Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, July 27, 2023

   Good News! 

When We Fight, We Win!

Ruchell “Cinque” Magee has won court-ordered Compassionate Release!


His release was issued by judges in two courts—San Jose and L.A.—and he will walk out of CA Medical Facility State Prison in Vacaville very shortly. He has been imprisoned for 67 years!


We’re raising money to ease his transition to the outside and I’m writing to ask for your help by making a donation. We have launched a Fundrazr on-line to collect funds. Here is the link:  




Will you help? And share, too?




July is LaborFest Month!

LaborFest 2023 schedule is up!



Dear Friends of LaborFest,


Thank you so much for waiting this year's LaborFest schedule.

Although it's not completed yet, we are finally able to put it up.


This year’s schedule includes history walks, poetry, book readings, play, political discussion, and of course the boat ride. This year’s labor history boat ride might be our last one, so please participate and enjoy. The number is limited on the boat.


If you noticed anything on our web page which needs to be corrected, please let us know. We are an all-volunteer organization, and any help is welcomed.

If you have social media skills and want to help get publicity out about this festival, please contact us too, and please get this out to other lists you are on. 


Lastly, please post photos, videos, and comments on our social media platforms.


See you soon,


Kazmi Torii

LaborFest Organizing Committee










August 9: National Day of Protest to Drop the Charges on the Tampa 5!


The Tampa 5—Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro, Laura Rodriguez, Jeanie K, and Chrisley Carpio—are the five Students for a Democratic Society protesters at the University of South Florida who were attacked by campus police and are now facing five to ten years in prison for protesting Governor Ron DeSantis' attacks on diversity programs and all of higher education.


On July 12, 2023, the Tampa 5 had their second court appearance. At this pretrial hearing, they learned that a trial date will be set by the judge on August 9, at their next court appearance.


The Tampa 5 are still in the middle of the process of discovery, which means that they are obtaining evidence from the prosecution that is meant to convict them. They have said publicly that all the security camera footage they have seen so far absolves them, and they are eager to not only receive more of this evidence but also to share it with the world. The Tampa 5 and their supporters demand full transparency and USF's full cooperation with discovery, to which all of the defendants are entitled.


In spite of this, the charges have not yet been dropped. The case of the five SDS protesters is hurtling towards a trial. So, they need all of their supporters and all parties interested in the right to protest DeSantis to stay out in the streets!


On August 9, the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5 is calling on all member groups to declare a National Day of Protest! On July 12, we saw at least 15 cities pour out into the streets to say, "Drop the charges!"


We need to be out again on August 9 in even greater numbers. We need to demand that the DeSantis-appointed, unelected State Attorney Susan Lopez and Assistant Prosecutor Justin Diaz drop the charges.


We need to win this case once and for all and protect the right of the student movement—and all social movements in the United States—to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and to protest.


All Out for July August 9 to Defend the Tampa 5!


State Attorney Susy Lopez, Prosecutor Justin Diaz, Drop the Charges!


Save Diversity in Higher Education!


Protesting DeSantis is Not a Crime!

How you you can help:


1. Host any or all of the Tampa 5 in your city or on your local campus as we conduct a speaking tour around the country


2. Sign your organization onto this petition and help us spread the word about the Tampa 5:



The Tampa 5 are students and workers who attended a Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society protest on March 6th to save diversity programs at the University of South Florida and to oppose Ron DeSantis' anti-education bill, HB999. They were attacked, arrested, and now charged with felonies by the University of South Florida Police Department. Their felonies and potential prison time were doubled by the unelected, DeSantis-appointed state attorney, Susan Lopez, and her underling, Justin Diaz. They now face five to ten years in prison for exercising their right to protest and freedom of speech. The students were suspended and one of the five, the campus worker, Chrisley Carpio, was fired from her job at the university.


On June 24th, over 130 attendees of an emergency defense conference founded a new organization: the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5, which is national in scope. We are embarking on a long-term defense campaign to get the charges dropped and to defend the right to free speech in the state of Florida, and we need your help!


Thanks so much for your solidarity and support so far, and we'll see you in the streets!



No one is coming to save us, but us.


We need visionary politics, collective strategy, and compassionate communities now more than ever. In a moment of political uncertainty, the Socialism Conference—September 1-4, in Chicago—will be a vital gathering space for today’s left. Join thousands of organizers, activists, and socialists to learn from each other and from history, assess ongoing struggles, build community, and experience the energy of in-person gatherings.


Featured speakers at Socialism 2023 will include: Naomi Klein, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, aja monet, Bettina Love, Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò, Sophie Lewis, Harsha Walia, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Astra Taylor, Malcolm Harris, Kelly Hayes, Daniel Denvir, Emily Drabinski, Ilya Budraitskis, Dave Zirin, and many more.


The Socialism Conference is brought to you by Haymarket Books and dozens of endorsing left-wing organizations and publications, including Jacobin, DSA, EWOC, In These Times, Debt Collective, Dream Defenders, the Autonomous Tenant Union Network, N+1, Jewish Currents, Lux, Verso Books, Pluto Press, and many more. 


Register for Socialism 2023 by July 7 for the early bird discounted rate! Registering TODAY is the single best way you can help support, sustain, and expand the Socialism Conference. The sooner that conference organizers can gauge conference attendance, the bigger and better the conference will be!


Learn more and register for Socialism 2023

September 1-4, 2023, Chicago



Attendees are expected to wear a mask (N95, K95, or surgical mask) over their mouth and nose while indoors at the conference. Masks will be provided for those who do not have one.


A number of sessions from the conference will also be live-streamed virtually so that those unable to attend in person can still join us.

Copyright © 2023 Jacobin, All rights reserved.

You are receiving these messages because you opted in through our signup form, or at time of subscription/purchase.


Our mailing address is:


388 Atlantic Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11217-3399


Add us to your address book:




Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733



Previously Recorded

View on YouTube:




Featured Speakers:


Yuliya Yurchenko, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and author of Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketization to Armed Conflict.


Vladyslav Starodubstev, historian of Central and Eastern European region, and member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh.


Kirill Medvedev, poet, political writer, and member of the Russian Socialist Movement.


Kavita Krishnan, Indian feminist, author of Fearless Freedom, former leader of the Communist Party of India (ML).


Bill Fletcher, former President of TransAfrica Forum, former senior staff person at the AFL-CIO, and Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Including solidarity statements from among others Barbara Smith, Eric Draitser, Haley Pessin, Ramah Kudaimi, Dave Zirin, Frieda Afary, Jose La Luz, Rob Barrill, and Cindy Domingo.



Urgent Health Call-In Campaign for Political Prisoner Ed Poindexter


Watch the moving video of Ed's Niece and Sister at the April 26, 2023, UN EMLER Hearing in Atlanta: https://youtu.be/aKwV7LQ5iww


Ed needs to be released to live the rest of his life outside of prison, with his family! (His niece Ericka is now 52 years old and was an infant when Ed was targeted, stolen from his home, jailed, framed, and railroaded.)


Ed Poindexter's left leg was amputated below the knee in early April due to lack of proper medical care. Ed has diabetes and receives dialysis several days a week. He underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016.


Please support Ed by sending him a letter of encouragement to:


Ed Poindexter #27767

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800


Ed has a cataract in one eye that makes it difficult for him to read, so please type your letter in 18 point or larger font. The Nebraska Department of Corrections does not plan to allow Ed to have surgery for the cataract because "he has one good eye."





·      Warden Boyd of the Reception and Treatment Center (402-471-2861);


·      Warden Wilhelm of the Nebraska State Penitentiary (402-471-3161);


·      Governor Pillen, the State of Nebraska Office of the Governor (402-471-2244);


·      Director Rob Jeffreys, Nebraska Department of Corrections 402-471-2654;


The Nebraska Board of Pardons

(Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov).


Please sustain calls daily through May 30th, 2023, for this intensive campaign, and thereafter as you can.


[Any relief for Ed will be announced via email and social media.]


Sample Message:


“I'm calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given immediate compassionate release.


“In April 2023, Ed's niece and brother found out that Ed’s leg had been amputated earlier in the month. And it happened without notice to Ed’s family! This was all within the ‘skilled nursing facility’ at the Reception and Treatment Center, which specializes in behavioral issues and suicide watch, and is not primarily a rehab medical unit.


“Ed is on dialysis several days per week and is wheelchair bound, and is not able to shower or change without a lot more direct support than he is currently getting.


“The Nebraska Department of Corrections admits that their facilities are severely overcrowded and understaffed.


“I join Ed’s family in demanding that Ed be given Compassionate Release, and that he be immediately released to hospice at home.”


Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


Warden Michelle Wilhelm

Nebraska State Penitentiary

Phone: 402-471-3161

4201 S 14th Street

Lincoln, NE 68502


Governor Jim Pillen

Phone: 402-471-2244

PO Box 94848

Lincoln, NE 68509-4848



Rob Jeffreys

Director, Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-471-2654

PO Box 94661

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509


Nebraska Board of Pardons

PO Box 95007

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov


You can read more about Ed Poindexter at:




Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

March 28, 2023

"Today is March 28, 2023

I spoke to Rene, the lead attorney. He hopes to have our reply [to the Morrison Forster report] done by April 14 and sent out with a massive Public Relations blast.

He said that the draft copy, which everyone will see, should be available April 10th. 

I will have a visit with two of the attorneys to go over the draft copy and express any concerns I have with it.

MoFo ex-law enforcement “experts” are not qualified to write what they wrote or do what they did.

Another of our expert reports has come in and there are still two more that we’re waiting for—the DNA report and Professor Bazelon’s report on what an innocence investigation is and what it is not. We are also expecting a report from the Innocence Network. All the regional Innocence Projects (like the Northern California Innocence Project) in the country belong to the Innocence Network.

If MoFo had done the right thing, I would be getting out of here, but because they knew that, somewhere along the line they got hijacked, so we have to continue this fight but we think we can win."

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974


Background on Kevin's Case


January 14, 2023

Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings.  Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct. The report failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. 


The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted. Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution. For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. 


In effect the special counsel’s report says: the Board of Parole Hearings can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel; since I conclude Cooper is guilty based on what the prosecution says, none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.


Given that (1) we have already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, (2) one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in the Ryen/Hughes murders, and (3) there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, we cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted.  The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination.  We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.

Anything But Justice for Black People

Statement from Kevin Cooper concerning recent the decision on his case by Morrison Forrester Law Firm

In 2020 and 2022 Governor Newsom signed in to law the “Racial Justice Act.” This is because the California legislature, and the Governor both acknowledged that the criminal justice system in California is anything but justice for Black people.

On May 28th, 2021, Governor signed an executive order to allow the law firm of Morrison Forrester (MoFo) to do an independent investigation in my case which included reading the trial and appellant transcripts, my innocence claims, and information brought to light by the 9th circuit court of appeals, as well as anything else not in the record, but relevant to this case.

So, Mr. Mark McDonald, Esq, who headed this investigation by Morrison Forrester and his associates at the law firm, went and did what was not part of Governor Newsom’s order, and they did this during the length of time that they were working on this case, and executive order. They worked with law enforcement, current and former members of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement-type people and organizations.

Law enforcement is the first part of this state’s criminal justice system. A system that both the California legislature, and the Governor acknowledge to be racist, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, will present, and use false evidence to obtain a conviction, will withhold material exculpatory evidence, and will do everything else that is written in those two racial justice act bills that were signed into law.

So, with the active help of those pro-police, pro-prosecutor, pro-death penalty people working on this case to uphold my bogus conviction we cannot be surprised about the recent decision handed down by them in this case.

While these results are not true but based on the decisions made in 1983 and 1984 by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, these 2023 results were not reached by following the executive orders of Governor Newsom.

They ignored his orders and went out to make sure that I am either executed or will never get out of prison.

Governor Newsom cannot let this stand because he did not order a pro-cop or pro-prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation.

We all know that in truth, law enforcement protects each other, they stand by each other, no matter what city, county, or state that they come from. This is especially true when a Black man like me states that I was framed for murder by law enforcement who just happened to be in the neighboring county.

No one should be surprised about the law enforcement part in this, but we must be outraged by the law firm Morrison Forrester for being a part of this and then try to sell it as legitimate. We ain’t stupid and everyone who knows the truth about my case can see right through this bullshit.

I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well. My entire legal team, family and friends and supporters will continue as well. We have to get to the Governor and let him know that he cannot accept these bogus rehashed results.

MoFo and their pro-prosecution and pro-police friends did not even deal with, or even acknowledge the constitutional violations in my case. They did not mention the seven Brady violations which meant the seven pieces of material exculpatory evidence were withheld from my trial attorney and the jury, and the 1991 California Supreme court that heard and upheld this bogus conviction. Why, one must ask, did they ignore these constitutional violations and everything that we proved in the past that went to my innocence?

Could it be that they just didn’t give a damn about the truth but just wanted to uphold this conviction by any means necessary?

No matter their reasons, they did not do what Governor Gavin Newsom ordered them to do in his May 28, 2021, executive order and we cannot let them get away with this.

I ask each and every person who reads this to contact the Governor’s office and voice your outrage over what MoFo did, and demand that he not accept their decision because they did not do what he ordered them to do which was to conduct an independent investigation!

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)






The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Sign the petition:




Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



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)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

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!



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.


Emergency Hotlines

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 fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) Inside Starbucks’ Dirty War Against Organized Labor

By Megan K. Stack, July 21, 2023

A woman in a dark T-shirt and jeans stands in a parking lot.
Agnes Torregoza took a job at Starbucks because she was attracted by the company’s benefits. Credit...Jordan Baumgarten for The New York Times

NOTTINGHAM, Md. — Agnes Torregoza came to this country when she was a toddler, brought from the Philippines by her parents. Her mother found a teaching job in the Baltimore County Public School District, and the family set about cobbling together a new life.


Both parents eventually got union jobs in the public schools and moved with their children into a prefabricated home in the unincorporated reaches of the Baltimore suburbs. Her parents, Ms. Torregoza explained, had very definite ideas about the aesthetics of the American dream — everything should be fresh.


“My parents are really into, ‘Oh, we’re in America,’” Ms. Torregoza, 20, said. “‘I want to have a brand-new house. I want to have a new car.’”


When it came time to forge her own path, Ms. Torregoza, a slight woman with a black fringe of bangs and exactingly applied makeup, puzzled over her options. She’d graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a competitive magnet high school, and took some community college classes. She dreamed of attending a liberal arts college, but found the cost of tuition both unattainable and philosophically repellent.


“All these people who talked about race and class had spent so much money to go to school,” she said. “How can you talk about making things more equitable, but you’re spending $30,000 a year on tuition?”


So Ms. Torregoza applied for a Starbucks barista job in a strip mall near home. She’d heard about the coffee conglomerate’s generous benefits — tuition money, company stock, health insurance for part-time workers. But once she got to work, disillusionment set in.


The first thing she noticed: There never seemed to be enough people on the clock. Everybody rushed around while automated systems logged the speed of drive-through transactions — ideally, 30 to 40 seconds — and whether surveyed customers rated the baristas likable. Not that she had time to ruminate on her scores — Ms. Torregoza says she and her colleagues could hardly attend to basic hygiene. They often found themselves too frenzied to wipe down tables, clean the bathrooms or follow orders to wash their hands every half-hour, she said.


Oddly, despite this state of affairs, Ms. Torregoza couldn’t get enough shifts. She dreamed of saving money, moving out on her own, maybe transferring to a Starbucks downtown — but for that, she’d need to work. She got, at most, 25 or 27 hours a week, which was considered generous for Starbucks, where baristas say they rarely get full-time hours and even struggle for the 20 they need to qualify for benefits.


Ms. Torregoza’s discontent was growing, and she wasn’t alone. She’d donned her green Starbucks apron just as a labor insurrection was exploding across the company. The hectic, high-risk pandemic shifts had racked up record profits for Starbucks, but left many of the baristas exhausted and embittered. Workers at one cafe after the next were voting to unionize — more than 330 of its thousands of locations so far. Their demands include better pay ($20 an hour minimum for baristas, with annual raises), fair and consistent scheduling and easier access to the benefits that Starbucks executives were always touting.


The Nottingham Starbucks voted to join Starbucks Workers United in June 2022 — and Ms. Torregoza and her colleagues stepped into a world of trouble.


The corporate dirty war that ensued — in Nottingham and at newly unionized Starbucks cafes across the country — draws a sobering picture of employee rights casually crushed and labor laws too weak to help. Starbucks continues to fight and appeal the many labor complaints pending against it and maintains that the company has done nothing wrong.


But these professions of innocence are countered by piles of testimony from workers and National Labor Relations Board findings suggesting that Starbucks has indeed illegally repressed employees’ rights. The company has so far racked up a staggering number of complaints from the agency. In 100 cases, many of which consolidate a number of incidents, regional N.L.R.B. offices have decided there is sufficient evidence to pursue litigation against Starbucks. That includes a nationwide complaint, consolidating 32 charges across 28 states, alleging that Starbucks failed or refused to bargain with union representatives from 163 cafes.


