Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, October 7, 2023

Join our virtual conversation on "The Torture of Solitary Confinement."

Death Penalty Focus is marking the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty with a webinar Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at noon PT/3:00 P.M. ET, with DPF President Mike Farrell, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, and Rachel Meeropol, who, as a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, represented those imprisoned in solitary confinement in California in their landmark lawsuit, Ashker v. Governor.

Register Now:




Register at:








Zaid Abdulnasser, the coordinator of Samidoun Network’s chapter in Germany, and member of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, is currently being threatened by the German state that his residency as a Palestinian refugee born in Syria will be revoked due to his political engagement in Samidoun and Masar Badil.


In the face of this attack, more than 130 international organisations, unions, and political parties, have expressed their absolute refusal of Germany’s ever increasing repressive measures against Palestinian refugees and their fundamental right to struggle for their liberation and return.


We call for organisations to join us by signing the statement under the following link:



To financially support the legal defence of Zaid and other Palestinians in Germany bearing the brunt of the state’s repressive measures against Palestine, you can make a donation to the following account:


Name: Rote Hilfe e.V.

IBAN: DE55 4306 0967 4007 2383 17


Note: Palaestina gegen Repression


We, in Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, declare that all attacks against us by the zionist occupation, its organisations abroad, and by Western imperialist countries and right-wing, racist media, have not and will not change our absolute commitment to defending and supporting the Palestinian prisoners movement, and to struggle for the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

Sign the statement!


Download the poster, take a selfie or group photo, and send it to us at: 


@samidounnetwork (Instagram) 

@SamidounPP (Twitter/X)!



Leonard Peltier’s Letter Delivered to Supporters on September 12, 2023, in Front of the Whitehouse


Dear friends, relatives, supporters, loved ones:


Seventy-nine years old. Mother Earth has taken us on another journey around Grandfather Sun.  Babies have taken their first breath. People have lived, loved, and died. Seeds have been planted and sent their roots deep below red earth and their breath to the Stars and our Ancestors.


I am still here.


Time has twisted one more year out of me. A year that has been a moment.  A year that has been a lifetime. For almost five decades I’ve existed in a cage of concrete and steel.  With the “good time” calculations of the system, I’ve actually served over 60 years.


Year after year, I have encouraged you to live as spirit warriors. Even while in here, I can envision what is real and far beyond these walls.  I’ve seen a reawakening of an ancient Native pride that does my heart good.


I may leave this place in a box. That is a cold truth. But I have put my heart and soul into making our world a better place and there is a lot of work left to do – I would like to get out and do it with you.


I know that the spirit warriors coming up behind me have the heart and soul to fight racism and oppression, and to fight the greed that is poisoning our lands, waters, and people. 


We are still here.


Remember who you are, even if they come for your land, your water, your family. We are children of Mother Earth and we owe her and her other children our care.


I long to turn my face to the sky. In this cage, I am denied that simple pleasure. I am in prison, but in my mind, I remain as I was born: a free Native spirit.


That is what allows me to laugh, keeps me laughing. These walls cannot contain my laughter – or my hope.


I know there are those who stand with me, who work around the clock for my freedom. I have been blessed to have such friends.


We are still here and you give me hope. 


I hope to breathe free air before I die. Hope is a hard thing to hold, but no one is strong enough to take it from me. 


I love you. I hope for you. I pray for you. 


And prayer is more than a cry to the Creator that runs through your head.  Prayer is an action.


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse



Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.




SF ANSWER office suffers major fire damage. Your support needed!





Dear Friends and Supporters of the ANSWER Coalition,


An early morning fire on Thursday, Sept. 14 caused massive damage to our offices on Mission Street. It appears that the fire started in the lot next to our building, turned into a two-alarm blaze, and took fire-fighters more than three hours to fully extinguish. Thanks to their skill and courageous action our building was not completely destroyed. But it will take at least several months to restore it to use. We are awaiting an investigation and assessment of what if any of the contents – our several-thousand-book library, a very large collection of historical materials, computers and other office equipment, etc.– are salvageable.


This disaster occurred just as we were in the midst of reconstructing and refurbishing the building, painting the main meeting room, installing a new ramp, doors and entryway for disabled persons, redoing the storefront windows and the marquee.


Multiple organizations are now using our office for activities and we were about to announce a new name for the building: the Mission Liberation Center. Such centers are now operating in cities across the country. That will of course have to be put on hold.


The loss of the use of our building for an extended period of time creates a serious problem for carrying out our work, but we have no intention of being sidelined. From opposing the blockade of Cuba and providing critically needed humanitarian aid, to support for the many labor struggles taking place from coast-to-coast, to resisting the U.S. war drive against Russia and China, to fighting toxic racism in the Bayview, and much more, ANSWER will continue our work on vital international, national and local issues.


We are asking everyone who values our work to express your solidarity at this time of greatest need. While many of the costs of repair will be covered by insurance, not everything will. If you are able to help with a donation, you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Progress Unity Fund.


Thank you in advance for your solidarity,


Richard Becker

Western Region Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition









Drop the Charges on the Tampa 5!

Sign the Petition:


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. 


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!


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.


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!



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



Update on Ed Poindexter and Urgent Health Call-In Campaign


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


You can also watch Ed speaking about himself some years ago thanks to Sister Tekla, who was able to interview Ed and Mondo some years ago: https://youtu.be/sps0s4zeJxg.

More of these videos will be forthcoming.


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.)


Friends and Comrades,


Thank you so very much for your phone calls and communications in support of Ed Poindexter’s health care!


We have learned from Ed’s family that a date has been set for Ed to go to an outside doctor to be evaluated for a hearing device. (Thank you, callers!) We have also learned that Ed will not be fitted for a prosthesis within the foreseeable future. The reason for this is that Ed is unable to sit up for more than a few seconds on his own. He is unable to get himself out of bed by himself. Ed cannot go to the restroom without substantial help. There is a fear of him falling.


The prison’s response has been to suggest that Ed try harder at physical therapy—so that he might be able to tie his own shoes again and perform basic self-care—but he cannot. Our position is that he is too weak because of the near daily kidney dialysis and multiple other health problems. As you know, he has lost sight in one eye, and is unable to hear. While he may have been weakened by being wheelchair bound for years, the fact that the institution amputated his left leg below the knee (without notice to the family) has made recovery of strength in his legs difficult. Add to this that Ed is extremely ill from kidney disease, and the near daily kidney dialysis artificially making his kidney’s function causes him to vomit his food and makes him ill overall. All of these combined illnesses have resulted in Ed not being able to even hold his frame upright for more than a few seconds.


Therefore, in protection of Ed’s basic rights as a human being to health care and human dignity, we demand that Ed be seen by an outside high ranking National Medical Association Certified geriatric physician or team of physicians who specialize in heart, kidney, and geriatric health. We demand the evaluation be by a physician connected to a reputable hospital so that Ed’s entire condition: eyes, heart (recall that Ed underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016) kidneys, neuropathy, amputated leg, serious inability to balance his frame, and hearing can all be evaluated as a whole.


It is the family’s belief that Ed is experiencing a diminishing quality of life that it is irreversible, and we demand an outside doctor also evaluate him for this obvious fact. If it is determined by a reputable doctor that Ed is experiencing a diminishing quality of life; we want his status changed at the prison to reflect this reality.


Please call the numbers below and write to demand that Ed be seen by an outside doctor at a state-of-the-art hospital facility—for the purpose of evaluation specifically as to whether his condition is diminishing and irreversible—taken as a whole.


Ed Support Committee and Family and Concerned Members of the Community




Acting Medical Director Jeff Kasselman, M.D.: 402-479-5931 jeffrey.kasselman@nebraska.gov


Warden Boyd of the Reception and Treatment Center: 402-471-2861


Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


Jeff Kasselman, M.D.

Acting Medical Director,

Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-479-5931

Email: jeffrey.kasselman@nebraska.gov


Sample Message:


“I’m calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given appropriate medical care. I demand that be seen by an outside high ranking National Medical Association certified geriatric physician or team of physicians who specialize in heart, kidney, and geriatric health. I demand the evaluation include Ed’s entire condition: eyes, kidneys, diabetes, neuropathy, amputated leg, serious inability to balance his frame, and hearing. ”


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,

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



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



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) New York Is Rebounding for the Rich. Nearly Everyone Else Is Struggling.

