Here’s how Trump protects workers

The Supreme Court ruled that workers can’t bring action collectively if they have an arbitration clause in their contracts:

The Supreme Court has sharply restricted the rights of American workers to join with others to challenge their company for allegedly violating federal laws on wages, overtime pay or civil rights.

The justices by a 5-4 vote Monday agreed with Trump administration lawyers and ruled employers may require workers give up their rights to join together in complaining if they are denied overtime pay or a minimum wage.

So, if your employer underpays all their workers by $10 a week they will have to push their claim individually. Good luck with that.

Now look which side each of the political parties were on:

Obama lawyers agreed with Democratic appointees on the National Labor Relations Board that labor laws from the New Deal era gave workers the right to join together to protect themselves. They pointed to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which said workers may join a union or “engage in other concerted efforts” to protect themselves.

Based on that law, they said companies may not enforce arbitration clauses that bar workers from joining together to challenge a company’s policies or work rules.

By contrast, Trump administration lawyers joined with pro-business advocates in favor of binding arbitration. They relied on the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, which said contracts that call for setting disputes through arbitration “shall be valid, irrevocable and enforceable.”

And who is it most likely to affect?

Labor law experts say that denying group claims will hurt low-wage workers in particular. They will have no practical way to challenge employers who fail to pay them overtime or a minimum wage, they said.

There’s the President, on the side of the common worker like always. As long as you define the common worker as rich business owners.

Justice Ginsburg dissented highlighting part of the NLRA:

Relevant here, §7 of the NLRA guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectivelythrough representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

The conservative justices twist the words to pretend that the highlighted part can’t possibly apply to arbitration because ‘reasons’. Good old-fashioned judicial activism is alive and well.

ICE and CBP don’t care about laws

People who complain about illegal immigrants like to say ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand?’.

The first story, via here, concerns a DACA candidate:

In February 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump unleashed immigration agents to amp up arrests and deportations, ICE agents went to Ramirez’s father’s house in Seattle to arrest him. (The father is undocumented, and brought Ramirez to the U.S. illegally as a child.) While there, they encountered Ramirez and asked him whether he was “legally here.” He responded that he was—a truthful statement given his DACA status, which he had renewed the previous May. Yet ICE officers detained him anyway. They took him to a processing center, where, once again, he told them that he had a work permit.

ICE then interrogated Ramirez, fingerprinted and booked him, confiscated his work permit, sent him to a detention center, and placed him in removal proceedings. It also purported to revoke his DACA status, subjecting him to imminent deportation. Typically, the government may not rescind an individual’s DACA status without giving the beneficiary an opportunity to contest its decision. But ICE claimed that Ramirez’s DACA benefits could be terminated “automatically” because he presented an “egregious public safety concern” due to his alleged gang affiliation. (ICE routinely alleges that Latino immigrants with no indication of gang affiliation are members of a gang in order to detain and deport them.)

A group of renowned attorneys then stepped in to defend Ramirez, arguing that virtually every action ICE had taken against their client was unlawful. They also alleged that ICE’s key claim—that Ramirez is “gang-affiliated”—was a complete falsehood. One of his lawyers, Mark Rosenbaum, presented evidence indicating that ICE had doctored Ramirez’s statement by erasing words he had written in the pencil provided to make it seem as if he had confessed to being in a gang. (The original statement asserts he has no gang affiliation.) During his initial interrogation, ICE officers asked him five times whether he belonged to a gang, and he repeatedly said no.

ICE wanted to deport him so they forged documents and lied in a court of law. People go to jail for that but not ICE because they have broad immunity.

This article lead to another one, this one about the CBP illegally setting up a checkpoint:

The trouble in New Hampshire began in August and September. CBP, which has been emboldened by the Trump administration to resume controversial practices that declined under President Barack Obama, decided to set up a checkpoint in Woodstock. Although the town is 90 miles from Canada, CBP is authorized to conduct searches up to 100 miles from the nearest international border. The ostensible purpose of the checkpoint was to enforce immigration law, and officers demanded proof of citizenship from drivers who passed through. But they also brought drug-sniffing dogs, allegedly to help them “detect concealed humans.”