Starbucks lacks the glamour of Hollywood and the indispensability of UPS, but as strikes and union drives erupt across the economy, the coffee workers’ struggle illuminates the stark and sometimes insurmountable challenges confronted by ordinary American workers who try to exercise their right to organize.


That Starbucks is carrying on this campaign in plain sight may be the most damning aspect: Union busting is illegal, but consequences are inconsequential. The Starbucks case demonstrates that a large corporation can effectively bust a union with time, by dithering over details and exhausting legal appeals. According to national labor laws, an employer “must bargain in good faith.” But that is a squishy and essentially unenforceable rule. Starbucks may yet succeed in smothering one of the most energized labor movements of our time.


It’s important to understand what Starbucks has done — and what it hasn’t done. The company has been accused of deploying familiar anti-labor tactics, such as the shuttering of some union stronghold cafes. (Starbucks denies closing stores in response to union drives and blames other factors, such as crime.) Union activists reported being spied upon, harassed or fired on flimsy pretexts, complaints that Starbucks disputes.


But Starbucks has also done a lot of nothing — time-buying, morale-eroding, innocent-seeming nothing. The company dedicated to caffeinating the world turns out to be very good at moving slowly, and the inaction is devastating for the workers, many of whom are economically vulnerable. Starbucks, on the other hand, faces little risk. Even if the company eventually ends up losing cases on the final appeal — a stage that could take years — the N.L.R.B. is barred from imposing monetary penalties. The board can only order employers to “make whole” anyone who lost money and warn them to do better.


“We’d email them, and they weren’t responding,” said Marina Multhaup, a Seattle-based lawyer who represents all the Starbucks unions in the Pacific Northwest. “So we’d file a charge, which is really all we can do.”


“Months and months later,” Ms. Multhaup said, the National Labor Relations Board “agreed that Starbucks was not bargaining. And we go to a whole hearing about it. But meanwhile, it’s been months and months.”


Across the country, the coffee company has drastically slowed negotiations by insisting (illegally, according to the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel) on in-person bargaining. The demand for face-to-face negotiations has severely hindered coffee shop workers who unionized in part because their schedules were erratic. When union representatives join by Zoom, Starbucks representatives abruptly stand and walk out.


“It really puts on display the whole power differential,” Ms. Multhaup said.


Meanwhile, not a single Starbucks union member has gotten a contract, and the union says the company hasn’t suggested any counterproposals in response to union demands.


These passive tactics of delay and avoidance are quiet and undramatic — especially compared with the bloody strikes and picket brawls of America’s past — but remarkably effective at crushing nascent unions, labor experts warn. We hear a lot about hard-fought unionization votes at Amazon and Trader Joe’s and REI, but once the election excitement fades, half the certified unions never secure a contract, said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


“The main line of defense is, ‘We’re just not going to sign a contract,’ and that’s just as effective,” Mr. Lichtenstein said. “And if you don’t have it within a year, well, the turnover is so great, and some of the people are no longer there.”


“The labor law has become broken,” he said.


As for the N.L.R.B., the agency has made no secret that it’s struggling to keep pace. Despite surging interest in unions — including a 53 percent jump in union petitions from 2021 to 2022 — the agency operates on a tight budget and a skeleton crew. The number of field staff workers available to carry out labor investigations today is half of what it was 20 years ago.


In the realm of unionized Starbucks cafes, some of which have clashed spectacularly with management, Nottingham isn’t known as a battleground. But Ms. Torregoza and her colleagues have nevertheless endured waves of fallout this past year.


Ms. Torregoza’s weekly hours gradually dwindled to 10 after the election, she said, forcing her to ration gas and delay veterinary visits for her cat, Charlie. Starbucks managers across the country are accused of slashing unionized workers’ hours to starvation levels. When Ms. Torregoza tried to supplement her income by picking up shifts in nearby Starbucks locations, as she had often done before, she found herself stonewalled. One manager, she said, finally remarked that Ms. Torregoza’s union work made her an unwelcome presence. (Ms. Torregoza has filed unfair labor practice complaints over this alleged discrimination.)


“They’re trying to get us to a point where we all just quit,” said Thanya Cruz Borrazas, who worked with Ms. Torregoza in the Nottingham cafe and in the union.


Meanwhile, the cafes that didn’t unionize were reaping fiercely desired improvements — the dress code was finally loosened and tipping by credit card, rather than just cash, was enabled.


Howard Schultz, a steely eyed, self-made former Starbucks chief executive, has told his story all over the country: the impoverished childhood in shoddy housing; the disabled and mistreated father; final vindication through the achievement of the American dream, a phrase he likes to use.


It’s a good story, and we bought it — we bought his coffee at a premium price, and we bought him, too. Hillary Clinton, by many accounts, planned to nominate Mr. Schultz for labor secretary if she’d won the presidential election in 2016. Mr. Schultz himself has toyed with the idea of running for president.


Mr. Schultz frequently lectures people about having built a “different kind of company” that respects the rights of employees, whom he calls partners. An empty chair gapes at every board meeting in a symbolic nod to the partners, who may or may not feel gratified at being represented by a piece of furniture.


When the recent wave of labor organizing first started to foment among Starbucks workers in Buffalo, Mr. Schultz was one of the corporate luminaries who jetted into town to discourage the union. It didn’t work, though — in 2021, a Buffalo Starbucks became the first company-owned cafe to unionize, and other stores quickly followed. Mr. Schultz greeted the union with an indignation that has yet to fade. He has flouted an N.L.R.B. order to apologize to his workers and to film and distribute a video explaining his employees’ rights.


“Starbucks Coffee Company did not break the law,” Mr. Schultz replied flatly in March when lawmakers in Congress questioned him about the video.


The baristas from Nottingham were there that day. The union had paid for their train tickets to Washington so that they could watch Mr. Schultz testify at the Capitol. He hadn’t wanted to face lawmakers’ questions; he’d agreed to come only after he was threatened with a subpoena. But the baristas were ebullient. It was, in a sense, a business trip — a first for Ms. Torregoza, who wore her union T-shirt and took careful notes.


“It was very surreal,” she said. “My mom texted me, like, ‘Oh, I heard on NPR that Schultz is going to testify today,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’”


The storied entrepreneur came across as icy and defensive, insisting Starbucks had done nothing wrong and that his anti-union stance was simply a “preference” that he had every right to express.


“Yes, I have billions of dollars,” he snapped when lawmakers referred to him as a billionaire. “I earned it. No one gave it to me. Anyone who keeps labeling this billionaire thing,” he added, “it’s your moniker constantly and it’s unfair.”


This intransigence seemed improbable from a public figure whose own life story begins with his father, a truck driver, suffering a severe leg injury on the job, which threw his family into desperate straits. Mr. Schultz, a child at the time, has called this a “defining moment” in his life.


Upbraiding him for “squeezing the people who made you rich,” Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, invoked Mr. Schultz’s father.


“Your father had no rights and your family paid the price. That is how your workers now feel,” Mr. Markey thundered. “That is something I think, Mr. Schultz, that you just fundamentally don’t understand. These workers are just like your father, and they have no rights.”


Mr. Schultz appeared offended at hearing the young baristas compared with his father.


“You bring up my father,” he sputtered. “You don’t understand, sir, my father was a World War II veteran. He fought for this country in the South Pacific. You don’t understand.”


By the time labor experts and unionized workers testified to Starbucks’ abuses, Mr. Schultz and his team — a small army of nattily dressed advisers and lawyers — had left the building.


The baristas from Nottingham recalled watching him go, wondering if he’d look their way.


He didn’t.


A billionaire who doesn’t want to be called a billionaire, who blusters when his company’s service workers get likened to the blue-collar worker who raised him — this is the chasm between our putative national values and our daily reality. We want to believe in a middle-class America where hard work weaves its own safety net. But millions of workers don’t earn enough money to cover basic expenses.


Unions helped create the American middle class and delivered livable pay, a two-day weekend, sick leave and overtime. But their power has largely faded. While some industries like Hollywood remain heavily unionized and a few private companies like UPS are still union strongholds, organizers have struggled to penetrate the service sector, which contains a majority of American jobs. Unions now enjoy the highest U.S. approval rating in decades, thanks partly to the deeply demoralizing experience many service workers endured during the pandemic and partly, no doubt, to the growing realization that neither corporate benevolence nor legislative nobility can be expected to save us.


The federal minimum wage, which has not increased since 2009, now sits at a plainly unlivable $7.25 an hour.


Ms. Torregoza was still in elementary school in 2012, when fast food workers began the “Fight for $15” to lobby for a minimum wage hike. That struggle has dragged on so long that the original (and still unmet) demand is outdated and insufficient. Most Americans, no matter their political beliefs, now believe that people should earn at least $20 an hour, according to recent polling.


