in turn, loanDepot, a mortgage lender, denied the couple a refinance loan.
Dr. Connolly said he knew why: He, his wife and three children, aged 15, 12 and 9, are Black. A professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Connolly is an expert on redlining and the legacy of white supremacy in American cities, and much of his research focuses on the role of race in the housing market.
Months after that first appraisal, the couple applied for another refinance loan, removed family photos and had a white male colleague — another Johns Hopkins professor — stand in for them. The second appraiser valued the house at $750,000.
This week, Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott sued loanDepot, which is based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., as well as 20/20 Valuations and Shane Lanham, the owner of 20/20 Valuations. Mr. Lanham is the appraiser who conducted the first appraisal.
“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” said Dr. Connolly, 44. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”
The home appraisal industry, which relies partly on subjective opinions to translate home values into dollars and cents, has faced a firestorm of criticism over the past two years.
More than 97 percent of home appraisers are white, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and since the summer of 2020, when conversations on race and discrimination in America rose to the forefront following the murder of George Floyd, dozens of Black homeowners have alleged discrimination in the home valuations they received. Some have filed lawsuits, and the Biden administration in March announced a set of planned reforms to overhaul the appraisal industry and dismantle systemic bias.
Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott live in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Homeland, known for its strong public schools and colonial architecture, which has earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. A majority of their neighbors are white. According to their complaint, which was filed in Maryland District Court on Monday, the couple applied to refinance their mortgage with loanDepot in May 2021. The lender approved a loan at a rate of 2.25 percent and, according to the complaint, told the couple that their home was likely now worth $550,000 or more.
To conduct the appraisal, loanDepot hired 20/20 Valuations as a subcontractor.
Mr. Lanham conducted the inspection himself on June 14, 2021. According to the complaint, Dr. Connolly, Dr. Mott and their three children were home during the visit, and their house was also filled with family photos, children’s drawings of figures with dark skin, a poster for the film “Black Panther” and literature by Black authors (Dr. Mott lectures on literature and Africana studies).
“It would have been obvious to anyone visiting that the home belonged to a Black family,” the complaint reads. The appraisal came back just $22,000 more than they had paid, and loanDepot based its rejection of the couple’s application on the low number.
The couple criticized the way Mr. Lanham came up with his appraisal. Home appraisers frequently rely upon the sales comparison approach, in which they weigh real estate against the sale prices of similar nearby homes to determine value.
In Mr. Lanham’s appraisal, he selected three homes with values ranging from $435,000 to $545,000 (a fourth comparable, which sold for $650,000, was ultimately not used in his valuation).
The first home used, the complaint argues, would be considered a “fixer-upper,” which the home of Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott is not.
The second is outside the boundaries of the Homeland neighborhood, amid a majority-Black census block of homes.
In the third, he deducted $50,000 from the comparison amount because Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott’s home faces a busy street — a deduction, the complaint says, that “is excessive and is inconsistent with proper appraisal practices.” Another $20,000 was deducted for the quality of construction.
All of the selected comparable homes, the complaint says, were of lower quality than Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott’s home, and the appraisal incorrectly stated that their home had not received any updates for 15 years.
According to the complaint, Mr. Lanham “cherry-picked low value homes as comps,” and by doing so, he “ignored legitimately comparable homes with much higher sales prices.”
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Mr. Lanham declined to comment.
Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott wrote a letter to Christian Jorgensen, a lending officer at loanDepot who had been their main point of contact up to that point, challenging the appraisal. According to the complaint, the loan officer then stopped responding to their calls.
Mr. Jorgensen did not respond to requests for comment.
Several months later, the couple applied for a new loan with Swift Home Loans, which partnered with Rocket Mortgage. This time they underwent a “whitewashing experiment,” removing indications of Blackness from their home and replacing them with signifiers that a white family might live there instead. They cleared their bookshelves of works by Black authors. They asked white friends to share family photos and placed those in picture frames around the house; on their walls, they hung art bought at Ikea that showed white people.
An American flag that was presented to Dr. Mott 10 years ago after the death of her father, a Vietnam War veteran, was removed from storage, framed and placed on the mantle.
“We had to have a conversation with our kids about why we’re pulling down all their drawings,” Dr. Connolly said. “It’s very humiliating to strip yourself of your own home.”