The huge income gap between rich and poor in Manhattan is the latest sign that the economic recovery from the pandemic has been lopsided in New York City.

By Stefanos Chen, Sept. 28, 2023


A man sits against a tree in Astoria Park in Queens.

Chino Zeno, who lives in East New York, Brooklyn, has to moonlight to cover rising expenses. Credit...José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

As New York City inches closer to recovering all the jobs it lost during the pandemic, Manhattan — the city’s economic engine — marked a far less encouraging milestone. It now has the biggest income gap of any large county in the country.


Even in a city notorious for tableaus of luxury living beside crushing poverty, the widening gap is striking. The wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites earned an average household income of $545,549, or more than 53 times as much as the bottom 20 percent, who earned an average of $10,259, according to 2022 census data, released earlier this month. Social Explorer, a demographic data firm, analyzed the data for The Times.


“It’s amazingly unequal,” said Andrew Beveridge, the president of Social Explorer. “It’s a larger gap than in many developing countries,” and the widest gulf in the United States since 2006, when the data was first reported. The Bronx and Brooklyn were also among the top 10 counties in the country in terms of income inequality.


It is the latest data to underscore the city’s lopsided rebound from the pandemic. Across the city, wages are up, but mostly for the affluent. Jobs are returning, but many are in low-paying positions. Unemployment is down, but remains sharply higher for Black and Hispanic New Yorkers. The mixed signals highlight a widening chasm: The city is recovering, but many of its residents are not.


“We’re still much worse off than we were in 2019,” said James Parrott, the director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School.


Nearly 20 percent of public housing residents in New York City reported making less than $10,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Inflation F.A.Q.


What is inflation? Inflation is a loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.


What causes inflation? It can be the result of rising consumer demand. But inflation can also rise and fall based on developments that have little to do with economic conditions, such as limited oil production and supply chain problems.


Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can lead to higher wages and job growth.


And middle-income New Yorkers are also struggling. “I make $22 an hour, and I still can’t survive on my own in New York,” said Roger Gunning, 50, a sanitation worker and a resident of public housing in the South Bronx, where he lives with his wife, a social worker. Several of his co-workers live in temporary shelters, he said.


Middle-income New Yorkers are hurting since the pandemic, Dr. Parrott said, because of stagnant wage growth in service jobs and the slow recovery of major industries, like retail, which shrank more severely in New York than almost anywhere else in the country.


From 2019 to 2022, the median household income, when adjusted for inflation, fell below $75,000, a nearly 7 percent drop — four times the national rate of decline, and the steepest slide among the largest American cities. The next biggest income drop was posted by San Antonio where median household income dropped just over 5 percent to below $59,000. Phoenix, which recorded the largest improvement, had an almost 8 percent jump in median household income, to nearly $76,000.


Chino Zeno, a 21-year-old construction worker who makes $23 an hour installing solar panels, finds that his pay hasn’t kept up with inflation. To cover rising food and gas prices, and to help with expenses at his family’s apartment in East New York, Brooklyn, he moonlights as a freelance photographer.


He said he is grateful for a recent pay bump — he made just $16 an hour as a part-time warehouse worker in 2021, before training to enter the building trades — but it’s still not enough without a second job.


“One hundred is the new $20 bill,” he said. “It’s hard for people right now.”


The already affluent have benefited the most from rising wages, according to labor data analyzed by the Center for New York City Affairs. Low-paid workers, like restaurant servers and child care professionals, who made an average of $40,000 last year, saw their salary increase by just $186 every year from 2019 to 2022, when adjusted for inflation. But highly paid earners, who made an average of $217,000 in fields like technology and finance, received an average pay bump of $5,100 in each of those years, or 27 times more, in extra income, than low-wage earners.


The city has made significant strides. In August, the labor force participation rate was at a record high, and the unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, down from a pandemic peak of over 21 percent in May 2020. But New York has yet to fully recoup the jobs lost since the pandemic, while much of the nation already has, in part because the virus struck the city sooner and businesses, including those tied to hospitality and tourism, remained closed longer, Dr. Parrott said. Other popular entry-level jobs like couriers and home health aides have seen their wages lose ground to inflation.


Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, credited the job growth to initiatives like the expansion of youth employment and apprenticeship programs. “But we have more work to do, and we won’t stop until every New Yorker has access to a quality, family-sustaining job,” he said in a statement.


Wage growth has been stunted for many New Yorkers in part because the minimum wage, set at $15 an hour, has not increased since 2019, Dr. Parrott said. Among the 10 largest American cities, five have raised their minimum pay in that period by an average of 25 percent, and four of them have higher minimum wages than New York City.


Many labor groups are pushing for a $21-an-hour minimum wage, which itself could fall short of the cost of living, because the city does not scale pay to inflation, said Gregory Morris, the chief executive of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an association of work force development groups. Next year, New York State will raise the minimum to $16 an hour in the greater New York City area and $15 statewide. In 2027, the minimum wage will be pegged to inflation.


“This is a working people’s city, as the mayor points out, but I think the question now is, which working people?” Morris asked.


For Khadijah Bethea, 42, a single mother raising three children on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, finding work is not the problem. It’s the hours.


After losing her job as a security guard at a bank in 2020, she started working as a server for catering events around the city — up to 70 hours a week, seven days a week.


At over $25 an hour, the jobs were worthwhile, but all-consuming, she said. “I caught a bad anxiety attack one day. You worry about not spending enough time with your children, so I said, ‘I need to find something else to do.’”


Ms. Bethea enrolled earlier this year in a 14-week career training program run by Henry Street Settlement and Stacks + Joules, two nonprofit organizations. The free program helps lower-income job seekers find work in heating and ventilation system management for large buildings.


She graduated in May and is now enrolled in another training program that pays $20 an hour — less than she made waiting tables — but has the opportunity for career growth and the possibility of working remotely some days. For now, she still works about four catering gigs a week.


A significant dilemma for job seekers is that taking the time to learn new skills can be costly, especially in an expensive city like New York, said Anisee Alves-Willis, a program director for YouthBuild, a six-month employment program through St. Nicks Alliance, a nonprofit community services group.


The time commitment is a luxury many low- and middle-income workers can’t afford, even when stipends are included.


Angelita Mendez, 35, a beautician who moved to Washington Heights in Manhattan from the Dominican Republic in 2021, began taking free English lessons last year with a nonprofit service provider.


She only made it about halfway through the course before bills started to pile up — the $1,600 a month rent she splits with her mother, the $1,100 a month she pays to lease a booth in a salon and the rising cost of groceries for her two children. She makes about $600 a week, or around $31,000 a year.


“I don’t have the time to do it, honestly,” she said in Spanish, but hopes to one day return to the class, become proficient in English and use her skills to study cosmetology.


Where would her newfound skills take her?


Probably New Jersey, she said — where it’s cheaper.


Ana Ley contributed reporting.



2) Climate Change Is Forcing Families Into a New Kind of Indefinite Hell

By Matthew Wolfe and Malcolm Araos, Oct. 2, 2023

Dr. Wolfe is a national fellow at New America. Dr. Araos is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy at the University of Utah. 

A woman, seen from the rear, photographs fire-damaged buildings. In the distance is the ocean.
Lahaina, Hawaii, in the aftermath of the wildfire. Credit...Go Nakamura for The New York Times

The August wildfire that roared through the town of Lahaina in Hawaii burned so hot that some of the dead were effectively cremated, their bones combusting to unidentifiable ash. Other bodies may have been lost in the Pacific Ocean, into which many of those fleeing the inferno were forced to plunge. As of Sept. 22, 97 people have been confirmed dead, but the Maui Police Department still lists 22 people as missing.


That’s a common pattern in the aftermath of disasters. In Morocco, families are still desperately searching for hundreds of loved ones after a devastating earthquake, while thousands in Libya are missing after two dams collapsed in a heavy rainstorm. Climate change has supercharged the kind of deadly weather that creates disappearances. In March, over 500 Malawians were presumed dead after being buried in mudslides unleashed by the exceptionally intense Cyclone Freddy. For families of the missing, disappearance is a special kind of indefinite hell. In a wealthy country like the United States, victims of disaster tend to be quickly tallied and searched for. But poorer nations, which are already more vulnerable to the damage wrought by climate change, often don’t have the resources to follow through. We need to fund measures for these countries that both prevent disappearances through emergency preparedness and also resolve them by promptly identifying bodies. The nations responsible for the most climate pollution have a moral responsibility to help families left in limbo.