In his testimony, Mr. Schultz repeatedly reminded lawmakers that the average Starbucks worker earns $17.50 — more than the minimum wage in all 50 states.


Then Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, told Mr. Schultz bluntly that the salary he was touting wasn’t enough to survive.


“Even $17, that’s not a living wage in this day and age,” Mr. Braun said. “Any large corporation shouldn’t necessarily be bragging about $15- or $20-an-hour wages.”


Ms. Cruz Borrazas worked in Nottingham through the pandemic. This, she recalls, required stifling her fear of getting sick while scrambling to make ever more drinks, ever more quickly, with fewer clocked-in colleagues to help. At one point, a burst pipe in the cafe forced her to slog through a few inches of water, trying not to think about the electrical wires or her sodden feet. In the middle of all that, she’d sometimes glance at the run report tallying the sales.


“I’m over here, like, having palpitations because I don’t have time to get a sip of water,” she said. “And it’ll be like, they just made $700.”


Managers at the Nottingham cafe did not respond to phone messages; a former Nottingham manager who has since left Starbucks also declined an interview.


It was during the pandemic that Starbucks workers began to unionize in earnest — when the job started to feel physically dangerous, when the shifts got more hectic and baristas had to tangle with mask-refusing customers in between filling takeout and delivery orders.


“We felt very disposable,” said Alexis Rizzo, a Buffalo shift supervisor who became a key union organizer, only to be fired, she says, for being a few minutes late. (Starbucks has said her absences were more egregious.) “People were angry.”


Mr. Schultz speaks of Italian espresso bars and cushy benefits, but workers describe a reality that is harsher.


“You’re constantly seeing the company boast about how they have the best benefits in the industry, and then I see my co-workers on Medicaid because they don’t have enough hours or it’s too expensive,” Ms. Rizzo said. “It’s just a lot of the company pretending to be something they’re not.”


The baristas from Nottingham asked to meet me in downtown Baltimore, at a nonunion Starbucks in a bustling neighborhood near the Johns Hopkins University campus. Unlike their cafe, which is set among flat, broad roads between Lowe’s Home Improvement and Taco Bell, this Starbucks was urban and airy, with no drive-through in sight. I wasn’t sure why we were there.


At 22, Ms. Cruz Borrazas has a quiet, somewhat dreamy bearing, long curls tumbling over her shoulders. Born in Uruguay, she too was brought as a toddler to the United States, where her parents work blue-collar jobs in cleaning, construction and demolition. Ms. Cruz Borrazas has a green card but is not a citizen, and she never had health insurance until she managed to buy it through her job at Starbucks. After the union vote, she said, her hours were eventually cut so badly she risked dropping below the threshold to keep the benefits. She’d recently been cashing out her sick time to supplement her paychecks.


“Yes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she told me that day. “But it’s a long tunnel, and there are monsters.”


In her four years at Starbucks, she says, she never saw a barista get full-time hours. None of her colleagues, she told me, can afford to live alone.


But then she, too, mentions the American dream.


“I feel like the union is my only way out,” she said. “It’s the ticket to the middle class.”


I was starting to understand why we’d met in the city, the walkable streets, the cafe full of students and downtown workers, the suggestion of self-sufficiency.


When Ms. Torregoza talked about the union, she kept veering into discussion of her life in the far suburbs, which she considered sterile and unsustainable. There aren’t enough sidewalks, she said, and developments keep going up, like the Crumbl Cookies that had recently materialized a few doors down from Starbucks in the strip mall.


“It’s a little unreal,” she said. “It stresses me out, honestly.”


This was the malaise of a youth spent in the shadows of enormous companies hungry for low-wage workers to staff identical counters. Imagine being brought thousands of miles in pursuit of a dream and then, as you come of age, squinting into this landscape where there is nothing but selling and shopping, and trying to understand what it was supposed to look like.


Life was moving faster for Ms. Cruz Borrazas through the spring. She was taking on more union responsibility, using unscheduled hours to advise Starbucks workers who were organizing in other places. Invited by the Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown Law School, she spoke on a panel with Senator Sherrod Brown and Jennifer Abruzzo, the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel. But she had to send a few emails before getting the badly needed fee she said she’d been promised, leaving her feeling humiliated.


By the time spring gave way to summer, her hours had gotten cut so badly that she was officially broke — her bank balance dropped into negative territory. At that point, Ms. Cruz Borrazas’ health broke down. Malnourished and exhausted, she drove to the library one day but felt unable to get out of the car. So she drove to a hospital, where she was admitted for several days.


I heard first from Ms. Torregoza and later from Ms. Cruz Borrazas herself that upon getting out of the hospital, she’d quit her job at Starbucks and withdrawn from the union.


Starbucks can’t be blamed for Ms. Cruz Borrazas’ health crisis. Plenty of Starbucks workers are organizing under tremendous pressure without winding up in the hospital.


But listening on the phone as she described her breakdown, I noticed that material want and bodily fatigue were tangled into her thoughts. She’d been forcing things, she told me, trying to stand up to corporations, and that had been a mistake. To work and hustle as hard as she and her parents had always done, she told me, was “literally killing us … it’s killing our brains.” She’d been in service her whole life, she said, and she felt unable to continue.


“All I ever wanted was to go back to my own country, see my family, not have to work so much, not have to see my parents struggling so much,” she said. She told me that God had finally stepped in and told her that she could “just chill.”


I remembered her describing how as a child, she feared illness not because it hurt, but because the cost of seeing a doctor could cripple her family. I thought about how badly she wanted to make herself safe and make her family stable by securing a spot in the elusive middle class. She’d glimpsed a way forward with the union. And then she’d lost it.


The Nottingham union is “cold” now, Ms. Torregoza recently told me. It’s not one of the Starbucks sites where employees have voted to decertify the union. But turnover in Nottingham has been heavy, she said — about half the staff has left and been replaced over the past year or so — and, as the labor experts warned, union enthusiasm has withered.


The Nottingham workers never got a chance to bargain (Starbucks claims this is the union’s fault for insisting on Zoom meetings). As the union fervor dies down, Ms. Torregoza says her hours are starting to inch back up again. I suggested that the old status quo might be asserting itself.


“That’s not going to happen as long as I’m around,” Ms. Torregoza said.


But I think it’s possible. Maybe this quiet fading, engineered by a company with time and money to burn, is how the union dies.



2) Pacific Seabed Mining Delayed as International Agency Finalizes Rules

Efforts to extract the metals used in car batteries have been pushed off amid pressure from environmentalists and nations that oppose them.

By Eric Lipton, July 23, 2023

A deep sea mining vessel is seen in the background while two people in red inflatable rafts, each wearing life vests, hold up a yellow sign reading “Stop Deep Sea Mining.”
Greenpeace activists demonstrate in front of a deep sea mining vessel commissioned by Canada’s The Metals Company, returning to port from eight weeks of test mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone between Mexico and Hawaii last year. Credit...Gustavo Graf Maldonado/Reuters

The start of industrial-scale seabed mining to extract car battery metals from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has been delayed after the international agency charged with overseeing the work concluded late last week that it needed more time to finalize mining rules.


The action by the International Seabed Authority, which had set a July goal for finalizing seabed mining rules, came after pressure from environmentalists and nations that oppose the effort.


The decision will most directly impact the Metals Company, a Canadian-based mining start-up that has teamed with the small island nation of Nauru to pursue the first license to start industrial-scale mining, perhaps as soon as next year — a timeline that will now be delayed.


Just how long a delay may be is unknown. Maneuvering is underway by both seabed mining opponents, who want to stop the mining entirely, as well as by supporters, who want to figure out how to get it underway by around 2025.


The effort to postpone the start has been led by nations including Costa Rica, Chile and France. The three nations urged other countries that are members of the Seabed Authority’s governing council to agree that no permit authorizing mining in international waters should be granted until regulations are finalized. This will now not likely take place until 2025 at the earliest, the body agreed.


“We are on the side of the ocean,” said Gina Guillén Grillo, Costa Rica’s representative to the Seabed Authority who has helped lead the opposition to seabed mining. “We know there is not enough science. To start right now would be a disaster.”


Gerard Barron, the Metals Company’s chief executive, said he remained optimistic that his company and its partner, Nauru, would secure the approval they needed to start the effort within the next several years.


While the Seabed Authority continues its work to determine environmental standards, as well as a royalty rate that will be paid by the mining contractors, among other matters, the Metals Company will continue to lobby other nations, Mr. Barron said. The company will aim to convince them that ocean floor mining is better for the environment than surface mining in places like Indonesia or Congo, where battery metals such as nickel, cobalt and copper are now being produced.


“Hopefully, we can keep the timetable on track,” Mr. Barron said.


