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California passed AB5. What does that mean for New York?




Late Tuesday night, California advanced a bill that would classify many gig workers as regular employees, granting them basic labor protections like minimum wage, overtime and unemployment insurance. And while the proposed law has no direct bearing on New York’s gig workers, some locals woke up to the news Wednesday morning, optimistic that California’s AB5 means New York won’t be far behind.

“Although the sun rises earlier for us in New York, today our allies to the West were the first to welcome the light of a new day for workers in America,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in a statement early Wednesday morning. “The light shined first on California, but workers in New York will see our dawn soon.”

Before that can happen, however, California has to finalize the law – and a number of people then have to get behind New York’s own efforts to grant more labor protections to its Uber drivers, delivery cyclists and other gig workers. A bill introduced in June to create yet another classification that would give gig workers the right to unionize failed to pick up steam in the state Legislature. But momentum has been building recently, including through a new coalition of labor experts aiming to impose the same employment classification standards for New York. On the other end of the spectrum, AB5 opponents Uber and Lyft are still angling for exemptions to the proposed law, which could yet happen. As this latest battle between labor advocates and the tech industry progresses, a number of questions still need to be answered, both in New York and in California.

What is AB5?

California’s Assembly Bill 5 is that state’s attempt at codifying a 2018 California Supreme Court decision that would classify workers using something called an “ABC test.” The test has three criteria that a worker has to meet in order to be classified as an “independent contractor”: workers have to be free from the control of an employer, doing work outside the usual course of business of an employer, and engaged in an independently established business. A least one million people currently classified as independent contractors in California – including nail salon workers, app-based ride-hail drivers and on-demand delivery workers – would fail this ABC test and be considered employees, eligible for all the labor protections that come along with employee status. After passing the California state Senate on Tuesday night, AB5 awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has endorsed the bill.

What efforts are being made in New York?

Legislation introduced in New York by state Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo at the end of session this June would have created a third classification of workers – “dependent workers” – who would have the right to organize and collectively bargain. The bill drew ire from both the tech industry (who said it went too far) and labor groups (who said it didn’t go far enough), signaling that any compromise between these groups will be tough to secure.

The Savino and Crespo bill failed to win favor within the state Legislature as well, but labor advocates have continued to move the ball forward on the independent contractor issue over the summer and recently announced a coalition to institute an ABC test in New York. Members of the coalition include the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the New York Nail Salon Workers Association, the Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, 32BJ SEIU and the National Employment Law Project.

What does this mean for Uber, Lyft and other tech companies?

While the ABC test would apply to all independent contractors, the months-long fight over California’s AB5 and similar efforts in New York has largely become a story about what it would mean for Uber and Lyft to have their drivers classified as employees. The two companies launched an aggressive and expensive campaign against the California bill, and along with the online delivery company DoorDash, they have committed $90 million to a ballot initiative that would exempt them from AB5. An ABC test for independent contractors would mean that companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash would have to provide employment benefits that could jack up their costs by an estimated 20 to 30 percent – one explanation for why these companies have been fighting so hard against the bill.

Though the New York legislation from Savino and Crespo didn’t garner quite the same backlash, the tech industry group Tech:NYC did immediately come out against it.

Some labor advocates are already celebrating California’s approval of AB5, although Newsom said Tuesday that he’s still in negotiations with Uber, Lyft and other companies to reach a deal.

“We are fully prepared to take this issue to the voters of California to preserve the freedom and access drivers and riders want and need,” Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin said in a statement on Wednesday, alluding to the possibility of a ballot initiative.

Tony West, chief legal officer for Uber, said Wednesday that Uber drivers would not be classified as employees under AB5, arguing that the company can pass the ABC test because the drivers’ work is outside Uber’s usual course of business.

Will New York follow California’s lead?

New York has undoubtedly been keeping a close eye on the AB5 fight in California, and some experts expect New York to follow California’s lead. And while most agree that California’s recent action will invigorate the debate over independent contractors in New York, others say that New York could take a slightly different approach. “Even if California acts, we don’t necessarily need to act here in New York in the same manner,” Zachary Hecht, policy director at Tech:NYC told City & State recently. “We might proceed with a little bit more nuance, we might proceed with a little bit of a different approach.”

