Walmart Cutting Health Care For Part-Timers

Walmart Cutting Health Care For Part-Timers

Things are going to get a bit tougher at home for some of your local Walmart associates. Citing rising costs, the nation’s largest private employer recently announced plans to cut health insurance for 30,000 domestic part-time employees, or those working less than 30-hours-a week. Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million people in the U.S. Its decision to cut healthcare for part-timers puts it “among the last of its peers,” Business Insider reports, following in the footsteps of Target, Home Depot and others.

Read more at Business Insider, including plans to increase premiums for employees who will remain insured.

Kobane Protests, Ebola Updates, Nobel in Chemistry

Kobane Protests, Ebola Updates, Nobel in Chemistry

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • At least 14 people are dead following Kurdish protests in Turkey urging the nation to fight against Islamic State’s hold on the nearby city of Kobane, Syria.
  • The Supreme Court will hear a case today about whether Amazon’s warehouse workers should be paid for the approximately two-and-a-half weeks they spend waiting in a security line each week. 
  • Wal-Mart is ending healthcare coverage for the fraction of part-time employees that currently have it; it’s also raising its premiums in 2015 across the board. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

$75 Million Suit Being Filed by Eric Garner’s Family

$75 Million Suit Being Filed by Eric Garner's Family

The family of the Staten Island man who died this July shortly after viral video captured his being wrestled to the ground by police is seeking $75 million from the city of New York. Cell phone video showed several cops swarming Garner and him being placed in what appears to be a chokehold, a practice banned by the New York Police Department. In August, the medical examiner ruled 43-year-old Garner’s death a homicide, caused in part by “compression of the neck and chest.” On video Garner can be heard saying several times, “I can’t breathe.” 

Last week, police commissioner William Bratton delivered a blunt message to a conference of NYPD commanders. 

“We will aggressively seek to get those out of department who should not be here,” Mr. Bratton told a packed lecture hall [The New York Times reports]. “The brutal, the corrupt, the racist, the incompetent.”

The Times describes the speech as Bratton’s “most forceful public remarks on police misconduct since Eric Garner…died in police custody…after he was approached for selling loose cigarettes.”

Read more about the Garner family’s notice to file suit at Capital New York and the cost of police misconduct suits, nationally at The American Prospect.

Seattle City Council Passes Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution

Seattle City Council Passes Indigenous Peoples' Day Resolution

This coming Monday is a federal holiday recognized as Columbus Day, in honor of a colonizer who never even set foot in what is now the United States of America. But, starting this year, Seattle will celebrate it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Local Natives, including Tulalip and Puyallup peoples, had pressed for the move, but not everyone’s pleased with the outcome. KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reports that some Italian-Americans feel like they’ve “been thrown under the bus” by the council’s resolution. A KIRO 7 Facebook post soliciting reactions to the decision garnered heated responses on all sides.

Berkeley, California, was the first city to institute Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, marking 500 years after Columbus’s arrival to the hemisphere. Mildred “Millie” Ketcheschawno (Mvskoke), who worked diligently with a group known as Resistance 500, was crucial in getting the local city council to adopt the change. 

When It Comes to Race, Uber and Lyft Give Taxis a Ride for Their Money

 When It Comes to Race, Uber and Lyft Give Taxis a Ride for Their Money

There’s a lot to be unsure about when it comes to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Uber’s been eyed for questionable labor practices and some shady schemes to steal riders from Lyft. This is not to menton the outcry from traditional taxi companies who fear losing customers to the companies. But as BuzzFeed’s Johana Bhuylan reports, Lyft and Uber are benefiting from the frustrated black customers who’ve been discriminated against by yellow cabs for years. Here’s more:

Though it’s hard for organizations to quantify this type of racial discrimination, historically, taxi drivers in many cities have refused to drive to certain destinations. In a 2011 undercover operation, the Taxi and Limousine Commission found that out of 1,330 cabs more than 336 refused to travel to places like the Bronx and northern Manhattan.

Many people of color like Lauren are turning to app-based car services like Uber, Lyft and Gett for relief from either discrimination or destination biases — a point that the companies have become quick to tout. For the ride sharing companies, what was initially an unintended byproduct of the app — or a happy accident of sorts — is quickly being marketed as a feature.