The Metals Company and Nauru, along with the delegation from China, which also has been aggressively pursuing seabed mining, pushed unsuccessfully at last week’s meeting for the Seabed Authority to set a goal of finalizing the regulations by 2024.


Mr. Barron said that the Metals Company’s investors — which include Allseas Group, a Swiss-based company that specializes in offshore oil pipeline operations, and which is looking for a way to transition to work that can support the electric vehicle industry — remained committed to the project.


As it now stands, the Seabed Authority, which is based in Jamaica, has issued 31 contracts for exploratory work in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. These agreements allow sponsoring nations and their contractors to gather small quantities of seabed rocks or cobalt-rich crusts while assembling data on the environmental impact of the process, such as the risk that plumes of sediment might pose to other aquatic life when the rocks are lifted.


The area of most intense focus is the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a remote stretch between Mexico and Hawaii where seabed rocks have the highest concentration of metals. The rocks sit 2.5 miles down, so deep that remotely operated machines are needed to lift them to collection ships.


This is the region where the Metals Company wants to begin its mining operations, convinced it can generate $30 billion in post-tax net cash flow over the 25-year life of the initial project. If it is successful, this small company that has never produced a profit would become one of the largest global suppliers of key metals needed for electric vehicle batteries.


One of the biggest questions now is when Nauru will submit an application to begin industrial-scale mining. It may do so before the regulations are finalized, knowing that it will likely take at least a year for the application to be reviewed and then to be acted on by the Seabed Authority.


If Nauru and the Metals Company must wait until the regulations are finalized, seabed mining would begin no sooner than 2026 amid continued opposition.


Environmentalists who have teamed up with nations like Costa Rica and France to challenge seabed mining have said the delay would give them more time to enlist additional countries that want to see a long-term pause or even a moratorium on the practice. Nearly two dozen nations have now endorsed some form of a hold, up from just a handful a year ago.



3) Rising Heat Deaths Are Not Just About the Temperature

By Tish Harrison Warren, July 23, 2023


Matija Medved

The day I found out that 10 people had died of heat-related illness in Laredo, Texas, I happened to be on a road trip with my daughter from our home in Austin to the Gulf Coast. Our hotel had a pool with an outdoor bar. As I read about this tragedy on a cushioned lounge chair, the contrast between these horrific deaths, just a few hours away, and the happy sunbathers sipping boozy frozen drinks around me was troubling and revelatory. We are all experiencing record-breaking heat, but it’s clear that we do not all experience it in the same way.


In the very county where I sat by the pool, a 46-year-old construction worker died from hyperthermia while pouring concrete a few weeks before. According to The Times, extreme heat, the leading weather-related cause of death, killed at least 306 people in Texas last year — the highest annual total in more than two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports around 700 deaths and about 9,000 hospitalizations each year related to heat. But studies have shown that the actual toll of heat is likely to be much higher, possibly contributing to tens of thousands of deaths. Researchers in Britain predict that heat-related deaths will rise 257 percent by 2050 due to climate change.


I grew up in Texas and for as long as I can remember, summer brought news stories of heat deaths. But I also remember when summers were more bearable. Now, the heat is getting worse and more people are dying. While it is important to highlight heat deaths as another example of the devastating toll of climate change, it is also important to say that, often, when people die of heat, they are actually dying of poverty. And as with climate change, the rippling effects of poverty must also be addressed, battled and curbed.


To be sure, poverty is not a factor in every heat death. Wealthier people can end up in dangerous situations, and all of us must take precautions to stay cool and hydrated as we face record-breaking temperatures across the country.


Those most likely to die from heat, however, tend to be older people, migrants, those in poverty, those experiencing homelessness or inadequate housing, and those who work outside, like construction workers and agricultural laborers. Dangerous heat disproportionally affects Black and Latino families. Much like Covid-19 endangers and affects everyone, but has disproportionally affected historically disadvantaged communities, heat deaths expose deep societal inequality. Soaring heat deaths represent a societal failure. They demonstrate not only the harm of environmental destruction, but also how the poor fall through the cracks, how we as a society do not adequately care for one another, how we leave the vulnerable to die.


This is usually a sin of omission. We do not want the economically disadvantaged to not have access to working air-conditioners. We do not want the poor to be endangered. But we often do not see or know our most vulnerable neighbors.


Demographic sorting and the emergence of what the political scientist Charles Murray called “super ZIPS,” neighborhoods where the nation’s wealthiest families cluster, means that those with plenty of resources seemingly live on a different planet than those with few or none, even as we share the same city or state. The lives of the wealthy, the middle class, and those in poverty are increasingly separated and utterly different. So Alfredo Garza Jr. died in Laredo last month, sweltering in a home with two broken air-conditioners, while my house, with a functioning air-conditioner, sat empty for a week as I traveled for work.


Then there are times when these deaths are caused by a sin of commission — an intentional act of greed and callousness. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, for instance, signed a bill into law, amid triple-digit temperatures, that eliminated local regulations in Austin and Dallas mandating 10-minute water breaks every four hours for construction workers. It also prevented other cities from requiring even these modest safety measures. Applauded by supporters as pro-business, this bill expresses a shocking and inhumane disregard for human lives. Texas lawmakers appear to be punishing people for having the audacity to be working-class while also having basic bodily needs.


We all get hot. We all need water. We all need breaks. Lawmakers can ignore this reality because they work (on legislation like this bill) in air-conditioned offices. They drive home on roads made by the workers whose lives they are endangering. They pull inside their garages, close the door to the blistering heat and enter their comfortable homes, where their family members do not have to worry about dying of heat.


It is unconscionable that in our wealthy country, we let blue-collar workers and the economically disadvantaged needlessly die in oppressive heat. Many of these deaths could be prevented by better access to air-conditioned, safe places or hydration, by outreach workers who give information about heat safety, or by people who check in on those most vulnerable to heat.


There are already good examples of what can be done. Dallas, for instance, began an assistance program that distributes and installs free air-conditioning units for low-income families, the elderly and those with disabilities. We can help offset and limit energy bills for those who are economically struggling. We can create more cooling stations and reduce heat islands through having more tree canopies. We can provide water stations for migrants. We can ensure that those who work outside are protected by law. And we can each volunteer, donate to and support organizations that lift the burden on struggling neighbors around us.


The economic disparities in our country are deadly. Families like mine spend our summer complaining about the heat, but we can find ways to beat it. We go to the pool. We take trips to the beach or cooler places farther north. We spend afternoons hanging out in bookstores, coffee shops, or our well air-conditioned homes. All of this costs money.


And, importantly, we have a safety net, of both relationships and resources that help reduce the threats posed by extreme heat. If our air-conditioner breaks, my family has dozens of people we could call who would take us in until we could get it repaired. These relational resources and community connections are where the role of religious and civic institutions become most clear. Sociologist Robert Putnam writes about how religious organizations like churches offer social capital — informal networks of community that help people out and rescue people from invisibility and isolation. As a pastor, I’ve seen the power of this, as church members check in on and care for one another, especially the vulnerable in a community.


We, as a society, cannot simply wash our hands of these deaths, passively blaming them on a number on a thermometer. Human society and industry have contributed to the rising heat of climate change. And human society — the government, the church and individuals alike — have failed to ensure that those most at risk are kept safe. So, as heat deaths rise, when we speak of those who die, don’t just say they died of heat. Say they died of poverty, of neglect, of a world that values the wealthy more than those who are not, of a society that looks away from the preventable suffering of the vulnerable.



4) UPS Reaches Tentative Deal With Teamsters to Head Off Strike

United Parcel Service faced a potential walkout by more than 325,000 union members after their five-year contract expires next week.

By Noam Scheiber, July 25, 2023

A worker unloading a truck parked in the middle of a Miami Beach street.

The United Parcel Service handles about one-quarter of the tens of millions of packages that are shipped daily in the United States. Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

United Parcel Service announced Tuesday that it had reached a tentative deal on a five-year contract with the union representing more than 325,000 of its U.S. workers, a key step in averting a potential strike when the current agreement expires on Aug. 1.


“Together we reached a win-win-win agreement on the issues that are important to Teamsters leadership, our employees and to UPS and our customers,” Carol Tomé, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This agreement continues to reward UPS’s full- and part-time employees with industry-leading pay and benefits while retaining the flexibility we need to stay competitive.”


The union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, reported in June that its UPS members had voted to authorize a strike, with 97 percent of those who took part in the vote endorsing the move. The tentative agreement will now go before the membership for ratification.


“We demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it,” the Teamsters president, Sean M. O’Brien, said in a statement. “UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table as a direct result of these negotiations.”