In addition to intensifying disasters, climate change is also leading to disappearances through migration and conflict. Some years ago, one of us, Dr. Wolfe, visited refugee camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios to learn more about migrants who had disappeared while trying to reach Europe. Malnutrition, hunger and famine linked to new climate conditions have pushed more Africans to undertake the perilous journey across the Mediterranean and more Latin Americans to travel through Central America and into Mexico. Tens of thousands have disappeared. Rising temperatures have also made these passages more lethal as migrants die of heat exhaustion while trekking across deserts and asphyxiate inside metal shipping containers.


What was most striking on Lesbos and Chios was both the sheer number of people who seemed to be missing and the loneliness of their relatives’ investigations. There was no government agency their families could turn to for the help they needed, no nation willing to invest resources in searching for someone who had disappeared while crossing borders.


Without a body to bury and visit, a loved one’s death, however likely, remains uncertain. This form of ambiguous loss makes grieving difficult if not impossible, forestalling funerals and pushing many kin of missing persons into a potentially endless search. More practically, such absences can deprive surviving relatives of a breadwinner while also creating legal difficulties in receiving a declaration of death. Even if a person is declared dead, the wound of disappearance frequently remains unhealed. Years later, against ever thinning odds, families of the missing are still seeking some proof of their loved one’s life or death.


We need more resources for the climate missing, but we also need better data. Right now, we don’t even know the number of people who have disappeared because of climate change. Unless we get some sense of what disappearance actually looks like and how it happens, it’s going to be much harder for governments to respond to the problem — and much easier for them to ignore it.


A big part of the problem is that the people who are most exposed to the ravages of climate change are also the people who are already most likely to slip through the cracks if they disappear. Although we are all affected by extreme weather, the well-off are largely insulated from harm, while the already marginalized suffer. It is probably no coincidence that Lahaina had an outsize population of people experiencing homelessness who were poorly equipped to withstand extreme weather. Put bluntly, many of the missing are not people who, collectively, we seem to miss, so there is little pressure on governments to find them.


“A lot of the people we deal with don’t have connections with family,” said Scott Hansen, the executive director of the Maui Rescue Mission, a group that works with unhoused people and has helped lead efforts to find some who disappeared in the fires. “There’s no next of kin to contact, so when they do go missing or pass away, they end up being forgotten.”


For governments, searching for missing persons can be a hassle. The ad hoc work of finding and identifying remains after a disaster, drawing on forensic anthropology and DNA matching, is slow and expensive. While international pacts have created rules for locating the missing, these agreements often go unheeded. Disappearances can still exist in a bureaucratic “gray zone” where no nations take responsibility for corpses. Many of those who become lost at the border and in the sea are never identified, often through a lack of money and political will.


We need more cooperation between countries. We also need a clear, equitable division of global responsibilities in resolving disappearances. Wealthy states should invest in initiatives in poorer countries that aim to both prevent individuals from disappearing in the first place and resolve the fate of those already dead. They must also sponsor disaster preparation and emergency responses that can save lives in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe, as well as the identification of bodies later on, including funds for coroners to collect identifying biometric data like tattoos and fingerprints.


How can rich nations help? In Lahaina, the F.B.I. and Maui Police Department cooperated to send out calls for information about who was missing and under what circumstances they disappeared. The authorities then quickly published a list of the names — crucial information in the search for the disappeared. Phone lines remained opened for days to gather information, while investigative teams ran down cases. As a result, the number of people still unaccounted for plummeted from hundreds down to a few dozen after just a few weeks. Libya and Morocco don’t have the same systems and resources to pull off similar efforts. But funding their search of missing persons could help.


Better emergency preparedness can also prevent disappearances. Wealthier governments like the United States have the ability to publicize detailed plans on what citizens should do during natural disasters. They can also save lives by maintaining infrastructure and enforcing building standards. If poorer countries can’t afford these lifesaving measures, it’s incumbent upon richer nations to help them.


Missing persons posters can still be seen in Maui, though the likelihood of spotting someone alive has grown slim. They function now less as tools of surveillance than as petitions for aid — silent pleas for the sacred right to grieve.



3) Kaiser Permanente Health Care Workers Begin Strike

The health system failed to reach a new contract agreement with some of its unionized employees, who have planned a three-day job action in Kaiser’s facilities in several states.

By Reed Abelson and Emily Baumgaertner, Oct. 4, 2023

A line of health workers picket outside a large, brightly lit Kaiser Permanente hospital before sunrise.
Health care workers striking outside the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday. Credit...Loren Elliott for The New York Times

More than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers began a three-day strike Wednesday morning, after they failed to reach a new contract deal.


The walkout started with employees in Virginia and the District of Columbia, where they set up picket lines outside Kaiser’s facilities. A majority of Kaiser’s workers are in California, where many of its unionized employees and those in Colorado, Oregon and Washington also began a job action.


The union members include support staff and other workers, including X-ray and lab technicians, sanitation workers who disinfect rooms between patients and pharmacy workers who help dispense medications. These workers attend surgeries, run imaging equipment and assist in outpatient clinics. Doctors and many nurses were not part of the labor dispute.


The previous contract expired on Saturday. Kaiser, a large nonprofit health system, provides care for 13 million people in eight states. Union leaders say this could be the largest strike by health care workers in recent U.S. history.


Patients in California are most likely to feel the impact of the strike, during which patients could experience delays in getting appointments, or procedures that are not considered urgent could be postponed.


Workers in Georgia and Hawaii will remain on the job, according to a Kaiser official, and walkouts are expected to be limited in Washington state. In Virginia and the District of Columbia, only pharmacists and optometrists are striking and are expected to return to work after a day.


“Tens of thousands of frontline Kaiser health care workers across the country are ready for an unfair labor practice strike at 6 a.m. today,” the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, the collection of a dozen unions representing the workers, said in an earlier statement. “Patients and workers need dramatic action now to solve the Kaiser short staffing crisis and to ensure our patients’ safety.”


Kaiser said it had “robust contingency plans in place to ensure members continue to receive safe, high-quality care should a strike occur,” emphasizing that all hospitals and emergency departments would remain open.


Talks appeared to be continuing. Earlier on Wednesday, Kaiser issued a statement that the two sides “are still at the bargaining table, having worked through the night in an effort to reach an agreement.”


“There has been a lot of progress," it continued, “with agreements reached on several specific proposals late Tuesday.”


The strains of an acute staffing shortage led to tensions between the unions and Kaiser executives in the run-up to the contract’s expiration. Workers said the lack of adequate staffing at Kaiser facilities created unsafe conditions for patients. The unions argued that Kaiser needed to offer better wages to attract workers and hire enough people to make up for the exodus of staff during the pandemic.


In proposals considered for a new four-year contract, the union had sought a $25 hourly minimum wage and increases of 7 percent in the first two years and 6.25 percent in the two years after, according to a recent proposal.


Kaiser had countered with minimum hourly wages of between $21 and $23 next year, increasing by a dollar a year. Raises would vary among locations.


“It’s so disappointing to see them falling down here,” said Caroline Lucas, the executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents about half of Kaiser’s unionized work force.


While the pandemic caused an immediate crisis in which workers were stretched too thin, Ms. Lucas said employees had been concerned about short staffing even before Covid hit. “For years, there has been a crisis on the horizon,” she said.


Michelle Gaskill-Hames, regional president for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California and Hawaii, had said earlier that Kaiser was dealing with the same staffing problems as other health systems across the country. The group has fared better than many of its competitors, she said, in limiting turnover and hiring replacement staff. “We have really ramped up on aggressive retention and recruitment strategies,” she said.


The frustrations of health care workers, who feel they are being forced to care for too many patients for too little pay, have been boiling over across the country. Many of the workers who remain feel burned out and are struggling to handle a higher volume of patients. The concern over inadequate staffing resulted in a nurses’ strike in New York City in January, and there were more than a dozen similar strikes this year in California, Illinois, Michigan and elsewhere.


The tight labor market has emboldened many unionized workers, leading to the recently averted strike at United Parcel Service and current picket lines among autoworkers. “Unions are flexing their muscles in a bunch of industries,” said Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology and labor studies at the City University of New York.


The pervasive short staffing in health care gives workers significant leverage to demand better working conditions and higher pay, she said.


