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Republicans Will Turn the NLRB Into a Force for Union Busting. We Can Turn It Back.

Here comes the anti-union crackdown.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, Donald Trump has submitted the names of two anti-union lawyers to the FBI for vetting. This is a precursor to nominating them to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by June to cement a Republican majority that will reverse many of the pro-worker decisions and policies that the federal agency has advanced in recent years.

Marvin Kaplan works for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. William Emanuel is a lawyer at the union-busting firm, Littler Mendelson. Either of these garden-variety union-haters could have been appointed by Jeb Bush, John Kasich or whatever bland man in a navy suit the Republicans might have nominated if the reality TV star hadn’t bumbled his way into the GOP nomination and presidency.

On the potential chopping block are the board’s expedited election rules, the organizing rights of graduate employees and workers at charter schools, the rights of subcontracted employees to join their coworkers in a union, the ability of unions to organize smaller units within a larger enterprise and the culpability of a parent company for a subsidiary’s illegal behavior’s illegal behavior.

As inevitable as this right turn is for our nation’s workers’ rights board, so, too, should be our planned counterattack.

Don’t Ignore the NLRB

Last summer, I wrote about the NLRB’s turn towards pro-worker activism. I noted that most unions were slow to notice the change and slower still to press an agenda of legal activism at the board. The next few years will demonstrate why unions tend to view the NLRB as a hopeless venue for workers’ rights and a place where organizing campaigns go to die.

There is a macho component to labor’s preference to organize and bargain without …read more

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Massachusetts Let Spectra Energy Secretly Edit Its Pollution Permit in Atlantic Bridge Gas Project

Screenshot of email from a Spectra consultant saying the opportunity to edit the draft approval is exclusive to Spectra.

Massachusetts environmental officials allowed Spectra Energy to quietly review and edit a draft approval of an air pollution permit the state plans to grant the company for its Atlantic Bridge gas project.

According to emails obtained by DeSmog through an open records request, this privilege of reviewing and editing the draft approval was granted exclusively to Spectra and not to the general public.

Editing Compressor Project’s Draft Pollution Permit

As part of the project, a planned expansion of Spectra’s Algonquin pipeline through the northeast US, the company intends to build a new gas compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Late last year, Spectra was purchased by Canadian energy giant, Enbridge.

Since the compressor station will emit various pollutants, it requires environmental permits from state authorities. Spectra submitted an air quality application to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in October 2015.

Emails show that within a few months, state officials had already drafted a preliminary permit, or “Plan Approval,” of the application.

Then, in February 2016, the DEP‘s Permitting Chief for the Southeast Region, Thomas Cushing, sent the draft for editing to David Cotter of Trinity Consultants, Spectra’s air pollution contractor in the project. Cushing wrote, “David, [A]s discussed, I attached a rough draft of the Algonquin approval for your review and comment.”

At that point, the draft was already written on the DEP‘s official letterhead and addressed to Spectra’s Houston headquarters.

Cotter returned the draft to Cushing in early April 2016, after revising it in numerous places using Microsoft Word’s track changes tool. In his edits, Cotter changed text, deleted several words and data, and inserted comments.

Thank you for offering us the opportunity to provide comment on the preliminary draft of the Weymouth permit,” Cotter wrote to <span …read more

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Lawsuit Targets Potential Cancer Threat in the South's Farming Communities

More than 800 cancer patients nationwide are involved in a class-action lawsuit that accuses the chemical giant Monsanto of failing to adequately warn them about a possible link between their disease and glyphosate, the key ingredient in its enormously popular Roundup herbicide.

The lawsuit was sparked by a 2015 determination by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen, with research tying it to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, in humans. The IARC also found “convincing evidence” that glyphosate can cause cancer in laboratory animals, while other studies it reviewed found the chemical damages human DNA.

Monsanto maintains that glyphosate is safe, as industry-funded studies have found. But the class-action lawsuit has unearthed documents that cast doubt on its safety — and on the handling of its potential risks by the US Environmental Protection Agency. As the New York Times reported earlier this year:

The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The documents also revealed that there was some disagreement within the E.P.A. over its own safety assessment.

The EPA is currently reviewing glyphosate’s registration and is scheduled to publish the draft human health and ecological risk assessments for public comment some time this year. It currently classifies glyphosate as having low toxicity.

