Uber and Lyft got called out for their anti-worker business models
A California judge ruled Prop 22 unconstitutional. Plus: The album I’ve been playing on a loop since it hit streaming platforms last Friday.
There’s a lot to get to today, including the Food and Drug Administration granting full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. I’ll also report the latest developments in Congress as the House cut their recess short to vote on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better budget and an updated piece of voting rights legislation.
But first, let’s talk about a huge ruling from California’s superior court judge last Friday that found Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that passed last November and allowed app-based companies to withhold equitable benefits and protections from drivers and couriers, to be unconstitutional. Here’s Roland Li at The San Francisco Chronicle:
The ruling is a major blow to ride-hailing and delivery tech companies, which could face hundreds of millions of dollars in additional labor costs, including paying for health care and other benefits if the ruling stands. However, the groups plan to appeal and the proposition will remain in effect as the court case continues.
Prop 22 was a nearly $200-million direct response to a law signed in September 2019 by California Governor Gavin Newsom that established a three-factor test to decide a worker’s status as an independent contractor, while providing exemptions to some types of freelancers, such as architects, doctors, insurance agents, lawyers, grant writers, real estate agents, tutors, truck drivers, and manicurists.
Last October, I wrote about how Prop 22 allows app-based companies to escape accountability for their exploitative business models. As other states attempt to pass their own versions of Prop 22 and California’s appeals process plays out, this latest ruling is a reason to be optimistic that treating all workers with the dignity and value they’ve earned will become the rule instead of the exception.
“The moment you have been waiting for is here,” the White House tweeted from President Biden’s official Twitter account earlier today. “If you are one of the millions of Americans who have said that you will get the shot when it had full FDA approval — that has now happened.”
In June, three in 10 unvaccinated adults said they’d be more likely to get the shots if a vaccine were fully approved. During a briefing with reporters, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would take a “wait and see” approach on whether the full approval would motivate those with vaccine hesitancy to do so. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the US,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.
Moments after the FDA’s announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that every employee of the city’s education department would be required to have received at least one dose of a vaccine by Sep. 27 without the option of submitting to weekly testing instead. New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Philip Murphy said that all state employees of public, private and parochial schools — including substitute teachers — must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or be tested once or twice a week. The Department of Defense is expected to release a timeline for when all service members must be vaccinated in the coming days. This weekend, the University of Virginia disenrolled 49 students who had registered for fall classes but are noncompliant with the school’s vaccine mandate. Experts expect more federal agencies, colleges and universities and private businesses to mandate the vaccine now that one of the manufacturers has earned full approval.
FYI: The full FDA approval is for adults only. Young people ages 12 through 15 can still get the Pfizer vaccine through emergency use authorization. And while no vaccines have been authorized or approved for use in children under 12, they are expected later this fall or winter.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership called House members back to Washington from their recess for a procedural vote to set the rules of debate for the Democrats’ Build Back Better budget and another vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore several provisions protections that were removed via a 2013 Supreme Court decision.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any discussion on voting rights that didn’t include a call to eliminate the filibuster, the Senate measure Republicans are using to require 60 votes for most major legislation to pass. Rep. Cori Bush’s office tweeted earlier:
And in case you missed my column from last week after the Justice Department called on Congress to protect voting rights:
Back to the budget though. As I reported last week, there’s a group of nine conservative Democrats who are threatening to vote against moving forward on the budget unless Speaker Pelosi puts the bipartisan infrastructure deal the Senate passed earlier this month up for a vote first. Critics call this group the “suicide squad” since what they perceive as a power play is likely to kill both the bipartisan bill and the Build Back Better budget and leave Democrats looking foolish headed into an already volatile midterm campaign next year.
From the outset of negotiations, Pelosi has said that she won’t bring the bipartisan deal to the floor until the Senate passes the budget for a simple reason: She’ll lose too many members from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, who believe the bipartisan deal is a bargaining chip for making sure their conservative colleagues vote for the budget. (About thirty minutes after I sent this newsletter, Pelosi and her leadership team were scheduled to meet to plan their next steps before the House convened this evening.)