Many nurses are represented by other unions, including the California Nurses Association, which agreed to a new contract in Northern California last December.


The high levels of burnout have exacerbated the staffing shortages, said Ethan Ruskin, a health educator at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, Calif. Patients have to wait longer than usual for appointments, he said, only to face more delays in the waiting rooms.


“If they see something on your mammogram and send you for a sonogram, you’re going to be waiting weeks for a scan,” Mr. Ruskin said. “Meanwhile our sonographers have huge injury rates — things like stress fractures — because they are expected to see twice as many patients as they should.”



4) Gun Deaths Rising Sharply Among Children, Study Finds

Firearm injuries are a leading cause of death among young children and teenagers in the United States.

By Roni Caryn Rabin, Oct. 5, 2023

Balloons, flowers, candles and toys are laid on the sidewalk against a brick retaining wall in a Colorado strip mall.
A makeshift memorial for a 4-year-old who died after finding a gun in a car outside a cannabis dispensary in Manitou Springs, Colo., in 2021. Credit...Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette, via Associated Press

Julvonnia McDowell was making dinner one evening when she got a call saying that her 14-year-old son, JaJuan — a gentle boy who loved animals, who was so generous that he gave a pair of shoes to a classmate who was being teased — had been shot.


He was visiting a relative’s home when another teenager pulled a gun out from a drawer, where the firearm had been stashed under a T-shirt.


“JaJuan told him to put it away, but the other teenager said that it wasn’t loaded, not realizing it was loaded,” said Ms. McDowell, who lives in Atlanta and has become an advocate for gun safety with the local chapter of Moms Demand Action. “He pulled the trigger, and it hit JaJuan in the chest. JaJuan died 17 minutes later.”


Children are generally medically healthy, which is why accidental injuries pose the greatest threat to their lives. Car accidents have long accounted for the bulk of injury-related fatalities among children.


But according to an analysis published on Thursday, the rate of firearm fatalities among children under 18 increased by 87 percent from 2011 through 2021 in the United States. The death rate attributable to car accidents fell by almost half, leaving firearm injuries the top cause of accidental death in children.


The finding underscores additional data showing that firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 20, after excluding deaths of infants born prematurely or with congenital abnormalities.


Some 2,590 children and teenagers under the age of 18 died of firearm injuries in 2021, up from 1,311 in 2011, according to the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. In other industrialized countries, guns are not even among the top three causes of death for children.


Drug poisonings among children younger than 18 more than doubled, and suffocations increased by 12.5 percent, the researchers also found.


Great strides have been made toward protecting children from car accidents and deaths, including mandatory seatbelts, booster seats and airbags, said Dr. Rebekah Mannix, the paper’s lead author and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.


“The opposite is happening with firearms,” she added. “It’s just getting worse, and kids are dying at higher rates from firearms.”


Dr. Mannix’s daughter, Cordelia Mannix, a high school senior, helped with the study, and she is an author of the new paper.


Overall, the rate of nonfatal injuries dropped by more than half among children during the decade studied, from 11,592 per 100,000 to 5,359 per 100,000, while the rate of fatal injuries increased, from 14.07 per 100,000 children to 17.3 per 100,000, the study found.


“Firearms and drug poisonings are both exceptions to this, in that both the nonfatal injuries and the fatal injuries increased,” Ms. Mannix, a student at Middlesex School in Concord, Mass., said.


For both firearm injuries and opioid poisonings, “minutes count, and that’s why the fatality rate is high,” Dr. Toni Gross, medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, said. A child injured by gunfire — in a drive-by shooting, for example, or by shots that pierce the walls of homes — is brought in to the hospital at least once a week, she said.


Firearms can be modified to include safety features like trigger locks that require fingerprint identification, but the firearm industry “has not signed on to making safety modifications,” Dr. Gross said.


And while many gun owners purchase firearms to protect themselves and their families, research has consistently shown that having a firearm dramatically raises the risk of gun death in the home, both homicides and suicides.


Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the firearm industry, said that it encouraged the safe storage of guns and had partnered with suicide-prevention groups to educate owners about the risk of self-harm.


The firearms industry does not oppose design features that would make guns childproof but does oppose mandates to introduce such features, he said. The group is not currently doing research on making firearms safer.


(One company, Biofire, is marketing a firearm that uses facial recognition and fingerprint technology to ensure that only authorized users can fire a gun.)


State laws can help reduce suicides, according to another recent study carried out by a gun-violence prevention group. A report by Everytown for Gun Safety found that states that are considered leaders in firearm safety have seen a slight drop in the rates of suicides involving guns over the past 20 years. By contrast, states with lax or fewer gun safety laws experienced a 40 percent increase in gun suicide rates between 1999 and 2022.


More than half of the roughly 45,000 gun deaths in the United States are suicides.


The report also found that states with laws like those that hold gun owners accountable for securely storing firearms, or that allow law enforcement to remove guns from people in crisis, saw a 4 percent decline in suicide rates over that period.


In states with the most protective secure storage laws, the gun suicide rate among children and young adults aged 10 to 24 was actually lower in 2022 than in 1999, the report found.


By contrast, in states without secure storage laws or laws that apply only when gun owners recklessly or intentionally give a child a firearm, the gun suicide rate increased by 36 percent among young adults.


More than 4.5 million children live in homes where at least one gun is loaded and not secured, Nick Suplina, Everytown’s senior vice president of law and policy, said. Almost half of suicides among children 10 to 17 years of age are carried out with firearms, Mr. Suplina said.


“That’s exceptionally high, considering this age group is not allowed to possess firearms,” Mr. Suplina said. “We have a real opportunity to keep guns away from this age group by securely storing firearms.”



5) New U.A.W. Chief Has a Nonnegotiable Demand: Eat the Rich

Shawn Fain’s disdain for the “billionaire class” informs his showdown with Detroit’s automakers. Now he must prove that his hard-core tactics pay off.

By David Streitfeld, Oct. 5, 2023

Hands in his pockets, Shawn Fain casts a shadow on the gray wall behind him. He is wearing glasses and a red polo shirt with the initials “U.A.W.” inside a circle of stars on the chest.
Shawn Fain, president of the United Automobile Workers, is leading a labor battle with implications beyond the auto industry.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Indiana city of Kokomo has been a conservative stronghold. Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale in Kokomo. Bill Clinton lost twice. So did Barack Obama. The current mayor, a Republican, is running unopposed for re-election. It’s a town known for something it would prefer to forget: a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1923 that was the largest ever.


Yet somehow Kokomo produced a union leader whose rhetoric is aimed at toppling the conservative and moneyed classes — a rebel who rejects the niceties of an earlier era in favor of a sharp-edged confrontation.


“Billionaires in my opinion don’t have a right to exist,” says Shawn Fain, who is leading the United Automobile Workers in a multifront labor battle against the Big Three carmakers that has little precedent and is making a lot of noise.


In interviews, in speeches and on social media, Mr. Fain hammers the wealthy again and again, making the cause of the union’s 150,000 autoworkers at General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis something much broader.


“There’s a billionaire class, and there’s the rest of us,” he said at an impromptu news conference outside a Ford plant in Wayne, Mich. “We’re all expected to sit back and take the scraps and live paycheck to paycheck and scrape to get by. We’re second-class citizens.”


Before Mr. Fain took over in March, the U.A.W. leadership did not so much scorn the billionaires as strive to emulate them. One executive spent $2 million in embezzled funds on gambling, cocaine and fancy cars. Another bought $13,000 worth of cigars in one day. A federal investigation won 17 convictions against the leadership.


Mr. Fain defeated the incumbent by the thinnest of margins. That might have given another candidate an incentive to keep a low profile, secure an adequate contract and declare victory.


Not this fellow. He is playing a very high-stakes game.


First, there are the aggressive demands and the unusual tactics. The union wants a 40 percent pay raise over four years to make up for much smaller increases in past years, a four-day workweek, annual cost-of-living adjustments, paid health care for retirees and the elimination of a lower pay tier for newer workers. To secure these benefits, the U.A.W. is challenging all three companies at once, which it had never done, by staging a targeted, escalating walkout.


Mr. Fain, 54, has made himself the face of the strike, which is in its third week. On Facebook Live in August, he literally threw away a contract proposal from Stellantis, the automaker that absorbed what was once Chrysler. “That’s where it belongs: the trash,” he explained.


