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April 30, 2021: Labor Secretary Says Gig Workers Deserve Benefits; Study: Tear Gas Affects Menstruation; Dems Push Medicare Expansion

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President Joe Biden’s Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, has signaled his department may take a stand for gig workers’ rights. It would be long overdue and much welcomed by millions.

Meanwhile, a new study confirms what many social justice protesters observed last summer: tear gas really messes with people’s bodies. So how do we get police to stop using it?

And lastly, Democrats in Congress aren’t waiting around for the White House to act on one item on the progressive agenda. Bernie Sanders is among those leading the charge for a major Medicare expansion.


Big Tech has been systematically cheating people, and not only customers. A lot of gig workers in the United States should be classified as employees who deserve work benefits, President Biden’s labor secretary said yesterday, according to Reuters. The comments suggest a shift in policy that is likely to raise costs for companies that depend on contractors such as Uber and Lyft. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a son of Irish immigrants and a former union member, has been expected to boost the Biden Administration’s efforts to expand workers’ protections and deliver a win for the country’s organized labor movement.

Walsh told Reuters that in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees, and in some cases they are not treated respectfully. As many as fifty five million people in the United States were gig workers – or thirty four percent of the workforce – in 2017, according to the International Labor Organization. The total was projected to rise to forty three percent in 2020. Walsh’s views on the issue could usher in new rulings from the Labor Department, which sets legal guidelines for how employers treat workers. Walsh said the Department will have conversations with companies that employ gig labor in the coming months to make sure workers have access to consistent wages, sick time, health care and "all of the things that an average employee in America can access."

Subsequently, Reuters reports, shares of Uber fell as much as eight percent while Lyft dived as much as twelve percent. Doordash fell nearly nine percent and Grubhub was down three percent. Boo-hoo. Treat your workers right or we’ll make you do it!

Study: Tear Gas Affects Menstruation

Expect lawsuits after this one, folks. The Guardian says that more than a thousand people reported lasting health effects after being exposed to teargas during protests in Portland, Oregon, last summer, according to a newly published scientific study. Nearly nine hundred people reported abnormal menstrual cycles, including intense cramping and increased bleeding, that began or persisted days after their initial exposure to the teargas. Hundreds of others complained of other negative health impacts, including severe headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and mental health concerns. The new research, based on an online survey of more than twenty two hundred people, challenges claims that the health consequences of being teargassed are minor and temporary.

According to the Guardian, it is also the first published, peer-reviewed study to confirm a link between teargas and abnormal menstruation. The connection was widely discussed by American protesters on social media and in news reports last year. Participants in racial justice protests against police violence last summer in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Rochester and other cities told media outlets that their exposure to teargas had been followed by unexpected bleeding, unusually painful cramps, and other disruptions of their typical menstrual cycles. Last July, Oregon Public Broadcast interviewed twenty six protesters, ages seventeen to forty three, who said that exposure to teargas had affected their periods. Some described large blood clots, others cramps that felt like sharp rocks. One twenty nine year old protester told OPB, "We’re not paranoid. This isn’t a coincidence. Something’s going on." It seems they were right.

Democrats Push Medicare Expansion

It’s not Medicare for All, but it’s Medicare for... More. The Washington Post reports that Congressional Democrats are planning to pursue a massive expansion of Medicare as part of President Biden’s new $1.8 trillion economic relief package, defying the White House after it opted against including a major health overhaul as part of its plan. The expansion push

comes as Biden stressed in his first address to Congress on Wednesday that he is still committed to making health care more affordable. They specifically aim to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to either fifty five or sixty, expand the range of health services the entitlement covers and grant the government new powers to negotiate prescription drug prices. Party lawmakers say their approach could offer new, improved or cheaper coverage to millions of older Americans nationwide.

The Post reports that roughly one hundred House and Senate Democrats, led by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, encouraged Biden to include the overhaul as part of his latest package, known as the American Families Plan. Yet Biden opted only to propose additional subsidies for Americans who purchase their health insurance, disappointing many lawmakers. Sanders said Wednesday he would absolutely pursue a Medicare expansion as lawmakers begin to translate Biden’s economic vision into legislation.

But in an early sign of trouble, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told the Post he opposes expanding Medicare eligibility. Manchin said, "No, I’m not for it, period." Rethinking Medicare also risks touching off a fierce lobbying barrage on the part of health insurers and pharmaceutical giants. The corporate opposition could add to the political obstacles facing Biden’s economic agenda. But ultimately, Democrats are in the majority, people need healthcare, and voters will remember what was done – even if it’s nothing.


The Senate yesterday overwhelmingly passed a $35 billion bill designed to bolster states’ water infrastructure, NBC News reports. Legislators pointed to the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and water outages in Texas this past winter as evidence of the need for urgent action. So it boggles the mind why one of the two votes against the bill was from Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

The three Georgia men charged with murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery are now facing federal hate crime charges as well, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday, according to BuzzFeed News. The federal charges came more than a year after the twenty five-year-old Black man was followed by the three white men while he was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, told to stop at gunpoint, and shot. You may remember that, at first, no charges were filed at all in this case.

Powered by consumers and fueled by government aid, the US economy is achieving a remarkably fast recovery from the recession that ripped through the nation last year, according to the Associated Press. The number of people seeking unemployment aid – a rough reflection of layoffs – last week reached its lowest point since the pandemic struck. The numbers may be encouraging, but they’re just numbers. Consider us cautiously optimistic.

US flights carrying urgent coronavirus aid for India were en route yesterday, the Washington Post reports. The US government will deliver more than $100 million worth of supplies for overstretched hospitals and front-line health-care workers in India, including oxygen support, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and rapid diagnostic tests. Here’s hoping it gets where it’s needed quickly, and saves some lives.


HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner

WRITER - Corey Pein

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