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California’s Controversial Prop 22 Could Have Nationwide Impact

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  • If passed, California’s Prop. 22 would classify gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors instead of employees, meaning they might have more flexibility in their schedules but are not given standard full benefits like healthcare and sick leave.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other apps have shelled out a whopping $200 million into a ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. Meanwhile, its opponents have spent about $20 million, with prominent figures like presidential candidate Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris speaking out against it.
  • Currently, California voters are split. A UC Berkeley poll found that 46% of voters said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided
  • Experts think that no matter which way the vote goes, this could be the start of a national debate about gig workers in America, how companies treat them, and how that work is regulated.

What is Prop. 22?

While California’s divisive Proposition 22 might only be on the ballot in one state, the impacts of it could be felt nationwide. 

Prop. 22 exempts app-based rideshare and delivery companies from providing certain workers with benefits by classifying drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. It comes one year after a law known as AB5 was passed in the state requiring gig workers to be treated as employees, and aims to carve an exception for major rideshare and similar companies. 

Supporters of Prop. 22 include those companies, like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. They say that the measure gives drivers flexibility in their schedules, as well as minimum earnings benefits, even though it does not provide the full standard benefits employees would receive. They also say it protects jobs and that prices could increase if Prop. 22 fails. 

However, opponents argue that these companies should not be allowed to skirt around rules to avoid giving their workers full benefits. Those who have come out against the proposition include the California Labor Federation and Sen. Kamala Harris. The prop has even made national headlines, with presidential candidate Joe Biden and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also coming out against it. 

National Implications for Prop. 22

It’s a split issue among California voters. According to a late October poll from UC Berkeley, 46% said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided. But the decision is large, as experts think its implications will reach beyond the borders of the state. 

For example, if Prop. 22 passes, other companies could be prompted to follow Uber and Lyft’s independent contracting model. 

“I think you’ll see platform-based companies in other service industries either try to fit themselves into the exception [to AB5], or, if Proposition 22 is successful, try to do the same thing,” attorney Jason Morris told CBS News

He is not alone in thinking this. New York Times reporter Kate Conger, who has covered Prop. 22, thinks this is the first page of a national dialogue around gig workers. 

“No matter the outcome of Proposition 22, it’s just the beginning of what I think will become a national debate over regulating gig work. Companies like Uber and Lyft are already beginning to lobby for similar changes at the federal level,” she said. 

“It also raises questions about how traditional employers will manage their workforces in the future,” Conger continued. “Will we see employers shift their employees to a gig work model in order to take advantage of the reduction in costs that Uber and Lyft have long enjoyed?”

High-Budget Campaign from ‘Yes on 22’

The ‘Yes on 22’ campaign has spared no expense when it comes to rallying support for the proposition. Politico reported that the campaign has spent over $200 million on the effort, with virtually all of that money coming from five companies: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash. Their opponents have raised just around $20 million in comparison. 

‘Yes on 22’ ads are plastered all over the state and aired constantly on television. One of their biggest claims is that drivers support the proposition by a 4-1 margin, but that statistic has been called into question. According to a fact check from the Sacramento Bee, that claim is true but only in part. 

The campaign cites a poll from a blog called The Rideshare Guy, as well as other polls commissioned by Uber. While those do show that 70-80% of drivers support Prop. 22, the Bee writes that these polls are not “scientific.” The survey was not done by a random sampling of drivers, just by those who were signed up for the site’s digital newsletter. Uber’s poll also had slanted questions that may have pushed the results. 

“They have highly biased and problematic surveys from which they are getting this data from,” UC Hastings law professor Veena Dubal told the Bee

Uber and other companies have also faced criticism for pressuring their employees into supporting the measure. Drivers ended up suing Uber for bombarding them with messages about Prop. 22 in the app while they were driving, asking them to pledge their support. A judge ended up siding with Uber over the matter. 

On October 30, Uber engineer Eddy Hernandez wrote a piece explaining his decision to leave the company over the pressure they were putting on employees when it came to Prop. 22, which he disagrees with. 

“Inside the company, pushing back against Prop 22 was like trying to stop a bullet. Leadership made it a company-wide initiative, which meant that Prop 22 was part of employees’ performance and promotion reviews,” Hernandez wrote.  

“On top of that, internal messaging communicated an expectation of loyalty toward Uber above all else,” he continued. “Unlike drivers, I did not have to deal with constant in-app pop-ups asking me to commit myself to voting Yes on Prop 22. But if I as an engineer with considerable power, influence, and access to Uber leadership felt coerced into silence about Prop 22, how did drivers feel?”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Business Insider) (San Francisco Gate)

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Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air

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While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.


Booster Rollout in Flux

President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.

The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.

However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.

The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.

Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.

Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.

Debate Continues in Crucial Week

More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.

On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.

The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide. 

On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.

The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.” 

Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.

Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.

“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”

Uncertain Future

It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.

Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.

Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.

Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.

“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Guardian)

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Kansas Lawmaker Accused of Kicking Teen in Groin Receives Suspended Sentence

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Before allegedly assaulting the teenager in class, the lawmaker and former substitute teacher ranted to students about God, the Bible, Masturbation, and more.