During a rally with President Biden last week, Mr. Fain invoked President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s hallowed phrase about American factories being the arsenal of democracy. “Today, the enemy isn’t some foreign country miles away — it’s right here in our own area,” he said, casting the automakers in the role of the Axis powers. “It’s corporate greed.”


Whether Mr. Fain’s fiery words will lead to effective negotiations is an open question. Fiery words can inspire, but they can also anger. Stellantis said the union leaders seemed “more concerned about pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating.” G.M. denounced the union’s “rhetoric and theatrics,” and Ford said the U.A.W. should focus on talks and not “planning strikes and P.R. events.”


“I’m subtle as a hammer,” Mr. Fain acknowledged in an interview. “Probably always was. That’s in my work life. Privately, I’m more shy.” Even his official U.A.W. biography calls him “outspoken” and says he was “ostracized” for his contentious assertions in union meetings.


The people who knew him in high school in Kokomo in the 1980s definitely did not see this rise to national prominence coming. They recall an easygoing guy with a lot of respect for authority.


“I don’t think Kokomo was a breeding ground for radicals,” said Paul Nicodemus, another member of the class of 1987, adding that the city was “known for having the biggest tree trunk and the largest stuffed bull,” two longtime local tourist attractions. Malcolm X, whom Mr. Fain recently invoked, wasn’t on the curriculum.


A closer look, however, reveals how Mr. Fain’s upbringing may have played a role in creating a confrontational figure who vilifies the automakers while alarming Wall Street. “Like watching a slow-moving car crash take place on black ice,” Wedbush analysts wrote as the strike expanded last week to more factories.


Mr. Fain’s great-grandparents Gordon and Effie Fain were economic migrants, moving to Kokomo from Kentucky in the 1920s.


“My grandparents came from poverty,” Mr. Fain said. “When I see people from Mexico or Venezuela being vilified, I see my grandparents. They were born in Kentucky and Tennessee rather than across the border, but I don’t see them as different.”


When the Fains arrived, the auto industry in Kokomo was consolidating. In 1937, Chrysler bought a dormant auto plant to make transmissions. Stanley Fain, Shawn’s grandfather, worked for Chrysler for 35 years. Other relatives worked for General Motors.


Shawn’s father, Rodger, broke with tradition. He was the Kokomo chief of police; his wife, Stella, was a nurse. In Rodger’s career, there are echoes of his son’s situation. He was hired to clean up a mess.


Kokomo had several high-profile murders in the 1970s, making the populace more fearful, but it was also a time when relations between the police and the city were strained. There were allegations that the police were hostage to political whims, which led to a chief’s resignation. The police protested low wages by driving past the mayor’s house with sirens blaring and similar antics, according to a 2014 history of law enforcement in the county. They also went on strike for a day.


Rodger Fain, who became chief in 1980, is credited with professionalizing the force and ending the acceptance of gratuities. When the Klan decided to march through town shortly after he took the job, it was a high-tension moment. There were vivid memories of a 1979 march in North Carolina where Klan members shot and killed five participants in a counterdemonstration organized by the Communist Workers Party.


The Kokomo march took place without incident, and Chief Fain got credit for an absence of violence. Still, the work wasn’t the sort of thing he wanted his son to do.


“My father steered me away from a career in law enforcement,” Mr. Fain said. “When he retired in 1987, he told me that back in his day, you only had to worry about someone pulling a knife. Now everyone was arming themselves.”


The 1987 yearbook for Taylor High School had the theme “… lovin’ every minute of it!” There was nothing Shawn loved more than sports. He played basketball all four years of high school. Football, golf, cross-country and baseball took up other seasons.


“In Indiana, you have one option, and that’s basketball,” Mr. Fain said. “It was religion. Fathers pushed their sons and even their daughters to play basketball. I had a pretty hard-core basketball coach, in your face all the time, and I adopted a lot of that mentality.”


That aggressive attitude on the court served him and the team well, to an extent. The yearbook put a good face on it, calling it an “educational” season, but the record was 5-16.


His teammates remember the good parts.


“There was one game when we were down by one,” Brian Tate said. “The ball came back to us, I dribbled the length of the court, looked to my right, saw Shawn was open. I said, ‘This is the guy.’ I got it to him, and he nailed it at the last second — game over. He was clutch.”


Dr. Tate, now an endodontist, does not recall any budding activists.


“We were pretty simple kids,” he said. “I don’t ever remember Shawn by any stretch expressing a political opinion. We never talked about billionaires.”


There weren’t many billionaires to talk about. In 1982, Forbes found only 13 when it started listing the country’s richest people. In 1986, there were 26. In 1987, Forbes listed 49.


In Kokomo, the non-billionaires were not doing as well. The economy had recovered from the devastating recession of the early 1980s, when one in four workers in the area was unemployed. But it wasn’t moving forward. Local average wages were stagnant, the Labor Department reported.


Mr. Fain had no idea what to do with his life. “A lot of young teenagers are pushed to pick out a career in the eighth grade, but they haven’t experienced life, they haven’t experienced reality,” he said. “Some of them may grow up knowing what they want to do, but I wasn’t one of them.”


He attended the Kokomo branch of Indiana University, not a top-tier basketball school. He got some attention for a good game or two, but dropped out before getting a degree.


There were hard times. Mr. Fain married a high school classmate in 1991 and had two girls. “When you go through hardship and are laid off, live on $80-a-week unemployment, apply for government aid to get formula and diapers for your child, it makes you realize what it takes to survive in this world,” he said. (The marriage ended in divorce. He is engaged to Keesha McConaghie, a financial analyst for the U.A.W.)


It was a neighbor in the electricians’ union who set Mr. Fain on a viable path. “If you had asked me, ‘Do you want to be an electrician?’ — I probably would have laughed. I knew nothing about that trade. I applied, got in, and the rest is history.” He began working for Chrysler in 1994.


His father provided a final element that shaped the future union leader. Rodger Fain ran for the Indiana legislature as a Democrat in 1986. His platform included supporting economic development, attracting high-paying jobs and tearing down the “walls” between labor and management. The vote was close, but as usual Kokomo went for the Republican.


Shawn Fain, raised to be active in the community, ran for the school board in 1998. He wasn’t elected but liked the idea of service.


“Some people, when they see things happening they disagree with, let it happen,” Mr. Nicodemus, the former classmate, said. “And there are others like Shawn. Instead of sitting back, he steps up and says, ‘I’ll be the guy.’”


That was what happened at the U.A.W., even if for the longest time the union leadership didn’t want the guy.


“I didn’t like the way things were going in my plant, was elected, and the rest was history,” Mr. Fain said, who won five terms as a skilled trades committeeman and held other posts.


In 2007, he was a leader in a grass-roots campaign to reject a contract with Chrysler that would pay new workers at a lower rate and made other concessions. In accepting the deal, he told U.A.W. leadership, “you might as well get a gun and shoot yourself in the head.”


The contract was approved, but Mr. Fain gained a reputation as a rebel. Eleven years ago, he moved from Kokomo to Detroit to work directly for the union. In the ensuing years, corruption scandals at the top of the U.A.W. ended with two successive union presidents in prison, along with a move to electing top leaders by popular vote for the first time in a vote supervised by a court-appointed monitor.


It was an opening for reformers, and Mr. Fain led an insurgent ticket that ousted the old guard. He pledged not only to end corruption but also to jettison a go-along, get-along approach that he denounced as “company unionism.” One of his first public acts was to decline the traditional handshake with the automakers at the start of negotiations in July.


He calls his caustic attitude “a migration,” something he took on “just from experience.” Likewise with his political journey. “I never planned on running for U.A.W. president,” he said. “It wasn’t on my radar. But things change.”


The inexorable rise of the billionaires offered more motivation. There are an estimated 750 of them in the United States now, and they are quite a bit richer than they were. “We’re all fed up with seeing the rich get richer,” Mr. Fain declared recently. (His own income last year was $160,000; the U.A.W. lists the president’s base salary at $207,000.)


Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian, said he saw Mr. Fain as a throwback.


“He is using more forceful rhetoric than any U.A.W. leadership in a long while, reaching back to the 1930s and 1940s,” Mr. Lichtenstein said. “The idea of mutual accommodation with the companies is gone.”