This weekend was full of the kind of political posturing that makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. The suicide squad wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post defending their position. The day before, Speaker Pelosi wrote a letter to House Democrats reiterating her strategy despite threats from the conservative Dems. And this morning, one of the members from the suicide squad sat for an interview with The Atlantic to milk his few minutes in the spotlight.
Progressives had their own messaging campaign going. Here’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus:
Rep. Ro Khanna wrote:
A coalition of progressive advocacy groups launched an six-figure ad buy targeting the suicide squad:
And Jessica Cisneros, who’s challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the nine members against the budget, called him out for voting against the interests of his constituents. “He’s doing what he always does,” Cisneros said in a video posted to her Twitter account. “He’s siding with his Republican corporate donors instead of our community, which he claims to represent.”
FWIW, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki affirmed the president’s support for Pelosi’s strategy and expressed confidence that she and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would deliver two bills to his desk for him to sign them into law.
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As Congress does its thing, President Biden is busy managing the excessive political fallout from the Taliban recapturing Afghanistan after a two-decade war to expel them from the region. The White House announced Biden would virtually meet with global leaders from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy to coordinate policy on the middle east and evacuating Americans, Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans who are fleeing the Taliban’s rule.
The president also welcomed the Seattle Storm to the White House to honor their 2020 WNBA championship. The Storm dedicated every game last season to the Say Her Name campaign for justice for Breonna Taylor and other people who have been terrorized by police violence. “We are often overlooked and often unheard,” Alysha Clark said after Seattle won its fourth WNBA championship last October. “This championship was for them and for us … To be able to come out here tonight and win this, it’s a championship for little Black girls and Black women across this country. I hope each and everyone one of them feel just as victorious in this moment as I do. Because you should. We see you. We hear you. We acknowledge you and your life matters.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Singapore, where she met with the country’s prime minister to discuss shoring up supply chains to unlock economic growth here in the states, the launch of a new climate partnership between the US and Singapore and expanded cybersecurity cooperation in the face of increasing technological threats from China and Russia. Harris will also speak tonight in Singapore about her vision for the Indo-Pacific region as part of her South Asia tour.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
The internet is pissed at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for leaving his dog Captain at the governor’s mansion after he moved out this weekend. Here’s Brendan J. Lyons at the Times Union:
Two State Police sources told the Times Union on Saturday that the governor had recently asked mansion staff members if anyone would be interested in caring for the dog. Captain — a high-strung mix of shepherd, Siberian and malamute — has nipped a few people since Cuomo adopted him in 2018, the sources said, and a mansion staffer recently took the dog home for a few days but decided he was too much.
And if you care, Cuomo gave his farewell address today. Cuomo endorsed his successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, during the speech: “We all wish her success.” Hochul said last week she plans to run for the state’s top office after completing the remainder of Cuomo’s term.
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Finally, two quick creator- and tech-related notes on two of the biggest social apps:
YouTube announced its Partner Program passed the two-million creator mark. The Partner Program, which YouTube launched in 2007, enables creators who qualify to earn money through ads, subscription fees, donations, livestreaming, and YouTube Premium revenue. (You need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of overall watch time on your channel in the past 12 months to qualify.)
And after Davey Alba and Ryan Mac at The New York Times reported that Facebook withheld a report on misinformation that executives thought would make the company look bad, it decided to release it after all. “Given the interest in the first version we did not release, we’ve decided just to make it public,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone wrote in a series of tweets. “It’s not gleaming, but we’re trying to make progress.”
Read All About It
Astead W. Herndon at The New York Times on the Congressional Black Caucus:
The caucus is a firm part of the Democratic establishment, close to House leadership and the relationship-driven world of political consulting and campaigns. However, unlike other groups tied to party leaders, the caucus is perhaps the country’s most public coalition of civil rights stalwarts, ostensibly responsible for ensuring that an insider game shaped by whiteness can work for Black people.