What’s more, according to BuzzFeed, is that companies are now marketing it as a feature:

Uber, for example, performed a neighborhood study in Chicago this year that determined “4 in 10 rides in Chicago start or end in underserved neighborhoods.” In New York, Uber has very publicly claimed that its drivers make more outer borough trips than taxis, though it did not provide any data to substantiate it and did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for data. And In Boston, Uber dug into its own data to address destination bias and found that neighborhoods where 35 percent of residents complained of a 20-minute wait for cabs were being served within 20 minutes — 30 days before the data was published the average wait time was 3.5 minutes, according to the blog post.

Read more at BuzzFeed. 

Los Angeles to Decide Fate of 287(g) Today

Los Angeles to Decide Fate of 287(g) Today

By Secure Communities standards, its precursor, the federal immigration-local police partnership program 287(g), seems anachronistic. Older, more expensive, less widely used, 287(g) authorized local police to act as if they were immigration agents. Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide the program’s fate in the county.

As the federal government has turned its attention to Secure Communities, Los Angeles has lost much of the financial incentive to track the immigration statuses of people cycling through the criminal justice system, KPCC reports. In recent years, immigrant rights activists have pushed back on both programs, winning the TRUST Act, a state law in California that limits the detention requests the federal government may make of local law enforcement agencies. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for its part, has recommended that the county hold on to its 287(g) contract, KPCC reports. 

Columnist Asks, ‘Why Is White Poverty Invisible?’

Columnist Asks, 'Why Is White Poverty Invisible?'

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., who is African-American, wandered the hills of eastern Kentucky recently in order to talk about what he calls, “the great white whale of American social discourse,” white poverty. Not many people talked to him. As Pitts details in the essay, reporters, nor any other kind of media, really, have not been kind to the region. But he wanted to make a larger point, too, about the racialized way in which Americans discuss poverty. He writes:

Our deeply racialized view of poverty bears no resemblance to reality. Though it’s true that African Americans are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line, it is also true that the vast majority of those in poverty are white: 29.8 million people. In fact, there are more white poor than all other poor combined.

So Pitts went to the epicenter of white poverty, Owsley County, Kentucky in order to make his point about changing the country’s narrative around our images of the poor.

Read Pitts’ essay at The Miami Herald, in particular, his assessment of the “nexus between white poverty and blackness.”

Watch St. Louis Cardinal Fans Chant ‘Let’s Go Darren!’

Watch St. Louis Cardinal Fans Chant 'Let's Go Darren!'

Major League Baseball’s playoffs are underway, and the St. Louis Cardinals are in a tough series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. St. Louis, of course, is close to the epicenter of civil disobedience that’s broken out after white officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old unarmed black Ferguson resident Mike Brown. And last night, Cardinals fans began chanting in support of Officer Wilson in a confrontation with Ferguson protestors. Things pretty much devolved from there. Here’s video:

Deadspin’s Tom Ley points out some of the most upsetting moments:

  • We start off with a bang. At about the 22-second mark, an old white Cardinals fan begins telling the protesters—all of whom appear to be black—that they need to get jobs. He looks right in the camera, proudly, and says, “That’s right! If they’d be working, we wouldn’t have this problem!”
  • At about the 1:30 mark, the crowd of Cardinals fans begin drowning out the protesters’ chants with a “Let’s go Cardinals!” chant. Well, they could be saying worse things…
  • At the 2:40 mark, they start saying much worse things. The “Let’s go Cardinals!” chant has turned into a “Let’s go Darren!” chant. Cool.
  • At 8:10 one of the Cardinals fans calls one of the protesters a “crack head” and tells him he needs to go see a dentist.
  • At 8:50 the “Let’s go Cardinals” chant starts up again.
  • At 9:05 one of the Cardinals fans starts telling one of the protesters that if he ever “saw him in the street” he would “look at the ground.” They argue for a bit about who would and would not whip whose ass.
  • At about 10:25 a small blonde lady starts yelling at the protesters: “We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!”

Yeah, it’s ugly. 

New Ebola Case in Spain, Morocco Mulls Legalizing Marijuana Cultivation, Nobel Prize in Physics

New Ebola Case in Spain, Morocco Mulls Legalizing Marijuana Cultivation, Nobel Prize in Physics

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Facebook’s contract bus drivers seek to unionize for better pay and working conditions.  
TAGS: Morning Rush

Here’s More On That St. Louis Symphony Flash Mob

Here's More On That St. Louis Symphony Flash Mob

By now you’ve watched viral video of 23 protesters who delayed (or, disrupted, depending on your point of view) this weekend’s St. Louis Symphony program to dedicate a requiem to Michael Brown. Here’s a bit more of their backstory from the three organizers, Sarah Hermes Griesbach, Elizabeth Vega and Derek Laney. They’re middle-aged, parents (including one grandparent, Vega) and all have been involved daily in Ferguson—from street protests to doing healing art with children to planning actions—since the late hours of Saturday, August 9.