Mr. Fain took Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive Vermont independent, to a September rally and cites Walter Reuther, the U.A.W. leader during the postwar years, as an inspiration, along with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the “pyramid of success” developed by John Wooden, the coach who produced a U.C.L.A. basketball dynasty. The Wooden principles include at the apex a suggestion about “enjoyment of a difficult challenge.”


A strike is a double-edged sword, said Patrick Anderson, chief executive of Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing, Mich. The greater the number of striking workers, the more pressure on the employer. But as the strike goes on, the people who will feel it the worst are those very workers, which gives them an incentive to settle. The automakers know this, of course, which makes for a difficult challenge indeed.


Mr. Fain copes with stress by working out and listening to music, cranking up selections from the entire spectrum — hip-hop, ’80s rock, Metallica, Frank Sinatra. He’s still getting used to the job, and to the fact that Shawn Fain from Kokomo Local 1166 is the U.A.W. president.


“Surreal,” he calls it. If anything will keep him grounded, he figures it might be this: “U.A.W. leaders in the past tended to forget who they’re here to represent. I don’t forget.”



6) The Kaiser Strike Isn’t Your Typical Labor Action

By Craig Spencer, Oct. 5, 2023

Dr. Spencer is an emergency doctor and professor of public health at Brown. He survived Ebola in 2014 after treating patients in Guinea and treated Covid-19 patients in New York City.

A chair draped in a medical gown sitting in a dimly lit doctor’s examination room.
Dan Saelinger/Trunk Archive

In April 2020, when I would walk home after a long day treating patients in a New York City emergency room, an orchestra of pots and pans would erupt from seemingly every window to honor frontline workers. Nothing could make those early pandemic days easier for me and my colleagues, but those haphazard symphonies of appreciation helped keep us going. At that time, health care workers had every reason to hope that once the Covid-19 pandemic waned, long-overdue and much needed changes to our health care system would finally materialize.


But after Covid vaccines rolled out and the country largely moved on from the pandemic, those promises were seemingly forgotten. We drifted back to our old normal in which health care workers felt unsafe, unappreciated and unsupported.


This helps explain why more than 75,000 workers at the Kaiser Permanente health care system have walked off the job, in what union leaders say could be the largest health care strike in U.S. history. Similar to Hollywood writers and actors and the United Automobile Workers, the striking Kaiser workers are demanding better pay and benefits. But many of their greatest demands can’t be met with money alone. The changes they want require a major overhaul of how health care is delivered.


The seeds of the Kaiser strike were sown before the pandemic, which certainly aggravated the issues afflicting workers. No matter how this strike ends, the problems at the Kaiser network, which operates in eight states and the District of Columbia, are not unique. Health care workers have already taken to the picket line at hospitals and clinics across the country this year — six of the 19 work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2023 were in health care. Providers commit to serving others. That so many are walking off the job in protest means the conditions are so unsustainable, there’s no option left but to take this action of last resort.


Health care providers have long experienced burnout, a product of working in a system with grueling hours and byzantine approval processes for routine patient care. But in the first year of the pandemic, levels of reported burnout among providers soared into their own epidemic. According to a study by the American Medical Association, over 60 percent of physicians reported feeling burned out in 2021. And now large numbers of health care workers have joined other Americans in the Great Resignation over the past two years.


I work in emergency medicine, where the rate of physician burnout is the highest. Hundreds of residency training positions were initially unfilled in 2022 and 2023 — an unimaginable scenario for one of the most competitive medical specialties before Covid.


As health care has become more corporate in recent decades, physicians have also increasingly felt caught in the liminal space between their Hippocratic oath and the demands of health insurance companies. Providers routinely speak about “moral injury”: the feeling of guilt about being unable to care properly for patients in the face of hurdles like preauthorizations, diminishing reimbursements or unmanageable patient loads.


Workplace safety is also acutely on workers’ minds these days. Early in the pandemic, images of nurses wearing garbage bags in lieu of personal protective equipment resonated on social media. Thousands of doctors and nurses on the front lines died in the first pandemic year. Even as caring for patients with Covid has become safer, our jobs have not. Health care workers represented 73 percent of the victims of nonfatal workplace violence in 2018. Similarly, hospitals and health care workers have been targeted in recent shootings in Dallas, Atlanta and Portland, Ore. In July, an orthopedic surgeon was gunned down by a patient in an exam room in Tennessee.


And lastly, health care workers often feel they don’t have the resources needed to provide the best care to patients. Eighty-three percent of health care workers in California surveyed in 2022 reported that “their departments are either severely understaffed or somewhat understaffed.” An open letter published this year by the union representing Kaiser workers stated, “There simply aren’t enough health care workers to safely and properly care for patients,” a sentiment felt by health care workers in clinics and hospitals across the country.


This isn’t just a pandemic problem. California recognized that in 1999 when it became the first state to pass legislation mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals (such as one nurse for every five patients). Now, New York, Oregon, Washington and other states have recently passed or have legislation on the table to do the same. But staffing standards are meaningless if you can’t find the people to work.


The Kaiser strike aims to address the factors that fuel these systemic problems. But resolving them outright is a bigger task. As a society, we should ask what we owe health care workers who shepherded us through the pandemic, workers we promised to protect back in the days we banged pots and pans at our windows. What we most owe them is the ability to do their job.


One place to start is by providing mental health resources to workers experiencing burnout, not just “wellness” programs. Many providers are concerned that seeking mental health care could threaten their own medical licensing and disability coverage. One medical resident I worked with during the pandemic sought out a mental health provider, given everything she’d witnessed in Covid’s darkest days, only to have it emerge as a barrier when she applied for a disability insurance policy. She was ultimately denied.


In addition to mental health resources, providers need alternatives to quitting the industry when they experience burnout. The federal government should create a program for workers who feel compelled to leave their specialty but not health care itself that could support their transition to another specialty like primary care (which needs more practitioners).


Similarly the federal government, which provides only vague guidance, can take action to support stronger staffing ratios. Both patients and health care workers would benefit from stronger enforcement: Research suggests better staffing ratios improve patient outcomes and lower costs while reducing worker burnout.


In March, Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats, reintroduced legislation that would “establish new minimum federal safety standards — including nurse-to-patient ratios.” But we should look at this bill as only a first step to easing staff shortages.


As it stands, it may not be possible to pull enough providers to the bedside to provide the best possible patient care. A shortage of as many as 450,000 nurses by 2025 is predicted. This is in addition to estimated shortage of up to 124,000 physicians in the next decade.


We desperately need broader federal support to increase the number of providers, especially in BIPOC communities and underserved areas, where a more diverse health care work force can lead to better care for patients as well as save the country hundreds of billions in health care costs annually. The Supreme Court’s rejection of affirmative action in higher education will make increasing diversity in health care only more difficult.


Many of these necessary reforms are captured in the bill for the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Work Force Act introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican. But many of its proposals will undoubtedly face strong opposition. Even if this bill fails, many of the solutions they’re calling for — such as greater support for community health centers and a big increase in the health care work force — are necessary if we hope to solve the problems brought up by the strikes at Kaiser and other health care institutions.


In most places, the Kaiser strike is expected to last only three days. But the issues that pushed health care workers to the picket line will remain. And although the strike at Kaiser may be the largest at a U.S. health care institution in history, without overhauling the conditions under which health care workers do their jobs, it undoubtedly won’t be the last.



7) ‘We Are at War,’ Netanyahu Says After Hamas Attacks

The militants’ statement cited the Aqsa Mosque. Here’s why it matters. 

By Emma Bubola, October 7, 2023

“The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that 198 Palestinians have been killed and 1,610 Palestinians have been wounded on Saturday.” —Aaron Boxerman

Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

The military wing of Hamas, Al Qassam Brigades, described Saturday’s surprise assault on Israel as an operation “in defense of the Aqsa Mosque,” invoking a dispute around a site that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews and that is among the most deeply contested in the holy land.


The mosque sits in a 35-acre site that is considered the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. Muslims call the site — which also includes the Dome of the Rock shrine — Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. According to Islamic scripture, the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to the mosque in one night to pray, and then ascended to heaven.


Jews call the site the Temple Mount, because it was the location of two ancient temples, which were destroyed.


Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Old City, which contains the site, during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, then annexed it, but most countries consider it to be occupied territory. The mosque is administered by the Waqf, a trust controlled by Jordan, under a status quo agreement.