On the day of the second appraisal, they left their home and had the white colleague answer the door. The second appraiser provided the $750,000 estimate.
The homes pulled by the second appraiser were of significantly higher value than those selected by Mr. Lanham, selling from $749,000 to $785,000. And while Lanham docked $50,000, or 10 percent, from the comparable homes that were not on a busy road, the second appraiser deducted $15,000, or 2 percent. The complaint says that the 2 percent adjustment is consistent with industry standards.
Race has long played a role in housing policy in the United States, and Black Americans are denied mortgages at disproportionate rates. The impact of redlining, a racist Depression-era housing policy, continues to drive down home values in Black neighborhoods and deprive resources for communities of color.
But Dr. Mott and Dr. Connolly do not live in a Black neighborhood. The disparity in their two appraisals echoes a lawsuit brought by Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin, a Black couple in California who have accused an appraiser of lowballing their home’s value by $500,000. That case, said Mr. Austin, is scheduled for mediation — a chance to resolve the matter before heading to court — in September.
“We’re looking to hold people accountable,” Mr. Austin said.
The Department of Justice made the unusual move in February of issuing a statement of interest in the Austin case, underscoring the fact that appraisers — who are bound by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to not discriminate — can be held legally liable if they do.
Mr. Austin said it was a big step for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to say that they want the appraisal industry to be overhauled. “But I do believe it is going to take quite a few more lawsuits in order for appraisers to stop devaluing Black and brown properties,” he said. “It’s a historical aspect of how people value Black and brown lives.”
The Justice Department’s move in the Austin case came several months after Mr. Biden announced the creation of the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity, which aims to evaluate the causes of appraisal bias and execute an action plan to root it from the industry. The task force is led by Susan E. Rice, the White House domestic policy adviser, and Marcia L. Fudge, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. One year in, say senior HUD officials, they are working to bolster its governance over the Appraisal Foundation, which sets standards for appraisers.
Of course, it is not unheard-of for appraisals to be far off the mark — one study in 2012, for example, found a wide berth between what was said to be the values of homes and their eventual sale prices.
Nevertheless, discrimination on appraisals continues to trouble those who work in the industry. James Park, executive director of the Appraisal Subcommittee, the independent federal agency that monitors the Appraisal Foundation, said he is deeply disturbed by accusations of discriminatory appraisals that continue to come to light.
“It’s a concern, and it should be a concern for the entire appraisal industry, as well as mortgage lenders,” Mr. Park said.
John Relman, managing partner of Relman Colfax, the law firm representing Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott, said: “Appraisal discrimination is insidious because it’s so nuanced. But what’s unique about this case is it’s not a typical redlining case. You can’t get more accomplished than these two individuals. They have done everything the market told them to do, and they invested in a community where everyone else had the benefit of rising real estate values. And yet they were still discriminated against.”
Private Facebook messages are key evidence in a rare case that has stoked fears and inflamed debate over abortion restrictions.
By Shaila Dewan and Sheera Frenkel, Aug. 18, 2022
Protesters in front of the Nebraska State Capitol during an abortion rights rally in Lincoln, Neb., in July. Credit...Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star, via Associated Press
The mother sent a Facebook message to her daughter days before the teenager’s abortion, the police say. “Hey we can get the show on the road the stuff came in,” she wrote in April, adding, “The 1 pill stops the hormones and then you gotta wait 24 hour 2 take the other.”
The teenager used the pills to terminate her pregnancy at home two days later, according to police records.
Now, both mother and daughter face criminal charges. Their Facebook messages, obtained by the police through a warrant, have become key evidence in a rare prosecution over abortion.
The circumstances of the case are hardly typical. According to the police, the teenager’s medication-induced abortion occurred at the beginning of the third trimester — much later than an overwhelming majority of abortions in the United States, which happen in the first 13 weeks. Mother and daughter buried the fetal remains themselves, the police say.
All of this took place, according to the police timeline, two months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, which removed the constitutional right to abortion. The charges against the women use Nebraska laws that were in place when Roe was still in effect, including a state ban on most abortions after 20 weeks.
Still, the case raises questions about how abortion-related prosecutions will unfold in a constantly shifting legal landscape, in which enforcement of new bans is already dividing the authorities. It has inflamed debate over abortion restrictions in a post-Roe era, fueling fears that women, and those who help them, will be prosecuted for abortions, and that their private communications will be used against them.