UPS handles about one-quarter of the tens of millions of packages that are shipped daily in the United States, and a strike could dent economic activity, particularly the e-commerce industry.


The union had cited the company’s strong pandemic-era performance, with net adjusted income up more than 70 percent last year from 2019, as a reason that workers deserved substantial raises.


It had especially emphasized the need to improve pay for part-timers, who account for more than half the U.S. employees represented by the Teamsters, and who the union said earn “near-minimum wage” in many areas.


Negotiations had broken down in early July, largely over the issue of part-time pay, before resuming Tuesday morning.


The Teamsters said that under the tentative agreement, current full- and part-time UPS employees represented by the union would receive a $2.75-an-hour raise this year, and $7.50 an hour in raises over the course of the contract.


The minimum pay for part-timers will rise to $21 an hour — far above the current minimum starting pay of $16.20 — and the top rate for full-time delivery drivers will rise to $49 an hour. Full-time drivers currently make $42 an hour on average after four years.


The company has also pledged to create 7,500 new full-time union jobs and to fill 22,500 open positions, for which part-time workers will be eligible. The company had said that part-time workers are essential to navigating bursts of activity over the course of a day and during busy months of the year, and that many part-timers graduate to full-time jobs.


The path to the agreement appeared to be paved weeks ago after the two sides resolved what was arguably their most contentious issue, a new class of worker created under the previous contract.


UPS had said the arrangement was intended to allow workers to take on dual roles, like sorting packages some days and driving on other days, especially Saturdays, as a way to keep up with growing demand for weekend delivery.


But the Teamsters said the hybrid idea was never actually carried out, and that in practice the new category of workers drove full time Tuesday through Saturday, only for less pay than other drivers. The company said that, under the previous contract, the Saturday drivers made about 87 percent of the base-pay of other drivers and that some workers did work in a dual role.


Under the tentative agreement, the lower-paid category of drivers will be eliminated, and workers who drive Tuesday through Saturday will be converted to regular full-time drivers.


The deal also stipulates that no driver would be required to work an unscheduled sixth day in a week, which drivers had at times been forced to do under the existing contract to keep up with Saturday demand.


The two sides also agreed on several key noneconomic issues, such as heat safety. Under the proposed deal, new trucks must have air conditioning beginning in January, while existing trucks will be outfitted with additional fans and venting.


Whether it passes will partly be a political test for Mr. O’Brien, who was elected to head the Teamsters in 2021 while regularly criticizing his predecessor, James P. Hoffa, as being too accommodating toward employers and toward UPS in particular.


Mr. O’Brien argued that Mr. Hoffa had effectively forced UPS workers to accept a deeply flawed contract in 2018, even after they voted it down, and accused his Hoffa-backed rival of being reluctant to strike against the company.


Since taking over as president last year, he has frequently said the union would be aggressive in pressuring UPS and suggested on several occasions that a strike was likely.


A few days before the agreement on eliminating the hybrid worker position, Mr. O’Brien said in a statement that the Teamsters were walking away from the table over an “appalling counterproposal” and that a strike “now appears inevitable.”


The company sought to reassure customers and the public that a deal would be consummated despite the occasionally heated pronouncements.


On an earnings call in April, the UPS chief executive, Ms. Tomé, said that the two sides were aligned on many key issues and that outsiders should not be distracted by the “great deal of noise” that was likely to arise in the run-up to a deal.


The deal, if ratified, removes a serious threat to the U.S. economy. Economists say a strike by UPS employees would have made it harder for businesses to ship goods on time, and the resulting restrictions in supply chains would probably have stoked inflation just as it had shown signs of easing.


“It would have been devastating to the economy, just given the size and scale of UPS,” said Mike Skordeles, head of U.S. economics at Truist Advisory Services. “You can’t just pull out a player that big without causing disruption and prices to go up.”


A 10-day UPS strike would cost the U.S. economy about $7 billion, according to an estimate from the Anderson Economic Group.


Small businesses were most at risk from a strike as UPS might be their sole or primary shipping provider, meaning they would have to scramble for alternatives. Large retailers tend to have more diversified delivery providers and are more likely to have contingency plans to soften the blow.


Mr. O’Brien had explicitly asked President Biden, who has called himself “the most pro-labor union president,” not to get involved in the negotiations. A group of over two dozen Democratic senators also pledged not to intervene.


The Biden administration helped broker a deal that headed off a freight rail strike last year. Many union members involved in that dispute saw the deal as leaning too heavily in favor of the major rail carriers.


In 1997, about 185,000 UPS workers staged a strike for 15 days. That time, the company reported that the strike cost it more than $600 million. But the last strike happened when e-commerce was in its infancy. UPS has benefited from the e-commerce boom: In 2022 it reported more than $100 billion in revenue, compared with $31 billion in 2002.


J. Edward Moreno and Peter Eavis contributed reporting.



5) Warming Could Push the Atlantic Past a ‘Tipping Point’ This Century

The system of ocean currents that regulates the climate for a swath of the planet could collapse sooner than expected, a new analysis found.

By Raymond Zhong, July 25, 2023

A view of the Atlantic Ocean shows a rising red sun partially obscured by dark purple clouds.
Sunrise from Miami Beach this month. Atlantic currents that send warm water from the Caribbean toward Europe could be at risk. Credit...Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The last time there was a major slowdown in the mighty network of ocean currents that shapes the climate around the North Atlantic, it seems to have plunged Europe into a deep cold for over a millennium.


That was roughly 12,800 years ago, when not many people were around to experience it. But in recent decades, human-driven warming could be causing the currents to slow once more, and scientists have been working to determine whether and when they might undergo another great weakening, which would have ripple effects for weather patterns across a swath of the globe.


A pair of researchers in Denmark this week put forth a bold answer: A sharp weakening of the currents, or even a shutdown, could be upon us by century’s end.


It was a surprise even to the researchers that their analysis showed a potential collapse coming so soon, one of them, Susanne Ditlevsen, a professor of statistics at the University of Copenhagen, said in an interview. Climate scientists generally agree that the Atlantic circulation will decline this century, but there’s no consensus on whether it will stall out before 2100.


Which is why it was also a surprise, Dr. Ditlevsen said, that she and her co-author were able to pin down the timing of a collapse at all. Scientists are bound to continue studying and debating the issue, but Dr. Ditlevsen said the new findings were reason enough not to regard a shutdown as an abstract, far-off concern. “It’s now,” she said.


The new research, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, adds to a growing body of scientific work that describes how humankind’s continued emissions of heat-trapping gases could set off climate “tipping points,” or rapid and hard-to-reverse changes in the environment.


Abrupt thawing of the Arctic permafrost. Loss of the Amazon rain forest. Collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. Once the world warms past a certain point, these and other events could be set into swift motion, scientists warn, though the exact thresholds at which this would occur are still highly uncertain.


In the Atlantic, researchers have been searching for harbingers of tipping-point-like change in a tangle of ocean currents that goes by an unlovely name: the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC (pronounced “EY-mock”).


These currents carry warm waters from the tropics through the Gulf Stream, past the southeastern United States, before bending toward northern Europe. When this water releases its heat into the air farther north, it becomes colder and denser, causing it to sink to the deep ocean and move back toward the Equator. This sinking effect, or “overturning,” allows the currents to transfer enormous amounts of heat around the planet, making them hugely influential for the climate around the Atlantic and beyond.


As humans warm the atmosphere, however, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is adding large amounts of fresh water to the North Atlantic, which could be disrupting the balance of heat and salinity that keeps the overturning moving. A patch of the Atlantic south of Greenland has cooled conspicuously in recent years, creating a “cold blob” that some scientists see as a sign that the system is slowing.


Were the circulation to tip into a much weaker state, the effects on the climate would be far-reaching, though scientists are still examining their potential magnitude. Much of the Northern Hemisphere could cool. The coastlines of North America and Europe could see faster sea-level rise. Northern Europe could experience stormier winters, while the Sahel in Africa and the monsoon regions of Asia would most likely get less rain.


Evidence from ice and sediment cores indicates that the Atlantic circulation underwent abrupt stops and starts in the deep past. But scientists’ most advanced computer models of the global climate have produced a wide range of predictions for how the currents might behave in the coming decades, in part because the mix of factors that shape them is so complex.


Dr. Ditlevsen’s new analysis focused on a simple metric, based on sea-surface temperatures, that is similar to ones other scientists have used as proxies for the strength of the Atlantic circulation. She conducted the analysis with Peter Ditlevsen, her brother, who is a climate scientist at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute. They used data on their proxy measure from 1870 to 2020 to calculate statistical indicators that presage changes in the overturning.


“Not only do we see an increase in these indicators,” Peter Ditlevsen said, “but we see an increase which is consistent with this approaching a tipping point.”