Of all places for an action, why the symphony?

Because Cardinals Stadium didn’t work out too well. A few weeks ago Griesbach and Vega, by all appearances two middle-aged white women in Cardinals jerseys, showed who they really were. “When we lowered our Michael Brown banner,” Griesbach says, “we went from people being smiled at to instantly being perceived as representing something that was hated.” A wall of sports fans started screaming, ‘Pants Up, Don’t Loot’ and ‘Lock Them Up!’ After being handcuffed and escorted out of the stadium—moreso “for our own safety,” both say—Vega recalls Griesbach looking at her and deadpanning, “I think we need a new venue.” Vega says she cracked up. “I really needed to laugh, then,” she says.

A couple of days later while reliving their game nightmare at a local Thai restaurant, Griesbach hit on the symphony crowd—mainly because they weren’t the typical Cardinals crowd. “I knew they would be more receptive. I knew this was a public that was interested in the world, that listened to NPR, read newspapers and [was therefore likely to hold] nuanced views.”

Oh my God, but that song?!

Vega got the idea for, “Which Side Are You On, Friend” from a 2013 Rebel Diaz remix featuring dead prez.

That was stuck in my head. I had been arrested a couple of days before and I was in jail singing this song,” Vega says. The hardest part of their planning meeting was figuring out the new lyrics.

Derek, that voice!

Laney fit right into the cultural milieu as he started off the round in a seemingly stage-quality baritone. “No, I’m not a professional singer,” says Laney who also started the hashtag, #ChalkedUnarmed. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to cherry-pick singers so I just stepped up to do it.” Unsurprisingly, he’s had several compliments on his voice since.

Most gratifying?

Vega points to this moving quote from conductor*, Kenneth Woods:

One friend of mine questioned whether staging a protest on private property was fair to the hall, the orchestra and the audience. I’m not sure I agree. If the concert hall can’t be the center of civic life, a hub for intellectual discussion, a place to share ideas, a place we can mourn, cry, scream, love and heal together, we may as well burn every concert hall to the ground. When we value genteel niceties and professional convenience over the existential questions of right and wrong, life and death, we, as artists, have probably made ourselves completely irrelevant.”

What’s next for the upcoming Weekend of Resistance?

This coming Friday night, Vega says there will be a día de los muertos (day of the dead) event for all people killed by police this year. The reading of the submitted names will be followed by a two-mile march to the Ferguson police station to challenge its 11 p.m. curfew. On Saturday, look for five “pop-up” potluck lunches to take place throughout St Louis County. Mike Brown, race, class and privilege will be the topics of conversation, all led by trained facilitators. 

Also, find an updated schedule of events here.


* Post has been updated since publication to accurately reflect that conductor Kenneth Woods is not affiliated with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Supreme Court’s Sour Record on Civil Rights, Racial Justice

Supreme Court's Sour Record on Civil Rights, Racial Justice

It’s back-to-court day for the Supreme Court, which began its new term today. Among the key race issues the Supreme Court will consider this year are gerrymandering of African-American-heavy districts, the Fair Housing Act, religious discrimination, and the extent to which rap lyrics comprise a threat. 

In other words, it’s time to brace yourself. University of California, Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky writes in the Los Angeles Times that for those concerned with civil rights, the High Court’s long past and recent history doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence:

[O]ver the course of American history, the court has repeatedly failed at its most important tasks and at the most important times. As much as we might like to think of the court as an evenhanded dispenser of justice, it often is not. For the first 78 years of American history, until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, for example, the court consistently sided with slave owners and aggressively enforced the institution of slavery. For 58 years, from 1896 until 1954, the court embraced the noxious doctrine of “separate but equal” and upheld Jim Crow laws that segregated the races in every aspect of Southern life.

Citizens think of the nation’s highest court as the last resort for the individual, but the Supreme Court has continually failed to stand up to majoritarian pressures in times of crisis. During World War I, individuals were imprisoned for speech that criticized the draft and the war without the slightest evidence that the expression had any adverse effect on military recruitment or the war effort. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and placed in what President Franklin Roosevelt referred to as concentration camps. During the McCarthy era, people were imprisoned simply for teaching works by Marx. In all of these instances, the court ruled in favor of the government and erred by failing to enforce the basic constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and equal protection.