Along those same lines, Savino has pointed to a portable benefits package as one way New York could grant more labor protections to its gig workers without classifying them as employees. She told City & State last month that she’s not convinced that the ABC test is appropriate – calling it “a little bit too rigid” – and that New York could very well take a different path than California. “California does what they want,” Savino said. “Sometimes California and New York are on the same page, and sometimes they’re in totally different places. I think New York is going to have the most comprehensive conversation about it. My goal is for us to put forward the best piece of legislation that becomes a model for the nation, regardless of what happens anywhere else.”

Where does Cuomo stand?

California’s AB5 fight did bring the issue of independent contractors to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attention, as he recently suggested that he favors classifying more gig workers as employees. “I think we have to look at how we define ‘employee’ versus ‘independent contractor’ going forward, and I think, in my opinion – forget the specifics – more people should be considered employees, because what has been happening is companies have been going out of their way to hire independent contractors to get out of those obligations,” Cuomo said at an unrelated press conference this week. “I don’t want to lag California in anything, I don’t want to lag any other state,” he added, referring to California’s action on AB5.

Spokespeople for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but his suggestion that he doesn’t want to fall behind other states on this issue could signal that the labor rights of gig workers may garner more attention in the coming months than they were able to at the end of this last legislative session.

Savino said she is ready to take up the issue again in January, and with California still nailing down the details and labor advocates in New York gearing up for a fight, the debate is unlikely to fade from view. Savino said that she will be soliciting feedback from all interested groups this fall, including at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 16.


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Internal emails reveal de Blasio had City Hall staff help with re-election bid




mayor de blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly used his City Hall staff to boost his 2017 re-election bid while state and federal authorities were investigating his campaign fundraising practices, according to internal emails released Thursday.

City rules prevent public employees from using their official time for political purposes. Yet over 205 pages of emails between the mayor and his two sets of staff, obtained through a Freedom of Information request and first reported by the Daily News, show that they routinely flouted those rules.

In the most glaring example happened in December 2016 when the mayor asked his campaign and City Hall staff to coordinate a meeting with a deep-pocketed donor — and then tried to rope a deputy mayor into the fundraising effort.

“Steve Mostyn is in town from Dallas,” the mayor wrote to his City Hall scheduler and the deputy finance director for his campaign on Dec. 5, 2016.

“Very important I see him. Pls set up,” de Blasio wrote. His campaign finance director, Elana Leopold, followed up on her boss’s email.

“Mayor wants an hour w him and wants Herminia to stop by to say hi at the front of [sic] back end,” Leopold wrote, referring to then Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Hermania Palacio.

De Blasio’s official scheduler, Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez, suggested having the meeting at City Hall before his Leopold said, “I don’t think it’s allowed to be at City Hall.”

Members of Mostyn’s family later donated nearly $10,000 to the mayor’s reelection campaign.

A mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said “the mayor wanted to Deputy Mayor Palacio to attend because they had a personal connection and he thought they’d enjoy meeting. She wasn’t able to attend, however, and the meeting did not occur at City Hall.”

“City Hall and the campaign followed all rules and regulations. There is nothing prohibiting the teams from coordinating on scheduling,” Goldstein said.

But Alex Camarda, with the good government group Reinvent Albany, said the emails showed the mayor needs a state versus church divide to keep his political and official activities separate.

“The mayor’s campaign and City Hall should establish procedures that create clearer boundaries in setting up meetings and communications to separate campaign work from government work,” Camarda said.



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“We’re Confident…”: Trump Appears To Confirm US Nukes Are In Turkey





US government officials have long avoided disclosing or even confirming widely believed locations of US nuclear weapons.


WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has often said things he perhaps shouldn’t have and repeatedly has disclosed sensitive information as president. On Wednesday, he did it again, appearing to confirm that the United States has nuclear weapons in Turkey.

At the White House, Trump was asked about those weapons’ security, now that Turkey has gone against U.S. wishes by invading northern Syria after the Trump-ordered U.S. withdrawal from the region. He didn’t explicitly confirm that the weapons were there, but he went along with the premise, saying that “we’re confident” they’ll be safe “and we have a great air base there – a very powerful air base.”

U.S. government officials have long avoided disclosing or even confirming widely believed locations of U.S. nuclear weapons.

“As a matter of policy, the Defense Department does not comment on the presence of nuclear weapons in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe,” said Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

“U.S. and NATO officials do not, as a matter of policy, confirm the existence, locations or numbers of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe,” said Jessica Varnum, deputy director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The existence of the weapons in Turkey isn’t exactly a secret, though. Reif noted that “the Air Force, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, noted the presence of ‘special weapons’ at ‘storage sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.”‘ Other experts noted that it’s not easy to hide such weapons.