They then used the mathematical properties of a tipping-point-like system to extrapolate from these trends. That led them to predict that the Atlantic circulation could collapse around midcentury, though it could potentially occur as soon as 2025 and as late as 2095.


Their analysis included no specific assumptions about how much greenhouse-gas emissions will rise in this century. It assumed only that the forces bringing about an AMOC collapse would continue at an unchanging pace — essentially, that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would keep rising as they have since the Industrial Revolution.


In interviews, several researchers who study the overturning applauded the new analysis for using a novel approach to predict when we might cross a tipping point, particularly given how hard it has been to do so using computer models of the global climate. But they voiced reservations about some of its methods, and said more work was still needed to nail down the timing with greater certainty.


Susan Lozier, a physical oceanographer at Georgia Tech, said sea-surface temperatures in the North Atlantic near Greenland weren’t necessarily influenced by changes in the overturning alone, making them a questionable proxy for inferring those changes. She pointed to a study published last year showing that much of the cold blob’s development could be explained by shifts in wind and atmospheric patterns.


Scientists are now using sensors slung across the Atlantic to directly measure the overturning. Dr. Lozier is involved in one of these measurement efforts. The aim is to better understand what’s driving the changes beneath the waves, and to improve projections of future changes.


But the projects began collecting data in 2004 at the earliest, which isn’t enough time to draw firm long-term conclusions. “It is extremely difficult to look at a short record for the ocean overturning and say what it is going to do over 30, 40 or 50 years,” Dr. Lozier said.


Levke Caesar, a postdoctoral researcher studying the overturning at the University of Bremen in Germany, expressed concerns about the older temperature records that Dr. Ditlevsen and Dr. Ditlevsen used to compute their proxy. These records, from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, might not be reliable enough to be used for fine-toothed statistical analysis without careful adjustments, she said.


Still, the new study sent an urgent message about the need to keep collecting data on the changing ocean currents, Dr. Caesar said. “There is something happening, and it’s likely out of the ordinary,” she said. “Something that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for us humans.”


Scientists’ uncertainty about the timing of an AMOC collapse shouldn’t be taken as an excuse for not reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to try to avoid it, said Hali Kilbourne, an associate research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


“It is very plausible that we’ve fallen off a cliff already and don’t know it,” Dr. Kilbourne said. “I fear, honestly, that by the time any of this is settled science, it’s way too late to act.”



6) This Looks Like Earth’s Warmest Month. Hotter Ones Appear to Be in Store.

July is on track to break all records for any month, scientists say, as the planet enters an extended period of exceptional warmth.

By Raymond Zhong, July 27, 2023

A man holding a towel over his face with his head in his hands.
A visitor to a cooling center in Phoenix this month. Credit...Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Weeks of scorching summer heat in North America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere are putting July on track to be Earth’s warmest month on record, the European Union climate monitor said on Thursday, the latest milestone in what is emerging as an extraordinary year for global temperatures.


Last month, the planet experienced its hottest June since records began in 1850. July 6 was its hottest day. And the odds are rising that 2023 will end up displacing 2016 as the hottest year. At the moment, the eight warmest years on the books are the past eight.


“The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is unfortunately the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future,” Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a statement. “The need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is more urgent than ever before.”


The world has entered what forecasters warn could be a multiyear period of exceptional warmth, one in which the warming effects of humankind’s continuing emissions of heat-trapping gases are compounded by El Niño, the recurring climate pattern typically associated with hotter conditions in many regions.


Even so, when global average temperatures shatter records by such large margins, as they have been doing since early June, it raises questions about whether the climate is also being shaped by other factors, said Karen A. McKinnon, a climate scientist and statistician at the University of California, Los Angeles. These elements might be less-well understood than global warming and El Niño.


“Do we expect, given those two factors, the record to be broken by this much? Or is this a case where we don’t expect it?” Dr. McKinnon said. “Is there some other factor that we’re seeing come into play?”


Many parts of the world are continuing to swelter this week as July enters its final days. In the United States, a dangerous heat wave was taking shape on Thursday in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, the National Weather Service said, and high temperatures remained a concern in the Southwest and Central States. It’s been scorching in parts of North Africa, Southeastern Europe and Turkey. Wildfires, amplified by heat and dryness, have raged in Canada and around the Mediterranean.


Researchers who analyzed this month’s punishing heat waves in the Southwestern United States, northern Mexico and Southern Europe said this week that the temperatures observed in those regions, over a span of so many days, would have been “virtually impossible” without the influence of human-driven climate change.


Still, scientists will need to investigate further to fully understand the “alarming” extent to which the entire surface of the planet has, on average, been hotter than usual this summer, said Emily Becker, a climate scientist at the University of Miami.


Fossil-fuel emissions, which cause heat to build up near Earth’s surface, are certainly playing a role. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have pumped 1.6 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has caused the world to be about 1.2 degrees Celsius, or 2.2 Fahrenheit, warmer than it was in the second half of the 19th century.


But the way this extra heat is distributed around the globe is still shaped by a complex brew of factors spanning land, sea and air, plus a certain amount of random chance. Which is why untangling the specific factors behind this summer’s severe heat will take time, Dr. Becker said. “There’s going to need to be quite a lot of research to understand it, and understand if we’re going to be seeing this again next year or 10 years from now.”


One factor that probably hasn’t been very important so far this summer, at least not in North America, is El Niño, Dr. Becker said. The cyclical phenomenon emerges when the surface of the central tropical Pacific is hotter than normal. Its arrival, which this year occurred in late spring, triggers a cascade of changes to wind patterns and rainfall around the globe. But its most immediate effects are felt in the tropical and far western Pacific, in places like Indonesia.


“In terms of North America, this El Niño is really just getting started,” said Dr. Becker, who contributes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s El Niño and La Niña forecasts. Winter is when North America experiences El Niño’s most prominent effects, including wetter conditions in the Southern United States.


This summer’s record heat could still affect the way this El Niño plays out later this year and into 2024, Dr. Becker said. Large areas of the planet’s oceans have been warmer than average. If this continues into fall and winter, it could lead to even stronger storms, with even heavier rain, in places that typically receive more storms during El Niño, Dr. Becker said.


When it comes to factors besides global warming that may also be worsening heat waves, scientists have been examining potential changes in the jet streams, the rivers of air that influence weather systems around the planet.


In the Northern Hemisphere, the differences in temperature between the Arctic and the Equator keep the subtropical jet stream moving. As humans warm the planet, those temperature differences are narrowing, which could be causing the jet stream to weaken and hot spells to last longer.


So far, though, the evidence for this is inconclusive, said Tim Woollings, a professor of physical climate science at the University of Oxford. “It’s really not clear that the jet has been getting weaker,” he said.


In a study published in April, Dr. Woollings and four other scientists found that human-caused warming might have shifted the jet streams in both hemispheres toward the poles in recent decades. More research is needed to understand this potential shift, he said. But if it continues, it could make subtropical regions susceptible to greater heat and drought, he said.



7) More Public Pools Could Save Thousands of Lives

By Mara Gay, July 27, 2023

People surround a large outdoor pool.
In a still image from a video shot by Jules Cahn in 1969, a celebration on the first day that the Audubon Park pool in New Orleans opened to all races. Credit...The Historic New Orleans Collection

As a young child in New Orleans, Raychelle Ross fell into one of the city’s many canals and nearly drowned.


Years later, as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city, Ms. Ross fled the rising waters on a bus with two tiny babies in tow.


In 2016, one of those children, Bennasia, drowned in a backyard pool. “I don’t play with water,” Ms. Ross told me. “I’ve always been afraid.”


Bennasia was one of the estimated 4,000 people who die by drowning every year across the United States in a public health crisis America has largely ignored. As summers grow hotter, taking a dip at the nearest swimming hole could offer some of the balm that this weary, divided country needs: a chance to cool off and play together, to get healthier, to have some fun. Instead, the United States is, for a majority of its citizens, a swimming desert where, according to a Red Cross survey, more than half of the population lacks basic swimming abilities and millions are without access to safe places to enter the water. Many in Black American families don’t know how to swim or don’t know how to swim well. Millions of Americans of other races don’t, either. On average, 11 people die by drowning every day.


After years of inaction by authorities, this rolling American disaster is finally beginning to draw some of the attention needed to save lives. A coalition of experts this summer published the first ever U.S. Water Safety Action Plan, a much-needed, 10-year national road map to reduce drowning. The United States is one of the few developed countries in the world without such a plan. Some recommendations, like increasing the use of life jackets in lakes, oceans and rivers, could be carried out by states and local governments. Others — like the creation of a public health surveillance system to collect better data around drowning — are worthy of urgent action from the White House and Congress.