Read the rest at the Los Angeles Times, and a quick look at cases the Supreme Court will consider this term from SCOTUSblog.

Michel Martin on Who Americans Are, Really

Michel Martin on Who Americans Are, Really

When St. Louis Public Radio wanted to host the region’s first live town hall on August 28 to discuss Michael Brown’s murder and the explosive events after, it’s no surprise they asked Michel Martin to moderate. Part of the job that Thursday evening in Wellspring Church would mean mediating—and there’s no media personality better at hosting tough conversations and bridging chasm-like divides than Martin. The former host of “Tell Me More,” which ended this August after seven years on air, took the other seat in a recent and intimate hour-long interview with Krista Tippett. She hosts the excellent radio program, “On Being,” which very often touches on the role of faith in her subject’s lives. The talk is wide-ranging, from Martin’s growing up in Brooklyn, to dealing with her younger brother’s suicide and her role as a journalist in a society that struggles still with talking about race and difference.

Listen above. And if you don’t already regularly listen to “On Being,” get on that.

Raven-Symoné: ‘I’m an American, I’m not an African-American’

Raven-Symoné: 'I'm an American, I'm not an African-American'

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on “Where Are They Now?” Raven-Symoné made clear that she doesn’t “want to be labeled as gay,” but rather as a “human who loves humans.” Raven-Symoné, the star perhaps best known for her role on “The Cosby Show,” who appeared to quietly come out last August, says she’s tired of labels, adding, “I’m an American, I’m not an African-American,” pointing out that an “American is a colorless person.” 

Another Ebola Patient Arrives in U.S., Nobel Prize in Medicine, B.B. King Cancels Tour

Another Ebola Patient Arrives in U.S., Nobel Prize in Medicine, B.B. King Cancels Tour

Here’s what I’m reading up on today: 

  • The Nobel prizes in science kick off this week; the prize in medicine goes to three who located the brain’s internal GPS. The prize in physics will be announced Tuesday and the prize in chemistry on Wednesday. 
  • 89-year-old B.B. King cancels his tour after being diagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Supreme Court Takes Up Muslim Woman’s Challenge to Abercrombie and Fitch

Supreme Court Takes Up Muslim Woman's Challenge to Abercrombie and Fitch

Among the cases the Supreme Court will take up in its next term is Samantha Elauf’s challenge to Abercrombie & Fitch’s hiring practices. In 2008, Elauf, then 17 years old and applying for a job at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, Abercrombie & Fitch store, was told that the headscarf she wore wasn’t in line with the company’s “look policy.” Elauf was turned down for the job. 

While the company policy actually contained exceptions for religious head coverings, the store manager didn’t ask Elauf whether she wore her head scarf for religious reasons, and Elauf didn’t explicitly ask for an exemption either. Whose responsibility was it to make sure that Elauf wasn’t discriminated against based on her religion?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company and won a religious discrimination suit on Elauf’s behalf, but last October, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling.

Jessica Glenza at The Guardian explains the questions the Supreme Court will consider:

The case hinges on whether employees must explicitly inform prospective employers that they require a religious exemption, in this case for dress. Abercrombie argues that Elauf did not specifically request an exemption and thus one was not required, even though managers correctly assumed she wore the scarf for religious reasons.

“It is undisputed that Samantha Elauf did not inform Abercrombie that her religious beliefs required her to wear a headscarf when she was at work. It is axiomatic that an employer must have actual notice that an applicant’s mandatory religious practices conflict with an employment requirement,” attorneys for the company argued.

The EEOC argues that if “actual knowledge” of an employee’s religious beliefs is required by employers, companies could discriminate against employees because of perceived religious practices, so long as they do not have explicit statements from an employee.

‘We Are the South’ Rises with LGBTQ Racial Justice Activists

'We Are the South' Rises with LGBTQ Racial Justice Activists

LGBTQ activists at the intersection of race, place, class, sexuality and so much more working toward racial justice in the South? No, you’re not dreaming. This week, the Better Together Southern Leadership and Action Cohort, a network of eight organizations gathered by Colorlines’ publisher Race Forward, launched We Are the South. It is a photo campaign highlighting the people at the center of this week’s launch. On social media, #WeAretheSouth and #SomosElSur amplified those activists’ experiences.