Samsel Displays Inappropriate Behavior

Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel (R) was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and one year of probation Monday after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. 

Samsel, a former high school substitute teacher in Wellsville, initially caused outrage in April after displaying bizarre classroom behavior. Footage recorded by students and published by the Kansas City Star showed Samsel ranting about the wrath of God, the Bible, masturbation, suicide, and other topics. At one point, he allegedly even pushed a student against a wall and kicked him in the groin.

While that specific altercation doesn’t appear to have been caught on video, student footage shows what seems to be the aftermath of the alleged assault.

“I’m simply built different, Mark. I don’t feel pain,” the student jokingly tells Samsel after picking himself up off the ground. Samsel responds by asking if the student is about to cry.

“You want to go to the nurse? She can check it for you?” Samsel adds.

“Make babies! Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate,” Samsel said at another point in the video. “You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question.”

Other notable quotes include, “Would you like me to introduce [you] to a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times because he has two parents and they’re both females?,” and, “I could put the wrath of God on your right now because that is what he is trying to do. You should run and scream cause the devil’s getting the hell out of my classroom.”

After students reported his behavior, Samsel told local news outlets that he didn’t do anything wrong and that the situation was actually “planned.”

The kids and I planned ALL this to SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another. To who? Parents. And grandparents. And all of Wellsville,” he also wrote on Snapchat, according to The Star.

However, he later told investigators that he what at his “wit’s end” with “misbehaving students.” Then last month, he announced via Facebook that he had sought mental health treatment and was giving up his substitute teaching license, describing the situation as an “isolated episode of mania with psychotic features’‘ prompted by “extreme stress, pressure and agitation.”

Samsel’s Sentence

Samsel faced additional consequences in conjunction with his suspended sentence and year of probation. He was also banned from using social media, unless for political purposes. He cannot have contact with the students who reported him and must write apology letters to those involved. He must also follow mental health treatment recommendations and take any prescribed medications

Samsel, for his part, apologized in his court appearance via Zoom, saying he never “intended for anyone to get hurt.”

Some parents seem happy with the sentence, like Joshua Zeck, who told the Star, “From the beginning, all I wanted was for Mark to get some help.”

“I don’t want to see anybody go to jail. So if this does him so good and he’s doing better, I’m happy to hear that,” Zeck continued.

Others in the community told the paper that his sentencing was too lenient, including Mary Woods, whose niece had class with Samsel the day of the incident.

“I don’t think that’s enough. He laid his hands on a kid. … He traumatized a lot of these kids. I think it’s bullsh*t, to say so myself.”

As far as whether Samsel will keep his job in the state legislature, Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman said that’s up to voters to decide.

See what others are saying: (The Kansas City Star)(Insider)(NBC News)

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Alabama Man Dies After Being Turned Away From 43 Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID Patients, Family Says

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Alabama currently has the second-highest COVID hospitalization average and fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the country.


Full ICUs Allegedly Delay Care for Emergent Cardiac Patient 

The family of an Alabama man who died of heart issues is calling on people to get vaccinated after he was turned away by 43 hospitals in three states while having a cardiac emergency because all of their Intensive Care Units were at maximum capacity with COVID patients.

The man, 73-year-old Ray DeMonia, was taken to Cullman Regional hospital in Alabama on Aug. 23. The next morning — around 12 hours after he was admitted — his daughter said her mother got a call saying that hospital workers were unable to find him a specialized cardiac ICU bed in the area. 

He was eventually transferred to a hospital in Mississippi about 200 miles away and died on Sept. 1, just three days before his birthday.

In DeMonia’s obituary, his family pleaded with people to get the vaccine.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” they wrote. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Rising Hospitalizations

Officials and healthcare providers in Alabama have said DeMonia’s case is not a one-off incident. 

Jennifer Malone, a spokesperson for Cullman Regional, told The Washington Post that situations like this have been an “ongoing problem” reported by doctors at the hospital and others throughout the state.

“When patients are transported to other facilities to receive care that they need, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult because all hospitals are experiencing an increased lack of bed space,” she said.

On Friday, Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that the state’s spike in ICU patients has stabilized some. Still, he added there are not enough ICU beds for the number of patients that need intensive care, many of whom are unvaccinated.

Even with the spikes “stabilizing,” Alabama still has the second-highest COVID hospitalizations in the U.S., according to The Post tracker

The calls from DeMonia’s family for people to get vaccinated also come as Alabama struggles with the country’s fourth-lowest vaccination rate. Despite those figures, top officials in the state are doing little to address the issue.

Last week, after President Joe Biden rolled out a sweeping vaccine mandate for 100 million people and promised he would use his power to circumvent Republican leaders “undermining” relief efforts, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told the president to “bring it on.”

Ivey then doubled down on her refusal to mandate vaccines in her state, where people are being refused emergency hospital care because so many unvaccinated people are in ICU beds.

“You bet I’m standing in the way. And if he thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming,” she said, referring to the mandates as “outrageous” and “overreaching” policies that will “no doubt be challenged in the courts.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (NPR)

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