The teenager’s use of abortion pills so late in pregnancy — long after the 10 weeks permitted by the Food and Drug Administration — has also put renewed focus on mail-order medication, which has come to be seen as a workaround as abortion restrictions tighten and clinics close.
Use of the abortion pill regimen is considered safest in early pregnancy; its efficacy declines as the pregnancy advances. According to a calculation based on the due date provided by the police, the teenager was almost 30 weeks pregnant when she terminated the pregnancy — past the 23 to 24 weeks generally accepted as the point of viability, when a fetus would most likely be able to live outside the womb.
The mother in the case, Jessica Burgess, was charged with two felonies under Nebraska’s abortion law: performing an abortion without a medical license, and performing or attempting to abort a fetus more than 20 weeks after conception. The charges carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Experts said neither charge could be applied to a woman who terminates her own pregnancy; Ms. Burgess’s daughter has not been charged with violating abortion law.
But both women face charges under laws independent of the state’s abortion statutes: mishandling human remains, concealing a death and false reporting. The daughter, who was 17 at the time, is being tried as an adult, meaning her case will not be shielded by privacy rules in juvenile court, and she will face stiffer sentencing if convicted.
Ms. Burgess did not respond to the charges in court; a not-guilty plea was entered on her behalf. Her daughter has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutions of women who have abortions have been rare, in part because terminating pregnancies has until recently been constitutionally protected, and because the anti-abortion movement has generally focused on prosecuting providers and steered away from punishing women.
But prosecutors have long made creative use of other laws — including those governing child abuse, feticide and improper disposal of human remains — to criminalize both miscarriages and abortions that occur outside of clinical settings, experts say.
From 2006 to 2020, more than 1,300 women were prosecuted or faced mandatory medical intervention for what the authorities said was behavior risky to their pregnancies, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Over the last two decades, at least 61 investigations have been initiated against pregnant women or individuals who aided them in self-managed abortions — defined as abortions that occur outside a clinical setting, including those that use pills, herbs, physical force or other means — according to an abortion rights group that studied the cases. Most of them were based on statutes not related to abortion.
“While we’ve seen local prosecutors prosecute people for managing their own abortions in the past, without Roe in place it’s going to become more common,” said Elizabeth Nash, the state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Nebraska Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, commended the prosecutor for enforcing Nebraska’s 20-week law. The executive director, Sandy Danek, said in an interview that accountability should extend to providers that mail abortion pills to states that, like Nebraska, require in-person physician oversight of medication abortions.
“This disturbing act may become more commonplace as the abortion industry continues to promote the do-it-yourself abortion where there’s no medical oversight for risks and complications,” she said.
Katie Glenn, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion group, agreed. “Our consistent position has been that the woman that the abortion is performed on should never be criminalized,” she said.
Since the Supreme Court put abortion policy back under state control, local prosecutors have split on enforcement. Liberal prosecutors in conservative states have pledged not to prosecute under new abortion laws; conservative lawmakers have pushed back.
The investigation of the Burgesses did not begin as an abortion case. In late April, the police in Norfolk, Neb., a two-hour drive northwest of Omaha, began looking into “concerns” that a 17-year-old had given birth prematurely to a stillborn baby and that she and her mother had buried it, according to court documents. Detective Ben McBride subpoenaed medical records from early March showing that the teenager had been pregnant with a due date of July 3.
When he interviewed the Burgesses, they said the baby had been stillborn in the bathtub and showed him where they had buried it.
The detective said he later learned that the women had actually buried the remains and then dug them up, drove them north of town and buried them again. Finally, they moved the remains a third time. At some point, a man who helped them told the police, the women tried to burn the fetus. The remains were exhumed and showed signs of “thermal injuries,” the detective wrote.
In cases where the police become involved in a miscarriage or stillbirth, often the biggest question is whether the baby was born alive. If so, the woman involved can face more serious charges. In the Burgess case, the final autopsy listed the cause of death as undetermined. “The findings were consistent with the fetus being stillborn,” but the fetus had been put in a plastic bag, raising the possibility of suffocation, the detective wrote.
Jessica Burgess’s lawyer declined to comment on the case. The public defender’s office, which is representing the daughter, and the prosecutor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
The county prosecutor, Joseph Smith, a Republican, told The Lincoln Journal Star that he had never filed charges connected to performing an illegal abortion in his 32 years on the job.