Israeli security forces maintain a presence on the site, and Jews and Christians can visit, but for years they were prevented from praying on the site to prevent clashes. More recently, the Israeli police have quietly allowed Jews to pray there.


Israeli religious nationalists have increasingly made a point of going to the site, and Saturday’s statement from the Hamas military wing cited Jewish prayer at the compound, saying that what it called “aggression” there had “reached a peak in the past days.”


The site has long been a flashpoint. The deadly, yearslong second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, developed in the wake of a visit there in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s right-wing opposition leader.


Recent years have brought clashes over Israeli police raids at the site. Israeli raids on the mosque compound in May 2021 contributed to sparking an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.



8) Migrants Chased and Snared in Razor Wire: A Rare Look at Texas’ Border Tactics

Videos reveal increasing militarization as Gov. Greg Abbott orders more troops and concertina wire to try to stop illegal border crossings.

By David Peinado, Brent McDonald and Meg Felling, Oct. 7, 2023

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Hundreds of migrants illegally crossing from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, into El Paso each day are running smack into what feels like a war zone: miles of triple-stack concertina wire and armed National Guard troops ordering them to return to Mexico.


They wade in single file across the Rio Grande intent on turning themselves over to Border Patrol to be processed — more than 1,270 a day at this part of the border during September.


But many migrants crossing between points of entry now spend their first steps on U.S. soil confronted by Operation Lone Star, the multibillion-dollar initiative that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas started two years ago, and bolstered again last month to address the border crisis and prevent drug and human smuggling.


The flow of migrants crossing the Southern border between official ports of entry has roughly doubled since the spring, after a brief dip. In May, Governor Abbott began to ramp up deployments of National Guard soldiers from Texas and other states, as well as state troopers, and a new Texas Tactical Border Force.


Over a period of 10 days in late September and October, The New York Times documented the El Paso border from the Mexico side. The footage offers a rare look at the aggressive tactics by National Guard troops trying to block, apprehend and repel people seeking unlawful entry to the U.S.


National Guard soldiers and state troopers patrol between lines of concertina wire, engaging in cat-and-mouse pursuits with migrants, and in some cases, arresting them for trespassing.


In the video below, soldiers used their bodies to trap a woman and a child against rolls of concertina wire. She finally darted free with the child in her arms and ran up the concrete embankment past National Guard troops to join other migrants waiting to be processed by Border Patrol.


On that same night, a soldier chased and threatened a young man with his rifle as another soldier pulled him by the shirt back toward Mexico. The man later escaped and leaped over the fence.


Governor Abbott responded to criticism of his border tactics in a statement in July, saying, “No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.”


The absence of concertina wire, the governor added, encourages migrants to make potentially life-threatening and illegal crossings.


Individuals and families with infants have become temporarily ensnared in the fence’s teeth. When National Guard soldiers arrived in a truck while people were under the razor wire, one woman, dressed in red, re-emerged on the Mexico side moments later with a bloodied arm.


The Texas National Guard began laying more than 20 miles of concertina wire along the border near El Paso in the spring, and reinforced it in August with two, and in some places three, lines of fencing.


Arguil González, a Venezuelan migrant, told The Times that soldiers had ordered him back across the river three times in the same day. He lacerated his arm trying to reverse through the sharp steel fence with his young son, whose legs were also cut.


Operation Lone Star’s tactics have been called “inhumane” by lawmakers, migrant advocacy groups and a concerned medic with the Texas Department of Public Safety.


The Texas Military Department would not comment on specific strategies or tactics, but confirmed in a statement to The Times on Sept. 27 that the Texas National Guard had rapidly deployed an additional 600 soldiers and equipment, as well as trained members of the state’s Tactical Border Force flown in on C-130J cargo aircraft in response to the new surge in migrants.


Despite the intensified military presence, migrants continue to arrive atop trains to Ciudad Juárez by the hundreds, and at times, thousands. Approximately 50,000 Venezuelans crossed the Southern border illegally in September alone.


The Texas Department of Public Safety opened an investigation into the state military’s tactics at the border, including the use of concertina wire, after a trooper-medic sent an email in July expressing concern after a large group of migrants was pushed back across the Rio Grande to Mexico in extreme heat conditions and not given water. The department did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the case.


In late August, a Texas National Guard soldier in El Paso shot at a man on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande, wounding him in the leg. That incident is still under investigation.



9) How the Costs of Car Ownership Add Up

Pandemic disruptions drove the expenses associated with owning a car through the roof, creating a financial burden that many drivers didn’t bargain for.

By Lydia DePillis. Produced by Rebecca Lieberman and Crista Chapman. Oct. 6, 2023


Troy Massey is a 29-year-old Amazon driver in Jacksonville, Fla., who needs a car to go even a few miles but keeps getting underwater on car loans. Dustin Miller for The New York Times

For millions of Americans, cars are a necessity — to get to work, to carry children around, to buy food. In recent memory, they’ve also never been as expensive to own.


According to AAA, the average annual cost in the first five years of new-car ownership rose to $12,182 this year, from $10,728 last year, reflecting increased purchase prices, maintenance costs and finance charges. That’s 16 percent of the median household income, before taxes. (The figure includes depreciation.)


What does that look like in the aggregate? About 92 percent of households have at least one car available to them, and 22 percent have at least three. That comes out to about 223 million personal vehicles, and trillions of dollars a year in spending. By contrast, only $79 billion was spent on public transportation in 2019 for both capital and operating expenses.


On a personal level, America’s dependence on automobiles means hefty bills, the risk of dangerous crashes and stress. And now, even with strong wage growth and elevated savings in recent years, high sticker prices and escalating interest rates are starting to take a toll: The share of borrowers moving into delinquency jumped sharply in late 2022 and early 2023. Personal vehicles often become workers’ largest expense, on a par with housing, child care and food.


To understand how car owners are coping, we asked five of them to lay out the expenses associated with their cars. They’re a lot higher than people sometimes bargain for. For most, there is no alternative.


Brent McCulley is a 33-year-old Realtor in Pompano Beach, Fla., whose family of four requires two cars, making the cost of transportation its largest expense.


Mr. McCulley had been getting along all right in Newark, N.J., with one Kia Soul between him, his wife and their young daughter. It was stressful, shuttling the toddler to day care and then getting to his office by 8 a.m., but they made it work with enough public transportation to handle in-between trips.


Florida was a different story. Mr. McCulley was born there and always wanted to return, so they moved to Pompano Beach in early 2022. By that time, after some car swaps, they were driving a 2022 Kia Forte, which he leased for $294 per month. They had a baby boy and fewer transit options, so they needed to go car shopping again.


”She could walk to Aldi and get groceries,” Mr. McCulley said of his wife. “But beyond that, there’s only so much you can do.”


Mr. McCulley’s credit score had taken a hit after he took on debt to finance the move. So he bought a 2019 Kia Sorento from Carvana at a 12 percent interest rate, which would have required paying $7,645 in interest over the course of the loan. A few months later his credit had improved enough for him to refinance at a 6.6 percent rate, which left the monthly payments at $577.


That’s only a little more than the average monthly payment for used cars, which reached $533 in the second quarter this year, according to TransUnion. The average payment for new cars is $741. Both are record highs.


Insurance on both of those cars in Florida comes to $459.


Gas adds $200 or so, bringing the total to around $1,530 a month. That’s about as much as their rent.


And there’s maintenance. After spending five years with a 1992 Buick Century that would break down every other week, Mr. McCulley likes to pay more for new or late-model vehicles because they tend to have fewer issues. Still, the Sorento has required about $3,000 in maintenance over the past year — the front brakes had to be replaced, then the back brakes, and then a flat tire.


Mr. McCulley expects this to be a lucrative year at work, with commissions that should amount to about double Pompano Beach’s median household income. But with all their expenses — including the resumption of mandatory student loan payments, and his son’s day care — they’re budgeting carefully. His wife decided to take a job at a veterinarian’s office to cover all the bills.


For Mr. McCulley, it’s an illustration that even for people who look comfortably middle class, car expenses contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed.


“Whether you’re a millionaire trying to figure out how to allocate your taxes, or whether you’re making minimum wage,” Mr. McCulley said, “it’s all struggle in different kinds of ways.”


Troy Massey is a 29-year-old Amazon driver in Jacksonville, Fla., who needs a car to go even a few miles but keeps getting underwater on car loans.