As the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire later exposed in court, the real purpose of these drug-sniffing dogs was, naturally, to find drugs. But the U.S. attorney for the state does not bring federal charges against those carrying small amounts of cannabis. So CBP asked the Woodstock Police Department to participate in its checkpoint. The two agencies decided to work together. CBP would stop drivers and have a dog sniff their cars. If the dog “signaled,” a CBP officer would search the car. If the officer found drugs, he would hand them off to WPD, which would press charges for drug possession.

This cooperation was a gift to the Woodstock police for two reasons. First, New Hampshire’s marijuana decriminalization law would take effect within just weeks; by working with CBP, local law enforcement could maximize its marijuana prosecutions before it lost the power to arrest cannabis users. Second, and more importantly, the New Hampshire Constitution prohibits canine searches of vehicles without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity—unlike the federal Fourth Amendment, which permits them. Thus, by teaming up with CBP, the Woodstock police hoped to reap the rewards of searches it could not legally conduct on its own.

“While the stated purpose of the checkpoints in this matter was screening for immigration violations,” the judge wrote, “the primary purpose of the action was detection and seizure of drugs.” CBP agents were “aware of that prior to setting up the checkpoints which is precisely why they felt the need to reach out to the state and local agencies for assistance.” Rappa pointed to emails exchanged between CBP and WPD that make it “patently clear that the primary purpose” of WPD’s presence was to seize their drugs for state prosecution. “As such,” he concluded, “the checkpoints were unconstitutional under both state and federal law.”

And this article leads to yet another one where the CBP illegally ignored a judge’s orders:

That morning, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs issued a decision in Louhghalam v. Trump barring CBP officers at Boston Logan International Airport from detaining or removing anyone covered by the order. She also explicitly directed CBP to “notify airlines that have flights arriving at Logan Airport” that “individuals on those flights will not be detained or returned based solely on the basis of the Executive Order.”

CBP did the exact opposite of what Burroughs’ ruling required. The OIG investigation found that the agency continued to call airlines and instruct them not to let travelers board planes to the United States if they were covered by the order. It did so despite having full knowledge of Burroughs’ restraining order. Indeed, OIG found that CBP did “everything in its power to block [these] travelers” from boarding flights bound for the United States. Officers threatened airline representatives, asserting that the government would fine them $50,000 and bar their planes from landing if they ignored CBP’s (unlawful) orders.

These are just a few of the many cases where the ICE and CBP blatantly break the law. They obviously don’t understand what illegal means.

DeVos likes scammers more than students, Pruitt worries more about bad press than people being poisoned

You find out something terrible from the Trump administration every day. I was going to write about this story about Betsy DeVos yesterday but didn’t get around to it:

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

The sheer gall involved is amazing but there’s no time to dwell on it because there’s more of the same today:

Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.

The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

and here’s why it was blocked:

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

Yes, they’re more concerned about the political impact than, ya know, people being poisoned.

These are horrible stories but you’re not going to hear about them too much because there will be more tomorrow and pretty every day.

Poor Kirstjen Nielsen

It seems the PC President is upset:

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Donald Trump berated her Wednesday in front of the entire Cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders, according to several current and former officials familiar with the episode.

Trump’s anger toward Nielsen at the Cabinet meeting was part of a lengthy tirade in which the president railed at his entire Cabinet about what he said was its lack of progress toward sealing the country’s borders, according to one person who was present at the meeting.

But don’t pity Ms Nielsen, she’s not a very nice person:

Compared to her predecessors, Nielsen’s résumé is conspicuously thin. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, she was a little-known cybersecurity consultant with no major management experience. “In a normal Administration, there isn’t a chance in hell she would get nominated for anything above an undersecretary job,” a former national-security official, who served under George W. Bush, told me.

Over her first three months in the job, Nielsen has showcased her loyalty to the White House that elevated her. In early January, she cancelled the status of two hundred thousand Salvadorans who’ve lived legally in the U.S since 2001. A week later, in sworn testimony, she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she couldn’t recall whether the President had used the word “shitholes” to describe African countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration. Then, in February, Nielsen issued a series of aggressive statements criticizing bipartisan immigration bills that appeared to be gaining support in the Senate. One of the proposals, according to D.H.S., “would effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.”