Glyphosate is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in the world, with over 1.7 million tons applied …read more

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On Leaving Prison: A Reflection on Entering and Exiting Communities

Formerly incarcerated people suffer from losing their community twice -- first while entering prison and again while leaving it.

Formerly incarcerated people suffer from losing their community twice — first while entering prison and again while leaving it. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Navigating life after prison can be daunting, even with the help of well-intentioned allies and organizations set up for that purpose, says Monica Crosby who was imprisoned for 20 years. But an often-overlooked challenge facing former prisoners is the loss of their two communities — those who were a part of their lives before prison and those who became their community in prison.

Formerly incarcerated people suffer from losing their community twice -- first while entering prison and again while leaving it.Formerly incarcerated people suffer from losing their community twice — first while entering prison and again while leaving it. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

This story is the sixth piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children.

Returning from prison after 20 years has been nearly as traumatizing as being in prison for that length of time. Trying to rebuild my life and reunite with my family after my long absence from their lives, and to keep my sense of self that I’d managed to reclaim while in prison, has been daunting and difficult. The community to which I returned was so different; after 16 months out of prison, I am still struck by how much changed during the time I was incarcerated.

I’m from the Uptown neighborhood on the …read more

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Chevron Was Just Fabricating a Lie to Get Out of Paying for a Cleanup

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Janine Jackson: When we talk about environmental justice, the emphasis is usually on the first word. That might be what comes to mind first when you think about Chevron, formerly Texaco, dumping some 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the land and water of indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador. But when, having poisoned these communities, which have seen increases in cancer and other health problems, Chevron refuses to clean it up, and instead embarks on a decades-long effort to intimidate and silence anyone who tries to call attention to the disaster they’ve created and profited from — well, then, it’s clear that it’s a story about justice. And, in this case, years and years of cross-national organizing and solidarity.

Here with the latest on Chevron and Ecuador is Paul Paz y Miño. He’s associate director at Amazon Watch. He joins us now by phone from here in New York. Welcome to CounterSpin, Paul Paz y Miño.

Paul Paz y Miño: Thank you.

Well, let’s start right where we are. Environmental and human rights groups, including Amazon Watch, have just filed two amicus briefs to the Supreme Court. Each has an importantly distinct focus, but they both are aimed at reversing a particular lower court ruling. What did that ruling say?

So that ruling was a retaliatory countersuit against the very people that, as you mentioned, Chevron deliberately poisoned. What Chevron did was, they began a suit in New York right before the verdict was to be announced in Ecuador — knowing, of course, that they were going to lose, because the evidence against them was so overwhelming. …read more

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How Low-Income Mothers Are Breaking Into the Tech Industry

Sarah*, 51, has always had a knack for computers.

“In the 1990s, I was teaching basic computers and autocad, but I was self-taught. I didn’t have a college degree,” she said. “When the economy crashed, all of a sudden I was competing for entry-level technology jobs with people who had one or two higher degrees.”

A single mother of a 16-year-old daughter, Sarah has worked primarily as an administrative assistant for the past 16 years — despite her skills and interest in technology. She is raising her daughter in San Francisco, where a family of four earning $100,000 per year is considered to be living in poverty, according to recent research from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Today, programs are emerging to help women — especially mothers — like Sarah access high-wage careers in technology.

Sarah is hopeful that one such new program, Techtonica, can help steer her career back toward technology. Techtonica is a nonprofit that partners with technology companies to provide free technology training, living stipends, and job placement to low-income women in the Bay Area. Most Techtonica participants are women of color.

“There is discrimination in the tech industry that makes it difficult for underrepresented people to feel included and want to stick it out,” said Michelle Glauser, Techtonica’s founder. Statistics provide evidence of Glauser’s point: In a 2016 report, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimated that of the people employed in the tech industry in 2014, only 36 percent were women, 8 percent were Latino, and just over 7 percent were black.

After participating in a brief Techtonica workshop that offered tech training to low-income Bay Area women, Sarah applied and was one of eight women accepted to Techtonica’s inaugural full-time program, which …read more

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Will Kentucky Become Abortion-Free?

Although it received little attention in the media, anti-choice bigots attempted to shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Kentucky on May 13 — nearly depriving women in the state access to what is supposed to be a federally protected right to control their reproductive choice.

In what the website Rewire termed a “siege,” some 100 anti-choice protesters with the group Operation Save America (OSA) — a splinter from the former Operation Rescue anti-choice group — descended on the EMW Women’s Clinic in Louisville. In all, 10 members of the group were arrested after locking arms and refusing to move from the clinic’s entrance.