Today, the C.B.C. has swelling ranks and a president who has said he owes his election to Black Democrats. There is a strong chance that when Speaker Nancy Pelosi eventually steps down, her successor will be a member of the group. At the same time, the new lawmakers and their supporters are challenging the group with a simple question: Whom should the Congressional Black Caucus be for?
John Nichols at The Nation on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s influence on the Democratic Party and President Biden’s agenda:
That’s where Sanders comes in. He is already campaigning for the president’s new budget in ways that Biden and Schumer cannot. In his bids for president, Sanders did not just build a name for himself, as most candidates do; he built a movement that pushed progressive ideas about governing to the forefront. To a far greater extent than any campaigns since Ronald Reagan’s in 1976 and 1980, Sanders’s campaigns transformed the way people think about government. While Reagan convinced a great many Americans that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem,” Sanders convinced a great many Americans—especially younger ones—that Reagan was wrong. “There’s been a real change in how people think about government,” says the law professor and author Jennifer Taub, “and Bernie was a part of that.”
Natalie Shure at The New Republic on the phony feminism of America’s war cheerleaders:
The fact that Afghan women really do face immense oppression makes their cynical use for war-stoking purposes almost unfathomably galling. While conditions may have improved for certain individual women in Afghanistan since the U.S. launched a ground war there in late 2001, the war was never waged on their behalf, and those who led the nation into war—along with everyone who has served to maintain the occupation since—never did so with the intention of securing an egalitarian future for the women of Afghanistan. Imperialism is not compatible with feminism, and the persistent assertions that it can be reflects the ugliest truths about both.
Beatrice Forman at Vox on wealth inequality among influencers:
Just like how the child who’s a double legacy at Harvard has a leg up in college admissions, the same goes for the influencer born into privilege. White creators are better primed to know where to look in an industry that keeps details of social media algorithms,payouts, and influencer sponsorship deals secret. Meanwhile, BIPOC influencers are left to navigate a space that, despite promising a new chance at the American Dream, is a breeding ground for the same pay inequality and discrimination that contaminated virtually every other industry before it.
Amanda Mull at The Atlantic on Amazon and department stores:
Amazon helped kill most of those stores, but that has only created a vacuum into which more Amazon products and services are ready to be inserted. If Silicon Valley has taught us anything in the past two decades, it’s that if you have a bottomless pit of money, you can remake an industry in your image. You can acquire customers so quickly that they might not realize they don’t totally loveeverything you’re doing, and you can embed yourself in their lives in ways that would be tangled and inconvenient to remove, largely by snuffing out competition. Which leaves the retail industry in a precarious position: Amazon, and maybe a handful of its largest competitors, will go about deciding how you get to buy the things you need, with very little meaningful pushback. They’ll set prices, they’ll set labor conditions, and they’ll decide which things are too inefficient for you to buy online. Apparently, those things will go into a store.
Fawnia Soo Hoo at Refinery29 on the fashion-obsessed Instagram accounts influencing TV:
Pre-dating this phenomenon, TV enthusiast accounts — like Every Outfit on SATC (711K followers), by fans and authors Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni, What Fran Wore (354K), dedicated to The Nanny lead character, and Every Gossip Girl Outfit (15K), documenting the original series — broke ground by highlighting fashion on existing shows. But while the accounts were accurate in IDing the clothing, the pieces were sold out by the time the show aired. Now, the new class of fan accounts tracks shows while they are still being filmed, offering fresh perspectives and lightning speed-to-market at a time when fans are looking to feed their voracious interests in the lead-up to the releases. Created for the fans by the fans, the niche power players not only influence the public but also brand sales by allowing fans to shop pieces while they’re still available.
One in a Million by Aaliyah: I’ve been playing Baby Girl’s second studio album on a loop — and riding a euphoric wave of nostalgia — since it hit streaming services on Friday.