The investigation might have ended there, but when the detective asked the daughter for the exact date the pregnancy ended, she consulted her Facebook messages.
The Burgesses were charged with concealing a stillbirth, but the detective went on to obtain a warrant of all of the mother and daughter’s correspondence on Facebook Messenger.
He found evidence of a medically induced abortion, writing that the daughter “talks about how she can’t wait to get that ‘thing’ out of her body.”
In an exchange dated April 20, the daughter writes, “Remember we burn the evidence.” The mother replies, “Yep.”
The Facebook message time stamps suggest that the pills took at least three weeks to arrive in the mail, raising the possibility that the family intended to terminate the pregnancy earlier. The mother says the order that arrived on April 20 was placed in March.
The nearest abortion clinic is about 60 miles away, though it is unknown whether the Burgesses sought care at a clinic.
The cost of mail-order abortion pills varies widely and can be heavily subsidized for those able to navigate the system. But one expert said they would normally cost at least $200. In court papers filed after her arrest, the mother said she had only $400 in her bank account and could not afford a lawyer. “I lost my job due to this situation,” she wrote.
The Nebraska law that limits abortion after 20 weeks from conception passed in 2010 and targeted a provider of late-term abortions who then moved that portion of his practice out of state, Ms. Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said. In many states, such restrictions did not hold up under court scrutiny because Roe prohibited pre-viability bans, but the Nebraska law was never challenged, she said. Recently, efforts to enact a 12-week ban in Nebraska stalled.
The abortion charges against Ms. Burgess were brought only after the Facebook evidence was turned over, and after a friend of the daughter came forward to say she had seen the teenager take the first of two pills. The friend declined a request for comment.
The news caused an outcry against Facebook, which had vowed to protect its own employees’ access to abortions. Privacy experts have warned that prosecutors could serve warrants to tech companies requesting location data, messages or search history to help corroborate whether someone had or aided an abortion. They have also warned that apps, such as those used by many women to track their menstrual cycles, could be used to reveal personal medical histories.
But tech companies may have little choice but to comply with court orders. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said the company “received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court’s decision,” on abortion. The warrants did not mention abortion, the company said, but noted that the police were investigating “the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant.”
Dana Sussman, the acting executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said that was not an uncommon approach. “What we have been saying consistently is that it will almost never say ‘abortion’ in the search warrant that you receive,” she said, adding, “It’s feticide charges, it’s manslaughter charges, it’s murder charges, child abuse, felony child neglect.”
Meta has said that it fights against requests it believes are invalid or too broad. According to a transparency report published by the company, covering the second half of 2021, the company gave investigators information in about 88 percent of the 59,996 times when the government requested data.
Meta has announced that it is working on the global rollout of end-to-end encrypted messages by 2023, which would help ensure that no outside party, including Meta, could access message contents.
Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, a majority of prosecutions focused on providers. In more recent times, pregnancy loss has been criminalized in a variety of ways.
In a case from 2010 in Iowa, a woman who fell down the stairs in her second trimester told hospital staff members that she had considered an abortion or adoption earlier in her pregnancy. She was arrested and detained. In Utah in 2004, a woman pleaded guilty to child endangerment after one of her twins was stillborn. She had declined a recommendation to have a C-section. In Texas in April, a woman was briefly charged with murder in connection with a “self-induced abortion”; the charges were dismissed as a mistake after a public outcry.
A recent report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers notes that even if new laws do not target abortion recipients, they could still face conspiracy and accomplice charges that generally apply to any crime.
An advocacy group called If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice has analyzed the 61 cases in 26 states that dealt specifically with self-managed abortions.
Forty-five percent of the cases were first reported by medical providers or social workers, but another 25 percent were reported by friends, parents or intimate partners.
The authorities said for the first time that the state had been a key player in the likely massacre of students from a teachers’ college in 2014.
By Oscar Lopez, Published Aug. 18, 2022, Updated Aug. 19, 2022
A memorial to the 43 disappeared students in Mexico City in 2019. Credit...Celia Talbot Tobin for The New York Times
MEXICO CITY — The disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014 was a “crime of the state” involving every layer of government, an official inquiry reported on Thursday, in the most profound admission to date of government responsibility for one of the most notorious atrocities in Mexico’s modern history.