Last July a document published by a NATO-affiliated body, which later was deleted, appeared to confirm that nuclear weapons were being housed in those same five countries. The document from a Canadian senator for the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said the U.S. nukes were in Incirlik in Turkey.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert at M.I.T., highlighted another issue with Trump saying that “we have a great air base there.”

“Incirlik is Turkey’s air base, not ours,” Narang said. “And that is essentially the problem. We store these nuclear weapons in secure vaults on a Turkish air base, where we either have to secure them under the present circumstances, or bring transport aircraft to the base, move them on a Turkish air base and then fly them out of Turkish airspace if we wanted to extract them.

“Under the present circumstances, that is not a simple logistical or security feat.”

The security of those weapons has been a growing concern this week. The New York Times reported that State and Energy Department officials were looking at how to evacuate the weapons from Turkey if the situation in the region deteriorates.

As an Air Force Times report this week showed, though, officials would still avoid confirming the locations, even if they seemed plainly obvious:

“In an interview this summer with Air Force Times on the future of Incirlik amid rising tensions with Turkey, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons there. But, hypothetically speaking, she said that if nuclear weapons did have to be removed from that base, it would be a complicated operation. It would require negotiations with the nation that would become the weapons’ new host, James said. And it would require a great deal of logistical and security work.

“If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James said, it would have to take ‘the greatest of care’ in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the facilities or security necessary, James said, it would require a significant construction effort. And NATO would likely be involved.”

Trump in May 2017 shared highly classified information with top Russian officials in the Oval Office – information that U.S. officials worried could jeopardize a valuable intelligence source. He also reportedly told the Philippines’ president in April 2017 that the United States had two nuclear submarines off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to the New York Times. And two months ago, Trump tweeted what appeared to be an image from a classified satellite or drone in Iran.

Presidents have broad authority to declassify whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean the disclosures are necessarily beneficial for the U.S. government.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by TansportationVoice staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Elijah Cummings, senior Democrat involved in Trump impeachment probe, dies aged 68




Elijah Cummings
  • Cummings died aged 68 from ‘complications of longstanding health challenges’
  • Comes two years after he had an operation to repair his aortic valve, and a month after he went to hospital saying that he would be back at work in a week
  • 13-term representative from Maryland was chair of the Oversight Committee, and spearheaded several investigations into Trump
  • He famously rowed with Trump after President called Baltimore ‘rat-infested’


Elijah E Cummings, a senior Democrat who was a key player in the Trump impeachment inquiry, has died aged 68.

Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, passed away at Baltimore’s John Hopkins Hospital at 2.45am on Thursday, his office said.

The Maryland representative, who has been in office since 1996, died of ‘complications concerning longstanding health challenges’.

His death comes two years after he had surgery to repair his aortic valve, and a month after he was admitted to hospital for further treatment.

He leaves behind wife Maya Rockeymoore – who he married in 2008 – and his three children, including daughters Jennifer and Adia

She said: ‘Congressman Cummings was an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility.

‘He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem.’

When he was admitted in early September, Cummings predicted that he would be back in Washington within a week.

A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that spearheaded investigations into President Donald Trump.

He was also a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his district that encompassed a large portion of Baltimore.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations into Trump’s governmental dealings.

The investigations angered the president, who criticized the congressman’s district in 2019 as a ‘rodent-infested mess’ where ‘no human being would want to live.’

Cummings responded that government officials must stop making ‘hateful, incendiary comments’ that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems.

‘Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,’ Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.

The Oversight Committee – as the main investigative committee of the House – was one of six involved in the impeachment inquiry into Trump and was spearheading efforts to gather evidence, alongside the Intelligence Committee.

Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.

Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. And by 2016, Cummings was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was ‘nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign’ for president.

Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He was a firm believer in some much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.

His constituents began mourning shortly after his death at 2:45 a.m. on Thursday. The Baltimore archdiocese tweeted that Cummings ‘generously shared his God-given gifts and talents w/the people of his beloved city, state and nation for so many years. We give thanks for his dedicated service and pray for the repose of his soul.’

Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.

‘I was devastated,’ Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. ‘My whole life changed. I became very determined.’

It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983.

He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.

Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.

‘After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people working together, it’s clear that the lines are drawn here,’ Cummings said about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.

Cummings chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national spotlight.

He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was elected.




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