Hiding in plain sight, though, is a much larger opportunity to significantly reshape the way we live with the water around us, in the country’s biggest cities, in its most remote rivers and lakes and in its suburbs. The United States doesn’t have to accept these deaths. Nor does it have to retreat from the water to save lives. America can build more public pools. It can transform natural bodies of water into safer places to swim. It can subsidize swimming lessons and raise pay for lifeguards, making the job more attractive. The United States can build a culture of swimming instead of one of drowning.


A health crisis ignored


The national data, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is sobering: Drowning is the leading cause of death among 1-to-4-year-olds, the second-leading cause of accidental deaths by injury among children 5 to 14 and the third-leading cause of accidental death by injury for Americans 24 years and younger. Younger Black adolescents are more than three times as likely to fatally drown as their white peers; Native American and Alaskan Native young adults are twice as likely to fatally drown as white Americans. Eight in 10 drowning victims in the United States are male. Children with autism are 160 times as likely to fatally drown or experience near-fatal drowning, a serious medical event that can cause severe and often permanent physical harm. The C.D.C. estimates that drowning costs the U.S. economy $53 billion each year.


Despite this, the work of water safety has largely been left to nonprofit groups, which, no matter how dedicated, cannot reach every American. Congress and the White House could act together to fix this and save lives. Requiring a federal agency to oversee drowning prevention policy and build a better public health surveillance system around drowning deaths, both recommendations in the plan, would be a good start. But the transformative move would be to build far more public pools across the United States.


Too few public pools


There are more than 10 million private swimming pools in the United States, according to a C.D.C. estimate, compared with just 309,000 public ones. That figure includes pools that belong to condo complexes, hotels and schools, so the number of pools truly accessible to the public is even smaller. The biggest reason so many Americans can’t swim is that they have too few places to learn to do so.


By many available measures, public pools can be the safest places to swim. They are likelier to be better maintained and importantly, staffed by lifeguards. Many provide free or low-cost swim lessons, something millions of Americans couldn’t otherwise afford. They give kids a safe place to play. They offer the promise of a safe dip to anyone who wants one and to many who have nowhere else to go.


Yet the United States hasn’t made a serious investment in public pools since the Great Depression, when scores of grand public pools were erected in many parts of the country under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, according to Jeff Wiltse, the author of “Contested Waters,” a book about the history of swimming pools.


Then the expansion stopped. In the 1960s, many towns across the South filled or destroyed their public pools rather than allow Black Americans to swim in them. Northern cities, strapped for resources amid suburbanization and white flight, struggled to maintain their pools. This is how public investment in pools withered, one more ghastly sacrifice America has laid at the altar of anti-Black racism and twisted fears about miscegenation.


White Americans with the means to do so built private pools and joined exclusive swim clubs instead. As their children swam, entire generations of Black Americans, white Americans living in poverty and others were denied the chance to learn a skill that can save lives, can bring joy and is arguably the birthright of every human being. Many parents who never learned to swim have struggled to provide that opportunity to their children or passed down their fears around water, continuing the cycle.


The Reagan era, which glorified privatization and smaller government, only cemented the mind-set that led the country to abandon the idea that public pools should be a national priority. “There’s a fantastic amount of wealth within the United States, and yet we’re extraordinarily parsimonious in our willingness to fund public swimming pools,” Mr. Wiltse told me. In America today, swimming is a luxury, not a public good.


In this summer’s widespread heat wave, millions of Americans are sweating it out without a safe place to swim. The dearth of public pools makes it harder to learn basic water safety skills or simply cool off in a country broiling from the extreme heat of climate change. The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by a national lifeguard shortage, leading to partly closed beaches and public pools. Along the New York City waterfront this summer, hordes of swimmers are crowding together in small sections of sand while expanses of beach sit empty for want of lifeguards. Lines of sweaty New Yorkers form outside city pools that are operating at reduced capacity.


Dangerous waters


One reason drowning rates are so high is that when a safe place to swim isn’t readily available, Americans often enter the water anyway, seeking relief from the heat wherever they can. In New York City alone, at least four teenagers have drowned since 2010 trying to swim in the Bronx River. The Bronx is home to more than 1.4 million people but has just eight open public pools. That’s about one pool for every 175,000 people.


In New Orleans, Ms. Ross said, she frequently struggled to find a place for her children to swim, something they loved to do. The city was once home to the historic Audubon Park Natatorium, which was the largest public pool in the South. In 1962, though, the city shuttered the pool rather than integrate it. In 1998 the once-majestic amenity was replaced with a far smaller pool.


When Ms. Ross and her children were invited to a pool party on a steamy day in May 2016, they leaped at the chance. She said that the backyard pool Bennasia drowned in was so dirty that it took several minutes before anyone noticed the little girl’s body floating just beneath the surface. “She was my ball of light,” Ms. Ross said. “I couldn’t help her. I don’t know how to swim.”


Drowning is a serious problem in rural America, too. In August 2017, Kathy Grasser took her sons — Isaac, 17, and Michael, 11 — swimming in Idaho’s Pend Oreille River, a wide stretch of water lined with pine trees less than 100 miles from the border with Canada. The dock along the waterfront was busy, so the family entered the river along an unfamiliar spot. At first the boys wore life jackets, since neither was a strong swimmer, Ms. Grasser told me.


Soon, though, the boys removed them, thinking the water was shallow. It was not. Isaac unknowingly drifted to an area just off the bank where the riverbed plunged steeply. The water was over his head when a swift current began to take him away. When she swam toward him to help, Isaac panicked and tried to climb on top of her — a behavior exhibited by many drowning people. Michael moved toward them, trying to help. “Michael was fearless in the water, but he didn’t know how to swim,” she said. Both boys drowned. Ms. Grasser survived.


Drowning rates are 1.4 times as high in rural areas as in cities and suburbs, according to C.D.C. data. Experts say much more can be done to save lives, like building public pools, expanding water safety education and creating designated swimming areas at lakes and rivers in rural communities to help people know where it’s safer to swim, and where it isn’t.


Idaho has one of the highest rates of drowning in the United States. The state has thousands of miles of navigable rivers and canals but few public pools. “We don’t have very many public facilities. We have kids swimming in canals, in rivers, in ponds with dark water, murky water,” Earle Swope, the director of the Idaho Drowning Prevention Coalition, told me by phone. “It’s extremely dangerous.”


Beyond more public pools, Mr. Swope said, even smaller solutions — like improving signage around water to denote unseen hazards and keeping lifesaving flotation rings along shorelines in case of emergency — could save lives.


Basic water safety awareness


The United States over the past 50 years has adopted critical public health campaigns — from seatbelt use to banning cigarette smoking from most bars and restaurants — that have saved millions of lives. Yet a lack of basic safety instruction around swimming in the United States has left Americans of all backgrounds less safe around the water.


Dana Gage believes her son Connor’s 2012 death could have been prevented if the basic elements of water safety had been better known. Connor was a strong swimmer when he jumped off the roof of a boat dock into a Texas lake and never resurfaced alive.


Connor and his friends — also teenage boys — were engaging in behavior Ms. Gage now knows put him at high risk for drowning: They were swimming at night, without life jackets. He was 15 years old, an age when boys are especially at risk.


After Connor’s death, Ms. Gage founded the LV Project, a national nonprofit that supports water safety awareness, to share all she had learned. Many more lives could be saved if this critical work is taken up by the country at large.


“Why have Americans been left on their own?” asked Adam Katchmarchi, the executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, who served on the committee that created the national action plan. “There’s no sense that this should be a public priority.”


A place to swim for everyone


The most beloved public pools, when they receive good investment, attract Americans of many backgrounds, creating a space for people to swim and play together who may not otherwise interact. Like libraries and parks, they are an essential piece of social infrastructure in a democracy.


“You give people a place where they feel like they belong, where they have some sense of trust and faith in the government,” said Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist who studies public space and the author of “Palaces for the People,” a book about the contribution of libraries to public life. Instead, he told me, “we’ve created this environment where wealthy people in cities can go on the market and buy safe places for their children to play and swimming lessons.”


In a testament to the enormous value of public swimming pools, wealthier communities across the United States never stopped investing in them.


Coral Gables, Fla., has a colossal, stone-ringed public pool known as the Venetian, complete with waterfalls and grottoes. Austin, Texas, boasts a three-acre public pool fed by underground springs. Ann Arbor, Mich., has public pools with giant water slides. In 1960 the elegant Connecticut shore town of Westport bought the deed to a country club. Residents there swim in a public pool that sits beside the shimmering waters of the Long Island Sound.


Every American deserves the chance to swim somewhere just as nice.