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Railroad Union Rejects Deal With Only One Sick Day, Puts Strike Back on Table

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Seven other railroad unions still need to vote on ratifying their contracts, and if any choose to strike, the rest are expected to follow suit.


A Historic Strike Looms

The third-largest rail workers union in the United States rejected a proposed contract Monday, threatening to trigger an industry-wide strike if another deal cannot be made.

Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE) voted 56% to 43% against the five-year contract, which was brokered by the White House last month.

The union said in its announcement that management now has until at least Nov. 19 to continue negotiations, at which time a strike will be put back on the table.

The rejected contract bumped worker pay by $24,000 by 2024, awarded $1,000 annual bonuses for five years, and froze healthcare co-pays and deductibles. Still, union leadership said it failed to adequately address their primary concerns: paid time off and working conditions.

“Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued,” BMWE President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement. “They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off.”

The contract included only one paid sick day, far below the 15 pushed for by union members.

Many rail workers have been incensed by a points-based attendance policy implemented by some railroads earlier this year which penalizes or fires them for missing work, even for taking time off to see the doctor or tend to a family emergency. Workers also complain that they don’t get any sick days, paid or unpaid, and that they have to remain on call almost constantly.

About 12,000 of the 23,000 BMWE members participated in the contract vote.

The White House Averts Catastrophe

Large freight carriers have been struggling with workers over contract negotiations for two years, and in July, President Joe Biden established an emergency board to mediate the dispute.

By mid-September, two unions representing nearly 60,000 engineers and conductors were on the brink of crossing the strike deadline with no deal. After a sleepless night of desperate negotiations personally brokered by Biden and several top White House aids, the two sides reached a tentative agreement, effectively averting what would have been a disaster for many sectors of the economy.

At the time, industry players estimated a strike would shut down nearly a third of the country’s freight, also affecting commuter lines that run on freight tracks and costing around $2 billion per day.

The disruption could clog up supply chains since companies rely on railroads to distribute raw materials and finished products. The result could be a shortage of food for retailers, medical supplies for hospitals, coal for utility plants, and chlorine for water treatment facilities.

Only four of the 12 unions that reached tentative agreements by September have ratified their contracts.

The rest will finish voting by mid-November, but if any one of them rejects their deal and strikes, the others are expected to follow suit.

It would be the first railroad strike in the United States in three decades.

“We stand ready to support the parties in their efforts, and continue to urge both sides to finish their work and avoid even the threat of a shutdown in the future,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson told The Washington Post.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially

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Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.


A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.

Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare. 

According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014. 

Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.

According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019. 

16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population. 

These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020. 

The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income. 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)

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Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban

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The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year. 


First Statewide Ban of TikTok

Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”

The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date. 

Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine. 

Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.

Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.

Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement. 

Criticism of Montana Law

TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state. 

“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said. 

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons. 

“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”

Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)

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How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List

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 “Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast. 


Multi-Million Dollar Scheme 

Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.

Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC. 

Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk. 

The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use. 

Burns’ History 

Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later.  By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics. 

The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.

His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along. 

Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry. 

The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000

FBI’s Most Wanted

The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. 

Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. 

“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”

His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her. 

She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt. 

“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast. 

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (Fox 5) (Wealth Management)

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