Here now, a roundup of some of the photos activists shared via

wearethesouth_tumblr_10314.jpg Image via from the Center for Artistic Revolution, a Little Rock, Arkansas, social justice organization.

For more information and to submit your own photo, visit, and check out Better Together organizer Paris Hatcher’s Storify of this week’s Tweet chat. 

No Second Chance For Ferguson’s PR Rep, Also An Ex-Con

No Second Chance For Ferguson's PR Rep, Also An Ex-Con

Ferguson’s public relations operative Devin James, 32, has been under fire since last week’s Post-Dispatch report that he once served time in 2009 for killing an unarmed man in 2004. James, who is African-American, says it was self-defense. He’s since lost his city contract but according to MSNBC, is staying on as spokesman, pro bono. Now, James is telling his story—and viewed next to the week’s negative reaction to his criminal past (and possibly lying on his resume), it’s hard not to think of second chances. Who gets them? Who doesn’t? James, it must be said, isn’t all that different from tens of thousands of other African-American men seeking to start over with criminal records stemming from everything from failure to pay excessive criminal fines to murder. 

James explained his motives, background and past during a 10-minute St. Louis Public Radio interview yesterday (follow link for audio). An excerpt:

It’s important to have someone who’s faced similar challenges at the table [in Ferguson] at the strategic level…. I know what it’s like to be a black man who has a sense of fear when he’s pulled over from law enforcement or who fears any interaction with law enforcement. I know what it’s like to have been in the system and therefore have challenges establishing my credit again or being able to get a job afterwards. …The fact that I didn’t graduate from high school; I got my GED. The fact that…my education so to speak, or lack thereof, didn’t define me. So I think I bring something to the table.

Even with the recent attacks on me, I guess it would be different if I was a rapper, or if I was a football player, then none of this really matters. But because I’m not, you know, all of a sudden we need to destroy this person’s character—when I’m one of the only African-Americans that’s actually at the table trying to make sure that Ferguson changes their perspective.

If everyone in the St. Louis region has a problem with me and I’m the guy who’s overcome some of those challenges, kinda got his life together, got a company going, trying to make a positive impact and you still have a problem with me—what do you think about the folks who don’t have their life together? Is that to say that they shouldn’t be given a second chance as well?


Jobs Report, JP Morgan’s Massive Data Breach, Gorgeous Seafloor Topography

Jobs Report, JP Morgan's Massive Data Breach, Gorgeous Seafloor Topography

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • New York City will soon consider legislation that would deny cooperation with common immigration detainers, as well as remove immigration agents from Riker’s Island jail. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Federal Civil Rights Charges Unlikely for George Zimmerman

Federal Civil Rights Charges Unlikely for George Zimmerman

The chances of exacting some kind of accountability for George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin are dimming, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department’s open investigation into whether or not Zimmerman’s actions constituted a federal civil rights violations will likely conclude with no charges. 

The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz reported:

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department’s civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Investigators still want to “dot their i’s and cross their t’s,” said one official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

This week GQ published a look at where the Zimmerman family is today, two years on from 17-year-old Martin’s death.

Free After 3 Years: Chicago’s Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Free After 3 Years: Chicago's Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Signs that things may be bad where you live: if your state’s general assembly ever creates something called a Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC). Today, according to human rights lawyer Flint Taylor, former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, 66, walks free on early release from federal prison in North Carolina after having been “convicted of lying about torturing over 100 African-American men at stationhouses on Chicago’s South and West Sides.” Note that Burge was convicted in 2010 for perjury—not his deeds. The Illinois general assembly created TIRC in 2009 to deal specifically with Burge, other officers under his command and the claims made by scores of their torture victims. Burge made news earlier this year when the city’s pension board, the Chicago Tribune reports, allowed him to keep his $4000-a-month pension.

In a must-read, Taylor recounts the costs to citizens, taxpayers and of course victims—some of whom remain in prison based on confessions coerced under torture. Taylor writes:

The contrast between the official treatment of the torturers and their victims has spurred activists, torture survivors and lawyers working with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) to campaign for the passage of a city ordinance that would address this appalling discrepancy. Introduced into City Council last October by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins, the “Reparations Ordinance” calls for the establishment of a $20 million fund to compensate torture survivors who have so far received little money or nothing at all.

The 40-year Burge saga is far from over. To learn the backstory, start here at the Chicago Reader.

(h/t In These Times)

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