Calling its May 13 action “No Greater Love,” OSA’s action really was about hate — hate for the rights of women to exercise control over their reproductive lives.

In a post on the blog Everysaturdaymorning, which details the experiences of members of Louisville Clinic Escorts, a group that protects patients entering the EMW Women’s Clinic, the author detailed:

[The OSA demonstration] was the wildest spectacle I’ve seen in my 18 years as a Louisville Clinic Escort. I was approaching the entrance with a client, just a few minutes after the doors were unlocked. We were having the usual light conversation when I observed that the scene at the door was different than the usual massive clusterfuck of bullies. Instead of [anti-choicers] swarming at us and lining the sidewalk with signs, they were all tightly packed near the entrance.

Video posted to the Louisville Clinic Escorts Facebook page shows the anti-choice bigots blocking access to the clinic. Despite being in clear violation of a federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, the escort noted that the protesters were treated gently by police.

Although escorts were able to shepherd patients …read more

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Pennsylvania School Now Doing Emergency Drills in Case of Pipeline Explosion

At the Glenwood Elementary School in Media, Pennsylvania, roughly 450 students interrupted their regular schedules one day this month for an unusual emergency drill.

Just after 1:30 p.m. on May 3, the entire student body practiced sheltering in place in the school’s gymnasium, then prepared to evacuate the campus by bus, under the watchful eye of the school’s superintendent, state police, and local first responders.

Everyone took this seriously and it was reflected in how quickly they moved through the drill — two minutes to be sheltered in place and three minutes to be completely evacuated from the building,” Principal Eric Bucci told local reporters.

It wasn’t fears of natural disaster or terror attack that prompted the emergency drill. Instead, worries about a fossil fuel pipeline construction project nearby left the school district drafting emergency response plans and practicing safety protocols.

The school is one of dozens neighboring the route for Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline, now under construction and slated for completion this fall. At Glenwood Elementary, the Mariner East project will carry natural gas liquids like butane, propane, and ethane (used to make plastics) through a pipe under a road about 650 feet from the school’s playground — and some parents and safety experts are worried about the risks posed by leaks or other accidents.

Eric Friedman, a safety advocate opposed to the pipeline project told Delaware County, Pennsylvania’s Daily Times News that he was pleased that the school was taking the risks seriously enough to conduct a drill but that he was concerned that the practice highlighted the shortcomings of the district’s plans.

“The exercise raised more questions than it answered and seemed only to demonstrate that [the school district] is unprepared to deal with a large scale release of hazardous, highly volatile …read more

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“I Could Have Died”: Protesters Detail Violent Attack by Turkish President Erdogan's Guards in DC

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail assaulted a group of peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence. Video from the scene shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looking on during the assault. It’s not clear if Erdogan gave the order for the attack. The assault came shortly after Erdogan was welcomed to the White House by President Trump. For more, we speak with Seyid Riza Dersimi, who was violently attacked during the protest and rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he received stitches on his nose and was treated for a head injury. We also speak with Ruken Isik, a Kurdish activist and Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She attended last week’s protest and wrote a piece for The Huffington Post titled “Will Erdogan’s Thugs Face No Consequences for Attacking Us on US Soil?”

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

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Immigrants in Detention Centers Are Often Hundreds of Miles From Legal Help

A woman and her son visiting the Donald W. Wyatt jail in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on September 9, 2008. The facility held thousands of immigration detainees that year. (Photo: Suzanne DeChillo / The New York Times)

Only 6 percent of the men held at the Lumpkin detention center in Georgia have legal representation, according to a 2015 study. Nationwide, it’s not much better, the study of data from October 2006 to September 2012 found: Just 14 percent of detainees have lawyers. That percentage is likely to get even smaller under the Trump administration.

A woman and her son visiting the Donald W. Wyatt jail in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on September 9, 2008. The facility held thousands of immigration detainees that year. (Photo: Suzanne DeChillo / The New York Times)

One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin.

During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home.

“Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts. You don’t even really know what to say or what the standards are,” said Rosenbluth, who works for a private law firm and took on the cases for a fee. “You may have a really, really good case. But you simply can’t package it in a way that the court can understand.”

His clients that day were lucky. Only 6 percent of the men held at the Lumpkin complex — a 2,001-bed …read more

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