From 2002 to 2007, Nielsen served in the Bush Administration, where she spent most of her time overseeing domestic disaster-relief-and-prevention policy at the White House. She left for the private sector in the wake of controversy over how the Bush Administration had mishandled its response to Hurricane Katrina. Though two congressional reports faulted Nielsen and her team for failing to inform the White House about breaking developments on the ground in New Orleans, several Administration officials ultimately came to her defense.

One former D.H.S. official told me that it was unsurprising that senior members of the department were leaving: its independence was being undermined. “Nielsen will say and do whatever the White House says,” the official told me.

Even being a sycophant isn’t good enough in this White House.

MA Family Institute wants discrimination back

Massachusetts added gender identity to the list of reasons people can’t be discriminated against in 2016. That’s very upsetting to some people so they’re trying to get it overturned by ballot:

A November ballot question asking voters whether to keep or repeal the state’s 2016 antidiscrimination law is expected to be the first statewide referendum on transgender rights, taking the national temperature on a fiery hot social issue.

Leading the repeal effort are conservative and religious activists and some of the same groups that tried unsuccessfully for years to prevent or stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Their Keep MA Safe campaign — whose website features the bathroom video — suggests that the rights afforded by the state’s antidiscrimination law are infringing upon others’ privacy and potentially endangering women and children.

“A man can enter a woman’s space at any time, without any proof of any sort of medical or psychological condition, merely based on his internal sense of self if he says he identifies as a woman,” said Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

I have no problem with transgender people being in the same bathroom as me.  I’d be much more worried if Beckwith was in a stall next to me, he seems overly conscious of exactly who is in the bathroom with him.

The centennial of the MBTA

2018 is the hundredth year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act:

The 1918 law was enacted after several species of common birds became extinct; the Audubon Society and other organizations named 2018 the year of the bird in honor of the MBTA’s centennial.

And this is how the Trump administration celebrates it:

In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.

So an oil company can leave an oil waste pit uncovered and not be punished even if it kills thousands of birds per year. I guess this better be the year of the bird, because if the Trump administration has anything to say about it there won’t be nearly as many birds in the future.

Trump’s America

In this story by Propublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer you can see how Trump’s anti-immigration policies work. Here’s one great example:

Peralta is short and stout, with a shy, ready smile for whomever crosses his path.

That morning, it was two federal agents named Joe Vankos and Chad Noel. They were on a mission to capture a 29-year-old convicted cocaine dealer from Mexico.

Instead, they stumbled across and arrested Peralta. Though regional ICE agents had picked up bystanders in the past, they were not supposed to. But in a new era where every undocumented immigrant is a potential target, Peralta was one of the first “collaterals” to be taken into custody.  And one of the most defenseless.

It should have been immediately apparent that Peralta, who has difficulty speaking, had serious cognitive disabilities. A neuropsychologist who later examined him wrote in an assessment for the court that Peralta cannot read, write, or identify colors and that he is not competent to give informed consent “or to understand any but the simplest instructions, requests or commands.”

Yet ICE maintained in its arrest report that Peralta not only willfully engaged with Vankos but confessed his undocumented status, stated he was 46, and claimed he had a child in Florida.

Peralta, however, is childless and does not know his age, his pro bono lawyer, Craig Shagin, said. He was abandoned as a youth in rural Pennsylvania and has for decades made ends meet as an apple picker, pumpkin harvester, and construction worker in the Gettysburg area.

And the article notes:

  • Took advantage of state and local officials’ willingness to conduct their own informal immigration investigations, call ICE and detain immigrants for hours until federal agents arrived — despite the questionable legality of these practices.
  • Occasionally stepped over the legal line themselves, according to interviews, sworn affidavits, and court filings, by trespassing, conducting warrantless searches, engaging in racial profiling, fabricating evidence, and even soliciting a bribe.

I’m assuming that all those people who respond to these stories with retorts like ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand’ think these officials should all be in jail. Because otherwise they would just be Xenophobes, which is certainly not true. Right?

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