“At all times the federal, state and municipal authorities had knowledge of the students’ movements,” a government truth commission said in its preliminary findings. “Their actions, omissions and participation allowed for the disappearance and execution of the students, as well as the murder of six other people.”
The violent abduction and disappearance of the students, young men from a teachers’ college in the rural town of Ayotzinapa, and a subsequent cover-up that the commission confirmed extended to some of the highest national offices, have long been sources of national outrage, underscoring the cartel-fueled carnage and insidious state corruption that continue to wrack the country.
The students are among more than 100,000 people who have gone missing or are considered disappeared across the country, testament to the brutality of organized crime groups that are known to dissolve bodies in tubs of acid or burn corpses to ash.
“It’s really important that the government put so much emphasis on this case as it’s complicated; it was a mass disappearance with security forces from across all levels of government colluding with a criminal organization,” said Maureen Meyer, vice president of programs at the Washington Office of Latin America, a research organization.
“But it is important that the government also focuses on solving the tens of thousands of other disappearances that have happened across the country and ending the impunity that continues to help drive these crimes.”
Getting to the bottom of the students’ disappearance was a central campaign promise of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who created the truth commission to investigate the likely massacre and cover-up as one of his first actions in office.
Only the remains of three students have ever been identified. There is no indication that any of the other students are still alive, the inquiry concluded. “All the testimonies and evidence prove that they were cunningly killed and disappeared,” Alejandro Encinas, under secretary for human rights, said at a news conference presenting the findings.
The commission’s preliminary conclusions offer a faint hope that the country may be inching closer to solving a gruesome crime that shocked the nation, even as doubts remain over the lack of meaningful progress: To date, there have been no convictions related to the students’ disappearance.
Mr. Encinas revealed that the government had issued arrest warrants for 33 former officials linked to the case, but he declined to give their names, saying the investigation was ongoing.
On the night they vanished, the students had commandeered a number of buses — a tradition that was largely tolerated by local bus companies — to transport their peers to a demonstration in Mexico City commemorating another student tragedy: the 1968 Taltelolco massacre, when dozens of protesters were gunned down by government forces.
But soon after taking the buses in the town of Iguala in Guerrero State, south of Mexico City, the students were intercepted by municipal police officers and other gunmen, who forced them off the vehicles, shot some of them and took the rest away into the night. After that, little is known about what happened.
Around 10:45 p.m. that night, “after the acts of violence and persecution, the order was given for the students to be disappeared,” the commission’s report states, without indicating who had issued the command.
Although law enforcement was known to have been involved in the students’ disappearance, a local drug cartel called the Guerreros Unidos was also a key player in the disappearance, according to the authorities, with “a large number of sicarios,” or hitmen, working “with the support of different municipal police and agents of the state.”
The government also confirmed that a military informant had been embedded among the students when they disappeared, meaning that the authorities were tracking their movements long before the attack took place, something that was previously reported by the local news media. That raises the possibility that the military knew at the time that something horrific had happened.
The military command, however, “took no action” to find the informant, who remains among the 43 missing students, Mr. Encinas said.
The military’s implication in the students’ disappearance, something human rights groups had long alleged, comes at a delicate moment for Mr. López Obrador, who has put more authority in the military’s hands.
The president has deployed regular troops across the country to perform law enforcement functions, and he has created a 100,000-strong National Guard, which, although technically a civilian force, is set to be incorporated into the defense ministry.
The army has also been deployed for an increasing number of government tasks, including building Mexico City’s new airport, constructing a tourist train in the country’s south and doling out vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic.
The truth commission’s findings underscore the role of the previous administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto in attempting to conceal the truth about the students’ disappearance and the government’s involvement.
“This is a tough case to solve because of the obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses and evidence that happened under the previous administration,” Ms. Meyer said. “This government is telling the public, through this commission, that the case may never be solved.”
In 2015, after a few months of investigation, Mexico’s attorney general reported that the students had been taken by the municipal authorities at the behest of a local gang, which then killed them and incinerated their bodies in a trash dump.
But that conclusion has been almost unanimously disputed by international experts, who have found numerous inconsistencies in the official conclusions.
On Thursday, Mr. Encinas doubled down on that criticism: That investigation “was a concerted action from the organized apparatus of power from the highest level of government, which obscured the truth.”
Maria Abi-Habib contributed reporting.