A few years ago, debts had piled up while Mr. Massey was attending the University of Central Florida; he lost his financial aid and had to drop out. Juggling too many bills, he fell behind on the loan for his 2013 Honda Civic. In the fall of 2021 it was repossessed – but because he still owed $4,800, the loan balance, he had to keep making payments on a car he didn’t own.


Mr. Massey spent most of 2022 without a vehicle. It was technically feasible; he lived only a few miles from where he worked, at Walmart. But the bus wasn’t reliable, and when he tried to walk or bike, he’d end up soaked in sweat or a sudden downpour. After a while, he’d had enough.


“I just ended up biting the bullet and saying, ‘I need to get another car,’” Mr. Massey said. “I know what happened to the last one, but it’s a necessity. If we had some kind of rail system or something like that, it’d be fine. But we don’t.’”


This time, though, getting a car was even more expensive. The cheapest reliable car he could find, a Toyota Corolla with 89,000 miles, cost $18,240 including taxes and fees. With a 15.2 percent interest rate and an extended warranty, that left him with monthly payments of $451.


Looking for insurance, he couldn’t find anything less than $323 a month for the most basic plan.


Soon after, he switched from Walmart to a Winn-Dixie and took a second job working part time at Amazon, a 35-minute drive from his apartment. Gas for those commutes cost about $40 per week, bringing the monthly total to nearly $1,000, plus occasional maintenance, like the $100 for his last oil change and $27 to fix a slowly leaking tire.


“For someone who’s making a decent income, that might not be as hard,” Mr. Massey said. “But for someone like me who’s in the middle of trying to change careers making $15.50 an hour, it hits you like a truck.”


Mr. Massey thought about selling his Corolla and trying to find something even cheaper. The problem is, he still owes about $16,000 on the car, and its book value is only about half that, so he’d have to pay off the difference – again.


That’s an increasingly common experience, as the average used-car loan at origination has reached 123 percent of the vehicle’s market value, according to TransUnion. And although overall delinquency on auto loans is low, delinquencies have been climbing quickly since interest rates started increasing in 2022.


In August, he switched to a job driving full time for one of Amazon’s delivery contractors making $18.75 an hour, which comes to about $3,000 a month before taxes. Rent for his apartment with roommates is $700, leaving little for food and the credit card bills he’s still trying to pay off.


Mr. Massey is building his software programming portfolio so he can start applying for jobs that pay more – at least enough to afford his car.


Aydee Joya is a 56-year-old Uber driver living in Arlington, Va., who barely breaks even after accounting for all her expenses.


Technically, Ms. Joya’s car is her job, but sometimes it feels as if she’s working just to pay for it.


Ms. Joya immigrated from El Salvador as a child and worked for 26 years as a bilingual family assistant in public schools. When her job was eliminated in 2018, a friend told her that driving for taxi apps was a good way to make money on her own schedule, so she started driving for Uber in her 2014 Nissan Rogue.


It worked out all right for a while, and she enjoyed driving. But Ms. Joya quickly learned how many costs are involved in ferrying people around, along with the $235 she spends in gas per week. First came a spent battery, followed by oil changes, tires punctured by potholes, seats soiled by passengers’ vomit.


In July and August, routine maintenance including a tire alignment and transmission flush came to $1,433.


“There are things that people don’t know that are involved with their car,” Ms. Joya said. “We use the brakes all the time. You need to do a lot of repairs, not only tires, not only oil change. All the things inside the car get damaged.”


As many ride-hailing drivers do for their protection, she installed a camera in the car at her expense. County property taxes on her vehicle come to $566 per year, tolls add about $32 a month, and she faces occasional speeding tickets.


Insurance costs $603 for six months. In 2022, despite often driving 12 hours a day, she said she made only $12,000 after expenses.


In early 2023, as she drove to pick up a passenger, her car was rear-ended. The Nissan was totaled, and Ms. Joya was left with slicing back pain that has made it difficult to drive for long stretches. Now she drives a 2020 Honda HR-V with a monthly loan payment of $536. To make matters worse, she said, Uber isn’t paying as much on her fares as it used to. (Uber said drivers’ average earnings per hour that they were engaged with a passenger – that is, not counting time between fares – had risen since 2019.)


“I’m spending my own money for Uber,” while the company makes the profit, Ms. Joya said.


Ms. Joya has thought about moving on from Uber, and at the urging of her husband — a retired construction worker who worries about her being out late, with several high-profile reports of violence toward ride-hailing drivers recently — earned a certificate to become a clinical medical assistant. But she hasn’t found a job yet, so she keeps driving.


Jennifer Owings is a 48-year-old school administrator in New York City whose two-to-three-hour round trip commute costs more than $1,000 a month.


Ms. Owings loves her job, as an assistant principal at a public elementary school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She also loves her home in Staten Island, a condominium with a pool that she bought after a divorce a few years ago, and the community she has developed there.


She does not, however, love the commute – or how much it costs.


She gets in her 2017 Subaru Outback, which she’s paying off in $328 installments, and leaves at 5:10 a.m., when the 13 miles over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway are mostly clear (but include tolls totaling $175 a month). The afternoon commute is tricky; if she waits too long, it can take two hours. “Any Friday in June, forget about it,” Ms. Owings said.


Some expenses are occasional, like maintenance, which Ms. Owings estimates at $50 a month on average.


So far insurance has covered major damage, like the crash in 2021 that put the car in the shop for weeks, but it costs $232 a month.


Even minor needs add up, like registration this year, which was $138. She’s also enrolled in a monthly unlimited car wash plan, which costs $24.


Parking is the only thing that’s free, and some older staff members at her school even drive from Long Island. “I’d say the under-30 crew probably doesn’t have their own cars because they can’t afford to – it’s too expensive,” Ms. Owings said.


She could take a pay cut and return to teaching in a school closer to her house on Staten Island, and save some of the $200 a month she spends on gas. But a good boss, leadership opportunities and a school she likes are hard to give up. And public transportation?


“It would actually be faster to take my own kayak – or to run,” said Ms. Owings, who competes in marathons. Instead, as much as she enjoys having the time to catch up with friends, spending continuous hours in a car every day has given her hip pain. “Other people have old sports injuries,” she said. “I have a commuting injury.”


Cyndy Knighton is a 58-year-old transportation engineer for the City of Tukwila, Wash., who suffered multiple car accidents over the past year and a half.


Transportation didn’t use to cost that much for Cyndy Knighton, who drove a paid-off 2009 Nissan Altima hybrid — until April 2022, when a teenager driving on a learner’s permit made a left turn in front of her. She broke a wrist and her sternum in the collision, and the car was totaled.


An insurance payout covered the cost of a 14-year-old Subaru and its immediately needed repairs, but the vehicle switch subjected her to spiking gasoline prices that she had mostly avoided with her hybrid; the new car required about $163 per month to fuel.


In search of a longer-term solution, Ms. Knighton decided to order a new hybrid Toyota Highlander that could handle her steep driveway even during the rare snow and transport her four Samoyeds, which she breeds and occasionally enters in dog shows.


That car, however, got snarled in pandemic supply chain issues. The 2022 edition was converted into a 2023, with a slightly higher base price. Then in March, Ms. Knighton was hit again — her Subaru was rear-ended on Interstate 5 heading into Seattle, resulting in a concussion and another wrecked vehicle.


This time, with used cars in short supply, she paid about $8,200 — more than the $6,200 insurance payout — to buy a 2001 Highlander with poor gas mileage.


To add additional insurance protection, she’s now paying $158 a month in premiums.


Treatment for her injuries has racked up more than $86,000 in medical bills, which her employer’s health insurance has covered, other than her $750 in co-payments.


In September, after more than a year of wrangling with her car insurance company, she finally heard she would receive insurance payouts worth $80,000 after lawyers’ fees.


That will be enough to buy the new Highlander outright, at $62,350 including taxes. But Ms. Knighton would never have chosen to finance a new car that way. Aside from the pain and continuing physical therapy, the psychic trauma of repeated accidents takes its own toll. Small shocks on the road — like when she had to slam on the brakes recently, sending one of her dogs into the windshield — can bring on tears.


“I get the irony, that I’m a transportation professional and I’m afraid to drive,” Ms. Knighton said. “To have that lurking there, that could break through at any random time for any reason, is debilitating. It’s an emotional, intellectual cost that is intangible.”